Philip Glass, string quartet no. 4 (“Buczak”)

 

 

 

 

 

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Glass’s string quartet no. 4, also known by its title “Buczak,” was commissioned by Geoffrey Hendricks in remembrance of the artist Brian Buczak.

Brian Buczak succumbed to AIDS in 1987 at the age of 33. The quartet was premiered at a memorial service on the second anniversary of the artist’s death on July 4, 1989 at the Hauser Gallery in New York.

This performance is by the Kronos Quartet.

 
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I find this chamber work haunting, compelling, and _______ (I don’t know what other adjective or adjectives to use).

Especially the third movement (although the whole piece is written at a consistent level of inspiration).

Somehow, this work conveys to me the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic, at a time when a diagnosis of AIDS meant certain death, but I understand (read, hear) this piece of music not just as an abstract, programmatic statement (whatever that means), but as a moving tribute to a departed friend.

Somehow, this piece speaks to me of grief: the loss one feels upon death, what death means, in personal terms, what it is to experience it.

That’s the best I can do in trying to convey what this extraordinary piece means to me.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

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two of my favorite piano sonatas and how important the performer seems to be

 

 

They are as follows:

 

 

Beethoven, piano sonata no. 27, opus 90, second movement (“Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen”; Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner)

 

 

Andrew Rangell

 

Emil Gilels

 

Manon Clément

 

Maurizio Pollini

 

Steven Osborne

 

 

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, D. 959, second movement (Andante)

 

 

Alfred Brendel

 

David Korevaar

 

Gerhard Oppitz

 

Mitsuko Uchida

 

 

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My love of these two pieces may partially have to do with the circumstances under which I first heard them.

My mother used play the second movement of the Beethoven sonata. Like many amateur pianists, she had a few favorite pieces she would play all the time that she must have learned from her piano teacher. I would fall asleep listening to her play the second movement of sonata number 27 with great feeling. I didn’t care whether her technique would have been regarded as good or not. (Nor, at that age, would I have thought about this.)

 

 

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, no. 959, second movement (Andante)

 

I first heard the Schubert sonata, hitherto unknown to me, in the film Au Hasard Balthashar, directed by Robert Bresson, at the now defunct Elgin Theatre on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. It got me in a visceral sense. Bresson was a master at using music in his films, sparingly yet always effectively. The Andante functions as a leitmotif for the soundtrack.

 

 

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Beethoven, piano sonata no. 27, opus 90, second movement

 

As far as these renditions of the second and last movement go, I think Emil Gilels plays the movement too fast. I am not sure that’s the right way to put it, but he seems to play without feeling, sort of rushes through the movement and wings it, so to speak. As if he were not heeding Beethoven’s instructions to play it “not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner.”

I like Andrew Rangell and Manon Clément’s interpretations. Neither pianist is that well known. I have a preference (I think; it’s hard to make such judgments) for Manon Clément’s rendition. Maybe she’s inferior to the other pianists in technical skill, but she manages to make the piece compelling.

 

 

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Schubert, sonata no. 20 in A, no. 959, second movement

 

What was Mitsuko Uchida thinking (or intending) when she played the Andante of this sonata? Andante, yes; means at a “walking pace.” She seems to have interpreted Andante as meaning “crawling.” She puts you to sleep. (I am not an expert, but it seems as if she could have played a tad more fortissimo.) She is a renowned interpreter of Mozart, Schubert, and other composers. I have heard some of her Mozart renditions, and they are outstanding.

Note at how much faster a tempo (dramatic, but perhaps it should have been a bit slower) Alfred Brendel commences the andante. And, he plays it much louder. Overall, I think Brendel’s rendition is impressive and does the movement justice.

Overall, of the four versions posted here, I prefer German pianist Gerhard Oppitz’s rendition.

 

 

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This brings to mind something true about music from my personal experience. How valid it is, or whether it conforms to others’ experience, I don’t know. As is evinced by the Beethoven, I grew to love it by hearing my mother, an amateur pianist, play it with feeling. And, of all the versions posted here, I think I like Manon Clément’s the best, yet she is the least well known performer. Conclusion, for what it’s worth: the circumstances under which one hears music and the emotional content the performer can convey — through skill but also through performance intangibles, and through the desire to “communicate” musically (rather than just be admired as a performer) — make a great difference.

It’s not that different in writing, something which I know more about. An earnest desire to communicate can go a long way in making a piece of writing succeed. It’s not the only thing — technical skill and knowledge must be there — but a showoff who just wants to impress and does the job with no sense of their real or virtual audience (be it that in playing or writing) will leave listeners and readers feeling unfulfilled.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2017

Posted in Elinor Handy Smith (Roger W. Smith's mother), music (from the point of view of a listener), my favorite music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Roger W. Smith, “Reminscence of Eiji Mizutani” (ロジャーW.スミス、「水谷栄二さんを偲んで」)

 

 

‘Reminiscence of Eiji Mizutani

 

(Downloadable Word document is posted above.)

 

 

(ダウンロード可能なWord文書が上に掲載されています)

下記の日本語訳をご覧ください

 

 

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Roger W. Smith, “Reminscence of Eiji Mizutani” (ロジャーW.スミス、「水谷栄二さんを偲んで」)

 

 

Eiji Mizutani (水谷 栄二), a former colleague of mine at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, passed away in Tokyo on January 30, 2006.

Mr. Mizutani was the manager of the Wyatt Company’s Tokyo office. During the 1990’s, he divided his time between Tokyo and New York and was involved in initiatives to establish new business for the Wyatt Company with Japanese clients both in Japan and the United States.

I was employed in Business Development and Mr. Mizutani was interested in recruiting me to work with potential Japanese client firms.

Unfortunately, not much ever came of this. But Mr. Mizutani arranged for me to go to Tokyo on a business trip and paid for the trip with a plane ticket purchased with his frequent flier miles. It was thanks to him that I got to see Japan. He was keenly interested in my trip and gave me advice on what to do and see and whom to meet with.

I spent a great deal of time in New York with Mr. Mizutani, both at the office and in causal encounters.

I had great respect and affection for Mr. Mizutani. He was a wonderful person. He was intelligent and well informed in so many areas: business, languages, and general knowledge. He was interested in many things. In fact, it seems he was interested in just about everything. We talked about many subjects, ranging from business to sports. He was an avid sports fan.

He told me about his childhood and his education in Vietnam and the United States. He was a modest man with an impressive background. Apparently, much of his early education was in Vietnam, and he attended college in the United States during the 1950’s, I believe in Indiana.

He knew three languages fluently: Japanese, English, and Vietnamese. His English was impeccable.

He once told me, which I found surprising and interesting, that Vietnamese was an even more difficult language to learn than Chinese.

Mr. Mizutani was a kind person. He seemed to enjoy life greatly.

He enjoyed sharing his experiences and wisdom with his colleagues. This was something he seemed to see as part of his role.

He took his work very seriously, yet he was a delightful companion whom one loved to spend time with. He had a very good sense of humor.

On one occasion, Mr. Mizutani; his secretary, Iseko Kano (叶 伊勢子); his wife, Chizuko Mizutani (水谷 千鶴子), who was visiting New York; and I had lunch together at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. The waiter spoke to us in an affected Italian accent. Mr. Mizutani joked that with customers in restaurants like these, they “forget that they know English” (pretend that they don’t know it).

He was a very thoughtful and generous person, always doing little kindnesses, like leaving some Japanese pastries on my desk on a day when he left the New York office to return to Tokyo because he thought my sons would enjoy them.

We talked together about family and kids. He was modest about his family, but one could tell that he was very proud of them. I know he was delighted with his sons’ accomplishments, thrilled when his oldest son got married, and very pleased to become a grandfather, because he told me so. (As of the date of this writing, his widow, Chizuko Mizutani, has four grandchildren. See photo below.)

Mr. Mizutani loved to travel, and everything he saw seemed to interest him. One of the last conversations we had was about a trip he had made to Eastern Europe. He had taken a great interest in Bulgaria, a country I myself had once traveled to, and we were able to compare notes.

He liked to experience different cuisines, like a restaurant he introduced me to on Restaurant Row in Manhattan that featured Italian-Jewish cuisine. He was interested in sampling the food in Bulgaria.

He was very much a real, full, and accomplished person in the best sense.

I miss him very much.

 

 

— Roger W Smith

     January 2016

 

 

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ロジャーW.スミス、「水谷栄二さんを偲んで」

 

掲載日 2016年1月4  掲載者Roger’s Gleanings

 

 

水谷栄二さんは、私がワトソン・ワイアット・ワールドワイドに務めていたころの同僚で、2006年1月30日に東京で亡くなった。

水谷さんは、ワイアット・カンパニーの東京支社のマネージャーだった。1990年代、彼は東京とニューヨークとに時間を振り分け、日米で日本の企業を対象にワイアット・カンパニーの事業を推進していた。

私は事業開発部に所属しており、水谷さんは日本のお客様担当として私を採用してくれようとしていた。

不運にも、これは実現しなかった。しかし水谷さんのおかげで、私は彼が飛行機のマイレージサービスを使って購入してくれた航空券で東京に出張させてもらうことができた。日本に行かせていただいた事を彼に感謝している。彼は私の日本訪問に強い興味を示し、何をし、何を見、誰と会うべきか、いろいろと助言してくれた。

私はニューヨークで水谷さんと、仕事でも私生活でもかなりの時間を一緒に過ごさせていただいた。

私は水谷さんを大変尊敬しており、深い敬愛の念を抱いている。彼は素晴らしい人だった。彼は知的で、ビジネス、言語、および一般知識にいたるまで、幅広い知識を持っていた。彼は多くのことに興味を持っていた。事実、彼はすべてのことに関心があるように見えた。私たちは、ビジネスからスポーツまで、様々なテーマについて話した。彼は熱烈なスポーツファンだった。

彼は子供の頃のこと、ベトナムとアメリカで受けた教育のことについて話してくれた。彼は素晴らしい学歴を持ちながらも謙虚な人だった。彼は子供時代の教育のほとんどをベトナムで受け、1950年代にアメリカの(インディアナ州だったと思う)の大学に通った。

彼は、日本語、英語、およびベトナム語の3ヶ国語に精通していた。彼の英語には非の打ち所が無かった。

彼は一度、ベトナム語を学ぶのは、中国語を学ぶよりも難しいと話してくれたことがあり、驚いたのと同時に、興味深かったことを覚えている。

水谷さんは親切な人だった。彼は人生を存分に楽しんでいるようだった。

彼は、彼の経験と知識を同僚と共有できることに喜びを感じていた。彼はこれを彼の職務の一環と考えているようだった。

彼は仕事にとても真剣に取り組むまじめな人だったが、誰もが一緒に時間を過ごしたいと思うような楽しい友人でもあった。彼には素晴らしいユーモアセンスがあった。

水谷さん、秘書の叶伊勢子さん、ニューヨークを訪れていた妻の水谷千鶴子さんと私とでマンハッタンのイタリア料理のレストランで昼食をとっていたときのこと。 ウェイターが偽物のイタリアンなまりの英語で私たちに話しかけてくると、水谷さんはすかさず、こういうレストランに来るお客さんの影響で、「ウェイターさんは英語が話せることを忘れてしまうのかな[英語が話せないふりをしている]」とジョークを飛ばした。

彼はとても思いやり深く、寛容な人だった。常にさりげない優しさを忘れず、彼が東京に戻る前のニューヨークオフィス最後の日にも、私の息子が喜ぶだろうから、と私のデスクに日本の菓子パンを置いていってくれたことがある。

私たちは家族や子供たちのことについても話した。彼は家族の事を褒めちぎるようなことはなかったが、内心はとても誇りに思っていることはよく分かった。彼は息子さんの成功をとても喜んでいること、ご長男が結婚されたときはとても感激したこと、そしておじいさんになったときはとてもうれしかったことを話してくれた。(このブログを執筆時、彼の未亡人・水谷千鶴子さんには4人のお孫さんがいる。(下の写真を参照してください)

水谷さんは旅行が大好きで、見たものすべてに興味を持つようだった。最後に交わした会話では、東ヨーロッパの旅行についても話した。彼はブルガリアにとても興味を持っていた。ブルガリアは私も訪れた事があり、互いの旅行記を比較しあった。

彼は異文化の食べ物を体験するのが好きで、彼が紹介してくれたマンハッタンの「Restaurant Row」ではユダヤ系イタリア料理を楽しむことができた。彼はブルガリアでも新しい食べ物に関心を示していた。

彼は最高の意味で、地に足の着いた、中身のある、洗練された人だった。

私は彼が居なくなってとても悲しい。

 

 

ロジャーW. スミス

      2016年1

 

 

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Chizuko Mizutani email of 11-14-2007

 

 

mizutani-grandchildren

Mr. Mizutani’s grandchildren

Posted in personal reminiscences of Roger W. Smith, tributes (written by Roger W. Smith) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philip Glass, “Metamorphosis”

 

 

 

 

Philip Glass, “Metamorphosis Two.”

Played by Manon Clément.

 

 

 

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This is one of my favorite Philip Glass pieces.

I have never heard of Manon Clément. She has made quite a few recordings, but I could not find anything more about her by Googling her name. I like her clear, declarative style of playing.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

 

Posted in my favorite music | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“After Racist Rage, Statues Fall”

 

“For more than a year, members of the Baltimore City Council, like officials in many communities across the nation, had drifted indecisively about the fate of the city’s increasingly controversial Confederate monuments. Then, last weekend, white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., violently resurrected the frightening ghosts of the Civil War.

“That settled the issue in Baltimore: On Monday night, the Council voted unanimously to take down the statues. On Tuesday night, in an unannounced, unceremonious action, four statues were torn from their pedestals as the city slept, with no throng of witnesses or protesters in attendance.

” ‘It’s done,’ Mayor Catherine Pugh told her city on Wednesday morning. She explained, ‘With the climate of this nation, that I think it’s very important that we move quickly and quietly.’

“That is sound advice. The racist rage in Virginia and President Trump’s shamefully sympathetic response have prompted local and state politicians to encourage community peace by weighing the future of Confederate monuments civilly and unapologetically, even if the president has not.”

 

New York Times editorial, August 17, 2017

 

 

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My thoughts.

It wasn’t “sound advice.”

But, then, the New York Times editorial board is distinguished (meant sarcastically) for churning out soporific, boring, tone deaf, and not particularly well written editorials — most of all, boring — that demonstrate almost no original thought and provide no insight.

The editorials proclaim the liberal party line with no thought or consideration of what other viewpoints might possibly be entertained. You can almost see a “thought checker” (think fact checker) going through them line by line to make sure they are doctrinally correct.

Nihil obstat.

They sermonize. Nuanced thought is not in evidence.

Often, it seems to be the case, the editorials get written before they are actually written — that is, the Times policy wonks put their heads together and decide what the ideologically correct position should be. After that, writing a few paragraphs is a breeze; anyone with reasonable competence in writing could do just as well.

 

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Regarding this particular editorial.

What about (omg — can I really be saying this! I’ll be called alt-right!) the statues, monuments, colleges, cities even, named after Saint George (Washington) and his companion in stone on Mount Rushmore Thomas Jefferson? Slaveholders both. They were both great men and are iconic figures. They were also (perish the thought!) imperfect, as happens to be true of mankind en masse and taken as individuals: you and I; larger than life figures and the rest of the humanity. Of Saint Augustine and William Jefferson Clinton. Of myself and my next door neighbor. Should memorials to historical figures be destroyed to remove the cloud of racism?

 

 

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Feelings, concern, sympathy for the “great unwashed,” aka “deplorables” (on the part of the Times, that is) for the Common Man? Fuhgeddaboudit. The Common Man has not been venerated since the Great Depression induced writers such as John Steinbeck and composers such as Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson to pen and compose songs of praise. The Times hews to current intellectual fashions. The Common Man is not in fashion any more (in fact, he has become an embarrassment to those who consider themselves enlightened and superior in views and taste), except among Trump supporters.

All the Times Editorial Board cares about is its core audience of readers, what they think, about the consensus of “enlightened” liberal opinion. Ergo, they have nothing new, interesting, or enlightening to say. But, then, they’re policy wonks, not good writers or deep thinkers. I would be willing to bet that Edmund Burke couldn’t get hired, for sure; he wouldn’t have passed an ideological litmus test.

 

 

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Who was it who said that hindsight is 20/20? History should be studied, but it shouldn’t and can’t be scrubbed clean in the name of correcting past wrongs.

 

 

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Perhaps ISIS could be hired as subcontractors to take their sledgehammers to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. After all, they’ve had experience.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 17, 2017

 

 

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Note: The Times editorial reads: “She explained, ‘With the climate of this nation, that I think it’s very important that we move quickly and quietly.’ “ [italics added].

This seems to be a typo. But, then, the Times has fired almost all of its copyeditors. Not a good move. The Executive Editor, in his wisdom, and his underlings apparently decided that they weren’t necessary. As a former proofreader, copyeditor, and freelance reporter, I know how essential they always were and still are.

 

addendum:
To the Editor:

Re “After Violent Weekend, Calls Beyond Virginia to Remove Civil War Statues” (news article, Aug. 15): Robert E. Lee would have been appalled by anything honoring the Confederacy or his service to it. He worked very hard to bring the country back together and actively opposed all the “the South will rise again” movements.

Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln would be equally horrified by the desecration of memorials to Confederate war dead, as both considered them to be Americans (even if misguided). Grant stopped he dishonoring of Confederate dead after several battles and ordered that they be treated with the same respect as the Union dead.

The South lost, and its sons and daughters have bled and died for the United States in every war since. It’s way past time to move on. We are all Americans, and we need to look at the serious internal problems (economy, infrastructure, jobs) and external problems (North Korea, China, Russia, Venezuela) facing our country.

CHRIS DALY, YUCAIPA, CALIF.

letter to the editor, The New York Times, August 17, 2017

 

Posted in personal views of Roger W. Smith, political correctness (PC), politics | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

subject-verb DISagreement

 

 

” ‘The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments,’ Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said via Twitter on Monday evening.”

— “Protestors in North Carolina topple Confederate statue following Charlottesville violence,” The Washington Post, August 15, 2017

 

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Does anyone know (let alone care) that a plural subject takes a plural verb? This grammar rule is violated routinely — all the time. Not only by public speakers and journalists — both in speaking and in print — but also, incredibly, it is routinely violated by academics.

When you come to think about it, this is not all that surprising. After all, grammar isn’t taught in elementary schools any more; this has been the case since around 1970. It was considered too old fashioned, something prim schoolmarms used to fuss over.

I am very thankful that I had such teachers. They taught such things as sentence structure, the parts of speech, and the difference between a subject and an object. Heaven forbid, they even had us diagramming sentences!

 

Roger W. Smith

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Walt Whitman, “Jaunt up the Hudson”

 

 

“Jaunt up the Hudson”

June 20th.—ON the “Mary Powell,” enjoy’d everything beyond precedent. The delicious tender summer day, just warm enough—the constantly changing but ever beautiful panorama on both sides of the river—(went up near a hundred miles)—the high straight walls of the stony Palisades—beautiful Yonkers, and beautiful Irvington—the never-ending hills, mostly in rounded lines, swathed with verdure,—the distant turns, like great shoulders in blue veils—the frequent gray and brown of the tall-rising rocks—the river itself, now narrowing, now expanding—the white sails of the many sloops, yachts, &c., some near, some in the distance—the rapid succession of handsome villages and cities, (our boat is a swift traveler, and makes few stops)—the Race—picturesque West Point, and indeed all along—the costly and often turreted mansions forever showing in some cheery light color, through the woods—make up the scene.

— Walt Whitman, Specimen Days

 

 

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This is vintage, typical Whitman. A man who loved every minute of his life — savored it. Reminds one of this as it applies to our own lives. Knew how to express this beautifully. Felt and appreciated things keenly as few do.

 

jaunt (noun) — a short excursion or journey for pleasure

 

— Roger W. Smith

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