Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Inextinguishable

The broad philosophical theme behind this dark symphony is what Nielsen called the indestructability of the life force. He wrote, " This symphony is meant to express the appearance of the most elementary forces among humans, animals and even plants. In case, all the world were to be devastated by fire, flood and volcanoes, all things being destroyed; then, nature would still begin to breed new life again. Soon, the plants would begin to multiply, the breeding and screaming of birds would be seen and heard, the aspiration of humans would be felt. These forces, which are 'inextinguishable' , are what I have tried to present".
It is a musical drama in which the key of E Flat Major representing life wins an ultimate victory over an unstable D Minor tonality representing chaos and destruction. In the finale, we come across two timpanists who steam in from both sides of the orchestra thundering furiously. Their cannon fire is in strict canon.
Notable recordings are those by Michael Schonwandt conducting the Danish National Radio Symphony, Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Birmingham Symphony.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


The best film I have seen this year. I had not seen this since 2008. Move aside Ghost Writer and Shutter Island. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett score. Alexandre Desplat with his brilliant musical score has left me speechless. David Fincher has directed this film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's story of a man born under unusual circumstances.
It is a brilliant movie. It is a beautiful and masterfully constructed film. It is about a man who is born in his eighties(a monster) and ages backwards. There are many heart tugging moments in the film particularly in the final hour in this 166 minute masterpiece.

Nielsen's Fifth

I finished listening to the Nielsen fifth today.
It was written in 1922.
It is written for strings(violin, violas, cellos and contrabasses),3 flutes, 2 piccolos, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets(B Flat Major and A major),2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 french horns(F Major),3 trumpets(B Flat Major),3 trombones,tuba, pair of timpani,cymbals,snare drum,triangle,tambourine and celesta.
This symphony was influenced by the traumatic effects of post first world war in Denmark. It depicts a great battle etween the forces of order and chaos. A snare drummer takes the symbolic chaos trip and keeps interrupting the orchestra playing ad lib and out of time with the intention of destruction. It is to Nielsen's credit that he makes him almost blend in with the universe without sounding ugly. The rest of the orchestra keeps fighting back in six sections of the symphony while the drummer struggles on and he eventually fades with the glorious conclusion as order prevails over chaos.
I have heard Michael Schonwandt conduct the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra today. The sound is rich and effective; good interpretation, I am also attaching a good conclusion of the symphony by Blomstedt and San Francisco. My favourite remains Jascha Horenstein with the New Philharmonia Orchestra of London on Nonesuch Records with the beautiful Saga Drom that I hold as Nielsen's greatest composition.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Graduation Afternoon

A story by Stephen King from his collection ' Just After Sunset'. It is about a girl Janice on her boyfriend Bruce Hope (Buddy's) graduation afternoon in New York City. The story is about Janice not expressing her love totally to Bruce and missing the opportunity of telling the one she is fond of what he means to her until the moment is gone and perhaps there is none other to follow. As things are taken for granted by all around us, a nuclear bomb explodes in New York that afternoon and soon it will all be over for Janice and the world around her as she starts thinking many thoughts in a flash. The story is not written with much feeling and it will get only a B-. Some of the passages worth reading are:
" She has ime to think before an enormous spark lights up there."
"Now huge black blisters are erupting in the red mushroom, giving it hideous features that shift and change - now a cat,now a dog, now Bobo the Demon Clown- grimacing across the miles above what used to be New York and is now a smelting furnace. A nuke. An almighty big one. No little dirty backpack model."
"Janice's vision has either been stolen by the brightness of the fireball, or the cloud has bloted out the sun. Maybe both."
"She thinks about the hike Bruce and his friends won't be taking. She thinks about the party they won't be attending tonight. In a little while, she may be able to teach,what is left of her eyes, not to look".

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DeMille's Samson and Delilah


Cecil. B. DeMille has directed this masterpiece in 1949. This story is adapted from the Biblical Book of Judges. Samson is the strongest man of the Israelite tribe of Dan. They are enslaved by the Philistines. He falls in love with the Philistine Princess Cemadar and is engaged to her. She has designs for Ahtur and betrays him. At the wedding feast, there is an ensuing struggle between Ahtur ad Samson and Cemadar is killed. Her sister, Delilah, who loves Samson secretly, now plans vengeance against him. She seduces Samson into revealing the secret of his strength that lies in the untouched locks of his hair as a covenant from God at his birth. She then betrays him to the Philistine Chief, Saran of Gaza by giving him a potion in his drink so that when he is unconscious, she cuts the locks off and deprives him of his strength.She is not aware that Samson is put in prison and given many hardships and his eyes are gouged out. Delilah's heart softens and she loves him more strongly than earlier. She repents and asks for his forgiveness. Samson forgives her and prays to God to give him patience and his strength back. As the seasons pass, his hair grows and so does his strength to the ignorance of the Philistines. DeMille's epic is kown for the spectacular toppling of the Temple of Dagon that brings down the pillars on Samson, Delilah and all his enemies culminating in a tragic end. Victor Mature is Samson. Angela Lansbury is Cemadar. George Sanders is Saran of Gaza. Henry Wilcoxon is Ahtur. Russ Tamblyn is Saul. Olivia Deering is Miriam. Hedy Lamarr is Delilah. The colour still looks magnificent when you see it on the television. Victor Young's music is heavenly. There is not enough praise that can be showered on the magnificent Academy Award nominated music score by Young. In particular,the superb echoing horn motif for Samson and the unforgettable sensual loveliness for the strings and harp in the Delilah theme.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Things They Left Behind

A short story by Stephen King from his collection, 'Just After Sunset'. The story is about an insurance under-writer named Scott Staley who works in an insurance company called Light and Bell on the one hundred and tenth floor in the World Trade Centre. On the fateful day in September 2001, he is plain lazy to go to work and bunks that day only to learn that none of his colleagues survived. Few days after the incident, he finds little things belonging to each of his colleagues, that he remembers from his office, start to show around his flat and whisper all the time. Once, he even decides to throw them away so he collects them and throws them in the trash can but when he returns home, they are there again. A well written story. Some of the passages:
"And I remember smiling at what she asked me: 'Are you safe?'It reminded me of that movie, not Jeremy Irons' or James Mason's 'Lolita' (thinking about Lolita, sometimes at two in the morning, came later) but the one where Laurence Olivier does the impromptu dental work on Dustin Hoffman, asking him over and over again, 'Is it safe?' (from 'Marathon Man')."....
"The relief of seeing him holding the sunglasses and looking at them, almost studying them, was like having someone scratch that exact place between your shoulder blades that itches"......
"When something goes wrong in your life and you need to talk about it, I think that the first impulse for most people is to call a family member".....
"I remembered her once telling me that 'Alice in Wonderland' was the first psychedelic novel".....
"How much of what they call 'survivor guilt' are you feeling?"...

The only salvation Staley experiences is when he starts giving away those things of the dead people to their near ones and relatives that they stop coming back to his apartment. One of the left over things is a clump of his colleagues' hair that is burnt and is smelling of jet fuel. That is his compensation for surviving.
The story gets an A-.

L'Oiseau Du Feu - Igor Stravinsky conducting

A historical moment in London in 1965 where Igor Stravinsky conducts the passage before the finale of Firebird. Truly one of the greatest ballets written in the twentieth century. The finale brings tears to your eyes.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Charlie Chaplin's greatest.
A Masterpiece.
The theme is glorious.
He has composed the music himself.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Sinfonia Semplice - Carl Nielsen

Carl Nielsen is a central figure in late romantic Danish music. He was born into a poor family of fourteen children. During school holidays, he supplemented the family income by looking after geese. Music was an early interest. He used to bang out tunes on different lengths of firewood. He was also interested in literature, philosophy and languages.
Leonard Bernstein was enthusiastic about Nielsen's music and this symphony. He actually introduced Nielsen's music in America in the sixties for much later after Nielsen's death, his music was not known to the American audiences. The Sinfonia Semplice is the strangest of his six symphonies. At the time it was written, Nielsen was suffering from a heart ailment.
The work is a meditation on the transcience of life in the opening tempo giusto movement. In the Humoresque, there is sardonic humour and brooding. Occasionally, there is pure grotesquerie. Nielsen may be poking fun at the atonal music of Schoenberg and his followers. The woodwind instruments make rude noises and the trombones make loud glissandos representing yawning. The slow movement is dark and sombre. The finale is a bizarre theme and variations. The main theme goes through a chaotic series of grotesque variations. At one point, the theme becomes a waltz. The brass and percussion then batter it with brutal dissonant outbursts. The movement ends in glee. Nielsen may be dying but he is laughing at death with the bassoons.
This symphony was written in 1925. The structure and tonality of this symphony are both individual and unorthodox. The Danish critics called it an enigmatic work. This is a bitter and ironic work to complete his symphonic oeuvre. Nielsen was never able to make a decent living out of his compositions. When Nielsen began composing his last symphony, he wrote, "As far as I can see it, it will on the whole be different from my other symphonies; more amiable and smooth, or how shall I put it, but it is impossible to tell as I do not know at all what currents I may run into during the voyage."
Notable performances are by Michael Schonwandt, Leonard Bernstein and Herbert Blomstedt.