"Nebula of Angels"

Angels Flight and Ziggurat

If you had asked me six months ago when I would be making my debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall, I'd have chortled and wondered what in the name of the Muses you were on about.  But wait....

This weekend (Saturday July 19 at 8:00, Sunday July 20 at 3:00) it seems that I will be making my Disney Hall debut, as a piece for which I crafted up the text will be on offer as part of the massive 35th Anniversary Concert of the Gay Men's Chorus Los Angeles.

And you may ask myself: "Well, how did you get here?" And I may say to yourself: "Well, it was like this...."

In March, my previous collaborator/composer Garrett Shatzer dropped me a line with a potential referral to composer Dave Volpe. Dave, who is also a GMCLA member, had the opportunity to contribute a new and original piece for the 35th Anniversary and was in need of a text. A piece d'occasion was required, something evoking Los Angeles and 35 years' longevity and pride and aspiration and suchlike themes appropriate to the ensemble. The sort of assignment, in short, that lands more often on the desks of poets laureate than on the desk of a simple country lawyer in Pasadena. How could one, if one were this one, say no? One could not. Dave and I connected, chatted, more or less concurred on the scope of the thing, and I set to work.

There are two principal versions of the resulting text: the original "poem-poem" version and a version revised to be more workable, more settable and, above all, more memorizable, as the Men of the Chorus sing from memory without scores before them.

The underlying inspiration for me was visual, a sort of view that is particular to Los Angeles: a view across the basin at night, the lights below so bright that the light of the stars is subsumed and absorbed from beneath. Among others, I had in mind certain Julius Shulman photos, particularly the famous nighttime image of Case Study House #22.* Feeding in to that idea were variants on the notion of Los Angeles as the "City of Angels" and, because the idea of occluded stars was in it, memory dredged up an old slogan from the glory days of MGM.

The original version of the piece, with that studio slogan for its title, came out rather like this: 

Sky and line

More stars than there are in the heavens!

Two bowls inverted each on each

One bowl the earth
Another bowl the sky...

Amid the City’s blaze and burn,
Amid the City’s glare and hustle,
Amid the City’s noise and heat and roaring, stand!

Stand upon this earth
surrounded,
Stand upon this earth
All bathed in this great City’s lights

Stand and seek
And search a sky whose former lights for now are
    hidden.
 

Lift your eye to see and scan
An empty sky:
No stars above?
Standing on this earth, look up:
No stars above?

Step out,
step up,
climb up,
stand still,
look down:
Behold what’s spread before you, at your feet 

Step out,
step up,
climb up,
stand still,
look down:
From any hill behold a bowl of stars

A vast expansive basin full of stars
From mountains down the foothills to the sea 

And with each star, an angel
Light for light
And with each star, an angel
Life for life
And with each star, an angel
Love for Love 

More stars on earth              More angels
than as it were in heaven      More stars 

stars not fallen                    angels not fallen
stars and angels
RISING
RISING
RISING
to the ground and to the world 

For every eye a soul
For every soul a star
For every star an angel
in this city that’s a nebula of angels 

better angels
better natures
better living
better lives 

Rise up, step down, step out
Engage, expand, explode
and shine
 

~~~

There followed from this draft a quick bit of give and take in which the poem was compacted and reorganized along more verse-chorus-versical lines, and in which it gained a new name: Dave Volpe didn't much care for my loose baggy first title but expressed a liking for one of the phrases within the poem, so that phrase became the new and final title. While it is still a Los Angeles piece, it is now less explicitly so than when it started ... the sort of thing that the Chorus of Your Metropolis, Gay or Not, might perhaps embrace?

The piece is being set for orchestra and, I do believe, for both the main and youth choruses of GMCLA. I've not heard a note of it yet, as it has worked through the rehearsal process, and I am witless with anticipation. I had the chance to attend GMCLA's last major concert and I will attest these gentlemen can saaaainnggg. I'm pleased as can be to give them these words with which to work their magic, and extend to all at GMCLA my heartiest felicitations on the occasion of their 35th year.

This then, or something closely akin to it, is the version of the text that Dave has actually set and that will premiere on Saturday night (repeating Sunday). I canna' hardly wait. 

Sky and line noir

Nebula of Angels 

Step out, step up,
climb up, stand still,
look down:
Behold what’s spread before you, at your feet 

Amid the City’s blaze and burn,
Amid the City’s glare and hustle,
Amid the City’s noise and heat and roaring, stand!

Stand upon this earth
surrounded,
Stand upon this earth
All bathed in this great City’s lights 

Step out, step up,
climb up, stand still,
look up:
Behold what’s spread above you, in the heights 

Standing on this earth, look up:
No stars above?
These lights below so bright
Their shine outshines the skies.

From any hill behold a bowl of stars
From mountains down the foothills to the sea
A vast expansive basin full of stars
More stars on earth than once shone in the heavens 

Step out, step up,
climb up, stand still,
look round:
Behold what’s spread about you, on all sides 

And with each star, an angel
Light for light
And with each star, an angel
Life for life
And with each star, an angel
Love for Love

stars not fallen             angels not fallen
stars and angels RISING
to the ground and to the world 

For every eye a soul
For every soul a star
For every star an angel
in this city that’s a nebula of angels 

better angels
better natures
better living
better lives 

Rise up, step down, step out
Engage, expand, explode
and shine

Halle disney en bleu

~~~

* In a bit of happenstantial synchronicity, another fine example of the form appears as the cover image for Gabriel Kahane's The Ambassador. [See preceding post.] The Kahane photo was not released by his label until a week or two after my verses were essentially completed, but it is more or less exactly what I had been picturing as I wrote them.

"More Stars Than There Are in the Heavens!" and "Nebula of Angels" texts Copyright 2014 George M. Wallace.

Photos by the blogger.

~~~


The Map of the Clock

Street clock
Another opening, another show....

On Sunday, May 18, as part of the Spring program by the Sacramento Children's Chorus, one of the five choirs making up the Chorus will premiere "The Map of the Clock," a piece composed by Garrett Shatzer on a text by this blogger. In July, the Chorus will be taking "Map" along for performances in Eugene, Oregon, and "on the green" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. All of which is rather satisfying, as perhaps you can imagine.

The commission from the Children's Chorus came Garrett's way as he and I were collaborating on "Beset" and he kindly offered me the opportunity to craft up the words. Not having been so young as these singers in a very long while, I found myself thinking about Time and thinking in particular about how differently things appear when one has more future than past in one's life. That notion somehow conjoined in my mind with the idea that "the map is not the territory," a title emerged and, from that, a poem and, from that, a composition which I will hear for the first time on Sunday.

Here are the music-less words:

~~~

THE MAP OF THE CLOCK

 

The map of the road ahead

is not the road ahead

 

The clock on the wall knows

nothing at all of Time

 

This moment’s monument is not

the thing you said

this moment

 

It is not the thing you thought

or meant to say

 

The road alone knows where

the road is leading

 

And once each mile is past,

Time blocks return

 

Old trickster Time, you prankster,

with your secret plan

 

Will anyone here who hears me

hear me again

in time

 

The road the time

the moments that pass

the song the speech

the road the rhyme the time

And on and on and on

or on and off

an end

 

Copyright 2013 George M. Wallace

~~~

Photo: Streets Clock by Flickr user Individual Design, used under Creative Commons license.

Incidental: "A moment's monument" was Dante Gabriel Rossetti's description of the sonnet form. It appears here as a backhanded reference to my first, and most ambitious, collaboration with Garrett Shatzer: "The Kissed Mouth," an as-yet unrealized song cycle for tenor and soprano—more of a chamber opera, to my way of thinking—involving Rossetti and certain supernatural elements, of which I will say no more. Mayhap I will be able to announce its premiere here someday. In time, as it were.

~~~

UPDATE [August 5, 2014]: A recording of the premiere performance of "The Map of the Clock" has gone up on Garrett Shatzer's site. I could not have asked for better treatment of this text than Garrett gave it, and the youthful singers of the Sacramento Children's Chorus (the subchoir that performed here is Jr. High/High School Freshperson age) sang it gorgeously. Listen here.

~~~


Beset

 Master of Sir John Fastolf - Saint Francis

So then: here's a thing with which I am well pleased.

This upcoming Sunday morning, March 9, will see the premiere performances of "Beset", a choral piece composed by Garrett Shatzer at the behest of the Choir of Centerpoint Community Church in Roseville, California. The text was written by ... moi-même, this fool, me.

The piece was commissioned for performance at the Festival of Peace and Brotherhood which will take place in Rome, March 12 through 16. There was originally substantial cause to hope that the Choir would be performing the piece, with the composer at the organ, in St. Peter's itself. That prospect, sadly, has gone by the boards. Still, "Beset" will be performed several times during the Festival in historic churches roundabout Rome, so one can hardly complain. 

I was introduced to Garrett Shatzer through Dale Trumbore in connection with the New Lens Concert Series project, of which Garrett is co-creator. One idle comment led to another—I think I larkingly referred to my interest in becoming a "freelance librettist"—and here we find ourselves, Garrett and I, as collaborators. "Beset" is the first of our collaborations to see public performance, so I am as you might imagine a bit chuffed. We've another piece, for children's choir, premiering in May, of which I'll post as the day approaches. And there's a large project—the first to which we applied ourselves, a song cycle that morphed into something like a chamber opera featuring certain eminent Victorian and pre-Renaissance personages—that lies dormant for now, but of which I surely hope I will have more to report in due time. Trust me: it is the coolest thing.....

"Beset" is, I believe, the first and only overtly religous text to which I have set my hand. I cannot but confess that I suspect it is neither logically nor doctrinally sound on close reading. The opportunity to write it came up shortly after the then-new Pope had adopted Francis as his papal name. With the St. Peter's performance in mind, Garrett suggested that I consider incorporating some connection to the papal namesake, Francis of Assisi, into my text. Some puttering about led me to Francis's "Prayer to Obtain Divine Love", and that text resides sub rosa within my own. It surfaces overtly in the fourth stanza after a bout of imagery from other prayers of need and praise, such as the De Profundis and Ave Maris Stella. The spirit of John Donne, though none of his technique, is invoked. The canyon is a backhanded allusion to Messiaen. The piece is named "Beset" because "beset" is a fine old word.

At this writing, I've not yet heard a note of the finished piece. I am venturing north to hear it this Sunday and I hope, at some point, that I can supplement this post with a recording. For the nonce, here are the words without the benefit of the music that I trust will be the making of them:

 

BESET

Beset by fears and by uncertainty

Beset in dreams and when I wake beset

 

The way is hard

I cry for comfort

And comfort comes

 

One sparkling star still steers me onward

Across broad seas or over frowning peaks

Hail! O star of the sea,

O star of the desert and the canyon and the vail:

Guide me through the dark and recurring night.

 

Send me, O Lord, that sweet and fiery strength

And let your Love absorb my soul that I

May die

For love of your Love as your Love has done for me

 

Teach me, O Lord, to love all You have made:

All peoples, all this world, your holy Light,

That from the depths I may cry out and still be heard

And salvaged from this wreck

By holy Love

By holy Peace 

~~~ 

Source:

I beseech Thee, O Lord, that the fiery and sweet strength of Thy love may absorb my soul from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of Thy love as Thou didst deign to die for love of my love.

-- St. Francis of Assissi - Prayer to Obtain Divine Love

~~~

Illustration: Master of Sir John Fastolf, illuminator (French, active before about 1420 - about 1450), Saint Francis, about 1430 - 1440, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment Leaf: 12.1 x 9.2 cm (4 3/4 x 3 5/8 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 5, fol. 44v


Epithalamium Redux Redux (Slight Return)

Bartolomeo Cesi - Two Men Kissing in Florence, 1600
~~~

Epithalamium

I

Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Gay men and lesbians
Flock to the City Hall,
Follow their bliss,

Purchase their licenses,
Swear to their permanence,
Pose for the camera crews
Sharing a kiss.

II

Damned, sir?  They’re damned, you say?
Possibly, possibly:
Love has led millions to
Suffer a Fall.

That’s for the next world, sir;
Here with the living — well,
What was it Chaucer said?
“Love conquers all.”

III

Poets, sir. Love poets.
Some of the best have been
Gay, sir.  Consider this
List I’ve compiled:

Wystan Hugh Auden and
C.P. Cavafy and
Sappho. James Merrill, Thom
Gunn, Oscar Wilde.

IV

Legally, legally,
Should an impediment
Rise to the marriage of
Minds that are true?

Sure as there’s only one
Race, sir — the human race —
How would you feel if it
Happened to you?

V

Citizens, citizens,
Leave to your churches these
Questions of sanctity,
Tough and profound.

Secular governments
Ought to facilitate
Binding of lovers who
Yearn to be bound.

VI

Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Cleave to the one who’s your
Heart’s true companion, the
Thou to your I.

Now, when the times are so
Fearsome we all must, as
Auden says, “love one a-
nother or die.”

~~~

In view of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions this morning on issues of same-sex marriage, including the apparent restoration of that institution here in California, I am republishing—for the fourth and likely final time—my 2004 double dactyl paean to same.

The full history of the poem was summarized on its third publication, last year.

~~~


Bottom Feeding

At the eminent What About Clients? blawg, Dan Hull and Holden Oliver have gone and done it, reposting Henry Fuseli's vision of Nick Bottom and Titania reine des fées shown below or, as they say in the trade, infra

"I consider it a challenge before, etc., etc., and I don't intend to lose," he said, Mercurially.

Hence, this revisitation of my own cobwebbed poetic tribute to Queen T and Nicky B: 

Titania and Bottom

~~~

When Bottom bore the donkey’s head and brayed,
Titania wreathed his upstart ears with flowers 
‘Til — disenchanted, open-eyed, dismayed —
She cast him from the comforts of her bowers. 
Botanical elixirs were the tools 
With which the weaver and his fellow rude 
Mechanicals, with other mortal fools, 
Were fuddled, led astray and misconstrued. 
Old Athens’ misty woods and fogbound lovers, 
Her naiads, pixies, fairies, sprites and elves 
Are gone; but surely Puck still grins and hovers 
As modern men make asses of themselves. 
No spell but self delusion clouds their sight, 
And leaves them pathless in the summer night.

~~~


Song: "I am the Wombat of D. G. Rossetti"

Rossetti's Wombat Seated in his Master's Lap
~~~

I AM THE WOMBAT OF D. G. ROSSETTI

~~~

In the Southern Hemisphere
They say that the creatures are terribly queer: 
Some of them poisonous, 
Some of them vicious. 
Furred, but with duck’s bills!
Or scaly, like fishes!
But I, sir —
You see me, sir —
Harmless and dreamy, sir —
Make my acquaintance: I’m pleased to be here.

Oh —

I am the wombat of D.G. Rossetti, 
  Imported to London from over the seas. 
When Maestro Rossetti was wanting a pet he
  Sent off a request to the antipodes.

There a bold sun-burnished strapping Australian
  Beat through the bush to see what he could see. 
Searching through forests eccentric and alien, 
  He found a burrow and there he found me.

Many months later I came to the jetty, 
  Was met by my master, Christina, and Jane. 
Now I am the wombat of D.G. Rossetti: 
  I live in Cheyne Walk and I walk on a chain.

Kangaroos relish their fisticuff combat
  Whilst I on the other hand flee from a fight. 
In London I am the preeminent wombat,
  The only one owned by a Pre-Raphaelite.

I have been called both a joy and a madness, 
  Delightful to all who my company keep. 
When some day I die of homesickness and sadness, 
  My master will fall to his knees and he’ll weep.

Fighting his tears he’ll erect a memorial, 
  Hon’ring the wombat what wuvved him so well, 
While my marsupial soul incorporeal
  Sighs from on high like some blest Damozel.

He taught me Italian and fed me spaghetti: 
  All chubby in Chelsea, I couldn’t stay long. 
I was the wombat of D.G. Rossetti: 
  Though mortal in life I’m immortal in song.

Yes I was the wombat of D.G. Rossetti —
  Though mortal in life I’m immortal in song!

Wmr wombat sketch
~~~

This waddling lyric is the result of a bit of free association on Twitter last week between soprano Jennifer Behnke, composer Garrett Shatzer, and myself. I am afraid 'twas I who inserted wombats in to an otherwise perfectly serious train of thought about poetry. At length, I decided to take a run at lyrics for a wombat song, and here we are.

I hear a tune for this in my head, a Victorian music hall waltz of sorts, but your own imagination may lead you in other directions.

~~~

Illustrations: "Rossetti's Wombat Seated in his Master's Lap," pencil drawing by William Bell Scott, on Rossetti's letterhead, from the holdings of the Tate. A sketch of the wombat by William Michael Rossetti, provenance unknown.

Additional visual inspirations:

Mrs._Morris_and_the_Wombat

"Mrs. Morris and the Wombat," pen drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, original in the holdings of the British Museum, image via The Rossetti Archive.

Rossetti mourning his wombat

"Rossetti lamenting the death of his wombat", pen drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, from the holdings of the British Museum.

~~~


Epithalamium Redux Redux

Gustav Klimt - Sappho 1888-90
The poem below first appeared on this blog on February 26, 2004, during the period when then San Francisco Mayor (now Lieutenant Governor) Gavin Newsom unilaterally directed the City of San Francisco to license same-sex marriages. That original post had a tentative "do I dare" quality to it that irks me a bit now, though that tone was more or less consistent with the tenor of the time in which it was written andmight serve as a marker for how the times have changed. The poem itself is something of an oddity, bringing a light verse form to bear on a subject of some little seriousness, but I still like it eight years on.

Back in 2004 the California Supreme Court ruled within a month that the City of San Francisco had no legal authority to license marriages not specifically authorized by state law, but it also invited the City to challenge the limitations of those statutes in court. The City did, and that case eventually worked its way through the system and back to the court that suggested it. Four years ago today, May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court declared in In re Marriage Cases that the restriction of marriage to couples of differing genders was impermissible under the California Constitution. On that same day four years ago it seemed appropriate to republish, and I did, with less circumspection than on the first time round.

In the ensuing four years, the voters of California have amended the state's Constitution via Proposition 8, for the express purpose of reversing the state Supreme Court's decision. That Court has confirmed that the constitutional amendment was lawfully adopted and is binding upon it, so that there is no longer a state-constitutional basis for an expansive definition of marriage. Quite the opposite in fact: the state constitution is now explicit in defining marriage as strictly a man-woman arrangement. A challenge to Proposition 8 under the U.S. Constitution has since produced decisions in the U.S. District Court and from a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finding the Proposition constitutionally impermissible. The outcome of the challenges to Proposition 8 remains inconclusive, however, pending further en banc review by the Ninth Circuit and an expected/inevitable petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Given that I have republished it on a rough four year cycle, and given that the President of the United States made his views on this subject explicit suring this past week, the time seems right to roll these verses out again, so roll them out I shall:

~~~

Epithalamium

I

Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Gay men and lesbians
Flock to the City Hall,
Follow their bliss,

Purchase their licenses,
Swear to their permanence,
Pose for the camera crews
Sharing a kiss.

II

Damned, sir?  They’re damned, you say?
Possibly, possibly:
Love has led millions to
Suffer a Fall.

That’s for the next world, sir;
Here with the living -- well,
What was it Chaucer said?
“Love conquers all.”

III

Poets, sir. Love poets.
Some of the best have been
Gay, sir.  Consider this
List I’ve compiled:

Wystan Hugh Auden and
C.P. Cavafy and
Sappho. James Merrill, Thom
Gunn, Oscar Wilde.

IV

Legally, legally,
Should an impediment
Rise to the marriage of
Minds that are true?

Sure as there’s only one
Race, sir -- the human race --
How would you feel if it
Happened to you?

V

Citizens, citizens,
Leave to your churches these
Questions of sanctity,
Tough and profound.

Secular governments
Ought to facilitate
Binding of lovers who
Yearn to be bound.

VI

Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Cleave to the one who’s your
Heart’s true companion, the
Thou to your I.

Now, when the times are so
Fearsome we all must, as
Auden says, “love one a-
nother or die.”

~~~


Blawg Review #315 - April Fools' Prequel

Trial by jury 1

APRIL FOOL!

~~~

Surprise! Blawg Review, the blog carnival for everyone interested in law, is ready for its comeback and its close up.

Launched originally in April 2005, and overseen by the still-anonymous Editor, Blawg Review ranged about across the legal blogging landscape, appearing each Monday in a new and different exotic locale for the next six years before seemingly going silent following its 314th edition this past August.

It has been my pleasure to host Blawg Review on my legal blog, Declarations and Exclusions, on five occasions, beginning with Blawg Review #51. Since April 1, 2006, I have also hosted, here, five April Fools' extra editions, in the same week as the Decs&Excs editions. That's ten hosting turns for me, an ample store of evidence from which our Editor was able to infer that, yes, I'm just a blogger who can't say "no" if you were, hypothetically, to float the notion of refiring the boilers under Blawg Review and ending its sabbatical on an April Fool-ish note. Thus it comes to pass that Blawg Review #315 will be up at Decs&Excs on Monday and that the sixth annual April Fools' Edition is now before your disbelieving eyes.

While the original installments of Blawg Review were simple collections of links to the prior week's best or most interesting or most curious legal blogging, it early on became common, albeit never mandatory, for each host to adopt a Theme for his or her presentation. On this day last year, Blawg Review #305 took the form of a tribute to and adaptation of "I've Got a Little List," from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. Today, I hope I may be pardoned if I return to the same well and build this 2012 April Fools' edition around another popular G&S number, the introductory song of Major-General Stanley from The Pirates of Penzance, best known by its opening line:

"I am the very model of a modern Major-General." 

Tom_Browne,_The_Major_General

We need not go into the absurd plot of Pirates today. Suffice it to say that it involves pirates, an unfortunate young fellow apprenticed to their service until his eighteenth birthday, the difficulty posed by his having been born on the 29th of February and thereby having had only four birthdays in eighteen years, a collection of young lovelies who are wards in chancery to the aforementioned Major-General, a collection of unhappy policemen, and a joyous, nuptial ending.

Major-General Stanley himself is a figure of a kind W.S. Gilbert delighted in mocking: a man who has risen to a position of stature for which he has no practical qualifications whatever. What the Major-General does possess is a vast store of arcane and useless knowledge bearing on most every topic except those that might make him an effetive military man. He would likely have made a fine blogger, had the Victorian era offered that outlet.

Upon his arrival in Act I, Major-General Stanley demonstrates his breadth of study with this famous patter song. Here it is, as performed by John Reed, principal comedian with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in the 1950's and 1960's:

Here, George Rose performs it in the wildly successful 1980 New York Shakespeare Festival staging in Central Park, with Linda Ronstadt as Mabel and Kevin Kline in his star-making turn as the Pirate King:

Sir Arthur Sullivan's catchy tune has achieved a further measure of immortality thanks to its having been adapted by Tom Lehrer to provide the melody for his cataloging of the chemical elements, "The Elements." (Clever title, that.)

Lehrer's song drew renewed attention recently when the performing of it was revealed to be a favorite party trick of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. Allow him to demonstrate:

And so, with that tune now well-implanted in your ears, we may turn to the matter at hand. Friends, the 2012 April Fools' Prequel to Blawg Review #315:

Henry Lytton as Major General Stanley 1919

~~~

THE BLAWGER-GENERAL'S SONG

Blawger-General:
This is the snappy patter-singing April Foolin' Blawg Review.
We're bringing back this legal blogging carnival to all of you
Who've missed it or forgotten it while it's been in absentia:
(A weekly dose of blawging is believed to slow dementia.)
There's many kinds of blawging, folks: it may be theoretical,
From time to time rhetorical, and sometimes alphabetical.
We hope you'll find this parody enlightening and risible....
Inspired by Major-General Stanley's rapid polysyllables.

    Chorus:
    Inspired by Major-General Stanley's rapid pollysyllables,
    Inspired by Major-General Stanley's rapid polysyllables,
    Inspired by General Stanley and his rapid Polly Polly syllables! 

Blawger-General:
The Law's much more than drafting-stuff-while-sitting-at-your-
    desk-ery

And offers opportunities for wackinessgrotesquery,
For odd quixotic ventures, and for trumpery and trickery,
And litigants possessèd by the spirit of Terpsichore.
A matter rather serious we feel we need to mention: you
Should click the links below and take the time to pay attention to
The awful depredations of a so-called blogger/journalist
The Lord High Executioner might add to his infernal list.

    Chorus:
    The Lord High Executioner might add to his infernal list,
    Oh yes he would indeed do well to add to his infernal list
    That most eternally infernal wicked so-called blogger/journalist.

Blawger-General:
With cigarettes and chocolates, we try to be responsible.
These clever cartoons educate the criminal and constable
If you work at McDonald's, all your problems may be supersized.
(These blawgs are all original, there's nothing here
    that's plagiarized.)

From blawgs you'll learn a thing or three about judicial etiquette
And dangerous misguided legislators in Connecticut.

Perhaps with an analogy we'll find that a solution'll
Present itself to when a health care mandate's Constitutional. 

    Chorus:
    We do not understand it, all this complicated push 'n' pull!
    To find it inter-esting you would have to be delusional!
    We like a nice long walk, yes that's a proper daily
        "constitutional."

Blawger-General:
You, too, could be an expert
, so be sure to trim your cuticles

And brighten your appearance through the use of cosmeceuticals.
Now take the time to listen to a podcast full of Georgery
Or head out to a gallery where ev'ry work's a forgery.
Our time here it is fleeting and I fear I hear it flittering
Or fluttering or flattering or maybe even Twittering 
This Prequel's the embodiment of ev'rything that's ex- cell- ent....

All:
   And now that Blawg Review is back, 
  You'll wonder why it ever went!

The Major General - theatre poster 1880

THE LINKS

Here are gathered stand-alone links to all of the blawgs embedded in the lyric above. Where multiple entries originate from the same source, I have kept them together, so the order of links below does not necessarily follow the order of links above. 

Above the Law -
"Nanny State Ban on Words Is Lazy Educating By New York State"

The Criminal Lawyer [Nathaniel Burney] -
"Better Criminal Lawyering through Smart Risk-Taking"
Also by Mr. Burney, the ongoing and highly commendable
Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law.

An Associate's Mind [Keith Lee] -
"Churchill's 5 Elements for Persuasive Speaking"

Koehler Law Blog [Jamison Koehler] -
"Cross Examinations. Directs, too."

slaw.ca -
"Guide to Rhetorical Fallacies" [Michael Lines]; 
"The Friday Fillip: The Military of Silly Walks" [Simon Fodden] 

noncuratlex.com [Kyle Graham] - 
"The Affordable Care Act Oral Argument, If Hollywood Had Scripted It";
"The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Indexed to Franklin, Rabin & Green’s Tort Law and Alternatives" (via Overlawyered); 
Just the Facts, Ma’am: Daily Training Bulletins of the Los Angeles Police Department, in Cartoons (1954)
 

New York Personal Injury Law Blog [Eric Turkewitz] - 
"A New Personal Injury Waiver (Updated)"

D.A. Confidential - 
"A word in your ear"

 Technology & Marketing Law Blog [Eric Goldman] - 
"What Do Soymilk and Nutella Have to Do With an Online Harassment Case?--Taylor v. Texas"

California Appellate Report
"Brantley v. NBC Universal (9th Cir. - March 30, 2012)"
["It basically depends on if you know you're Don Quixote or if, instead, you're actually Don Quixote."] 

SCOTUSBlog - 
"The RNC shoots itself in the mouth

WSJ Law Blog - 
"Witches’ Brew! NY Suit Over Court Victory Dance Continues

The Legal Satyricon [Marc Randazza] -
"Judge rules, again, that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist. You know why? Because she ISN’T a journalist"; 
"How Crystal Cox is helping to prove the strength of the First Amendment"

Simple Justice [Scott Greenfield] -
"A Blogger Not Like Us"

Popehat [Ken-at-Popehat] -
"'Investigative Journalist' Crystal Cox's Latest Target: An Enemy's Three-Year-Old Daughter"; 
"For Plagiarists, The Internet Is A Double-Edged Sword";
"In Which I Dare Connecticut To Come Get Me. COME AT ME, BRO."

Philly Law Blog [Jordan Rushie] -
"Crystal Cox – Investigative Blogger? No, More Like A Scammer and Extortionist"

Defending People [Mark Bennett] -
"Crystal Cox"

Abnormal Use [Nick Farr] -
"Philip Morris Not Liable for Fire Started by Cigarette"

Jonathan Turley -
"Pinch Me: First Truck Spills Millions of Coins All Over Highway, Second Truck Covers The Money In Candy . . . Men Wait Anxiously For Moosehead Beer Truck"

Overlawyered [Walter Olson] - 
"Woman Blames McDonald's for Prostitution"

The Trial Warrior Blog [Antonin Pribetic] -
"Supreme Court of Canada: Canadian lawyers must turn the other cheek when bench slapped"

Concurring Opinions [Nathan Cortez] - 
"Why Can’t We Analogize the Mandate?"

Criminal Defense [Brian Tannebaum] -
"Wanna Get Famous Off Trayvon Martin?"

A Georgia Lawyer -
"A New One: 'Cosmeceuticals'"

Infamy or Praise [Colin Samuels] -
"George Rises (and Falls)"

The Art Law Blog [Donn Zaretsky] -
"Remember when I asked how long it would be before a gallery signed him up?"

Charon QC -
"Twitter"

The Modern Major General by Bab (aka WS Gilbert)
Tomorrow [April 2, 2012] BLAWG REVIEW #315 will be hosted at my law and insurance blog, Declarations and Exclusions. Please drop in and sample the wares on offer.

[Update 4/2/12: Blawg Review #315 is up and readable here.]

Blawg Review has information about next week's host, future hosts, how you too can become a host, and instructions on how to get your own blawg posts considered in upcoming editions.

~~~


Bearing Valse Witness

Phenakistoscope_3g07690d 

~~~

Some thirty years later than I meant to do, I have recently been reading Carl E. Schorske's Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, which surveys its titular era in a series of interlocking essays considering the figures centered in Vienna who in a range of disciplines—drama, politics, architecture, painting, music, psychology—essentially created what we thought of as "the Modern" through most of the twentieth century. As an entry in to his subject, in the opening paragraphs of the very first essay, Schorske considers not a person but a musical form: the waltz.    

At the close of World War I, Maurice Ravel recorded in La Valse the violent death of the nineteenth-century world. The waltz, long the symbol of gay Vienna, became in the composer's hands a frantic danse macabre. 'I feel this work a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, linked in my mind with the impression of a fantastic whirl of destiny.' His grotesque memorial serves as a symbolic introduction to a problem of history: the relationship of politics and the psyche in fin-de-siecle Vienna.

Although Ravel celebrates the  destruction of the world of the waltz, he does not initially present that world as unified. The work opens rather with an adumbration of the individual parts, which will compose the whole: fragments of waltz themes, scattered over a brooding stillness. Gradually the parts find each other—the martial fanfare, the vigorous trot, the sweet obligato, the sweeping major melody. Each element is drawn, its own momentum magnetized, into the wider whole. Each unfolds its individuality as it joins its partners in the dance. The pace accelerates; almost imperceptibly the sweeping rhythm passes over into the compulsive, then into the frenzied. The concentric elements become eccentric, disengaged from the whole, thus transforming harmony into cacophony. The driving pace continues to build when suddenly caesuras appear in the rhythm, and the auditor virtually stops to stare in horror at the void created when a major element weakens the movement, and yet the whole is moving, relentlessly driving as only compulsive three-quarter time can. Through to the very end, when the waltz crashes in a cataclysm of sound, each theme continues to breathe its individuality, eccentric and distorted now, in the chaos of totality.

Ravel's musical parable of a modern cultural crisis, whether or not he knew it, posed the problem in much the same way as it was felt and seen by the Austrian intelligentsia of the fin de siecle. How had their world fallen into chaos? ...

And we're off, never really returning to the question of the waltz—although in that first essay and again later Schorske spends time and attention on Hugo von Hoffmanstahl, whose libretto for Der Rosenkavalier (1911) provided Richard Strauss numerous opportunities to compose some of the last serious but non-ironic waltzes.

Schorske's opening gambit notwithstanding, I was not particularly thinking about waltzes until I read this post from Susan Scheid on her Prufrock's Dilemma blog: "Does Anyone Still Compose a Waltz?" That post is less about "the waltz" than it is specifically about La Valse and more generally about Ravel.  It is worth your time, so I'll wait whilst youse reads it.

 

All right, then. Does anyone still compose a waltz?  Well, the form did not die, certainly, even as Ravel was busily vivisecting it. To the north, in Denmark, Carl Nielsen was busily constructing the first movement of his Symphony No. 3 (aka the Sinfonia Espansiva) around a grand, driving waltz theme that recurs at intervals, over the objection of the sections around it. (Some enterprising choreographer could construct a fine dance from that movement, if not the entire symphony.)  

Nielsen composed his symphony in 1910 and 1911, conducting the premiere in 1912. His waltz, therefore, falls in the middle of Ravel's composition process: begun after Ravel started his Valse in 1906 but completed prior to the outbreak of the war that so influenced Ravel's final version. While rumors of war can be detected in the brass and percussion—they become explicit in Nielsen's 4th and 5th symphonies of 1916 and 1920-22—the Espansiva is a fundamentally optimistic piece, particularly in its final two movements.

Susan complains of the fabulously gauche Andre Rieu and his sugary embalming of the quintessential waltz, Johann Strauss' Blue Danube. The best antidote I know to that is to revisit that waltz in the version that has kept it pretty swimmingly alive these past four-plus decades: Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic and the performance Stanley Kubrick selected for the long space station docking sequence in 2001:A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was never one for icky-sticky, and the von Karajan version is clean, astringent and smart smart smart, a performance that highlights what a sophisticated thing the Danube is, once you probe beneath its familiarity. We're not talking Beethoven, here, but the skill and intelligence it took to construct this particular confection should still impress us.

Here is a random selection of post-World War(s) waltzabilia:

The poet Theodore Roethke took the waltz as theme for one of the best of his autobiographical poems, harking to his brusque and practical German father, a Michigan nurseryman.  In My Papa's Waltz, the waltz is a foundation of sorts to the aging, inebriated father, and an anchor as well for his child, who will someday become a poet.  Here is Roethke reading his poem:  

The band Team B, made up largely of brass players who have participated in projects with the likes of Arcade Fire and Zach Condon's Beirut, released an EP, The Lost Son, in early 2010, consisting of settings of Roethke poems. It featured this stern and rustically gallumphing version of My Papa's Waltz:

Having mentioned Beirut, it should be acknowledged that the waltz is not unknown to Zach Condon and his co-conspirators. The "lead single," or equivalent, from 2007's Flying Club Cup (my personal #5 pick of that year) was waltz-y as can be:

I can't really answer the question that Susan Scheid poses in her post title. At least insofar as "serious" composers are concerned, the waltz seems not to be a viable, lively form. It lives on as a basis for pop songs of various kinds, as this catalog on Wikipedia suggests. In terms of orchestral music, the waltz has seemingly become principally the province of film composers. Here, for instance, is an excerpt from one of John Williams' Harry Potter scores, trotted out for Dancing with the Stars' "Classical Week": 

Of course, it could be worse: the waltz could be left in even less respectable hands....

~~~

Illustration: Eadward Muybridge, Phenakistoscope of a couple dancing the waltz, Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.


Go with the Flau

Wstevensdhockneyweb

Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire
comme un bourgeois, afin d'être violent
et original dans vos œuvres.

["Be regular and orderly in your life,
so that you may be violent and original
in your work."]

        — Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Gertrude Tennant, 25 Decembre 1876.

That Flaubert quotation came to my attention via a comment attached to a post by Amber Sparks—"Get Jobs In Offices and Wake Up for the Morning Commute: Stevens, Poet and Insurance Exec"—part of the week-long tribute to Wallace Stevens at Big Other.  Sparks' brief piece aims at one of the points that has always added to Stevens' appeal for me: the fact that throughout most of his career as a poet, Stevens was a well-respected, very successful attorney-executive with The Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company.  

Stevens kept his life as poet and his life as insurance man largely separate from one another: when Stevens died in 1955, there were co-workers who had toiled beside him for years at The Hartford who were astonished to learn for the first time, from tributes in the press, that Stevens had been a poet at all.  Legend has it that Stevens would compose poems in his head on the way to the office, dictate rough versions to his secretary, go though his day dealing with surety issues—surety bonds being among the least "poetic" insurance products I know—and revise his work in his head on the way home.  

Dana Gioia, in his essay on "Business and Poetry," maintains that having a firm grounding in a "real world" professional position as Stevens did—and as Eliot did during his time as a London banker—is actively advantageous to the poet or other artist even, or particularly, when his or her artistic concerns are entirely removed from practical business concerns.

Wallace Stevens' version of "work-life balance"—if such a concept ever entered his mind—apparently meant being fully invested in his profession, his art, and his personal life at all times, regardless of which of the three he was attending to at any given moment.  He was well read in several languages, so I suspect that he knew of, and likely endorsed, Flaubert's sentiment, although Flaubert himself was never one for actually Getting a Job. Flaubert recommends being like a bourgeois, rather than actually being bourgeois; Stevens one-ups the French master, and demonstrated convincingly that the proper combination of attitude and skill permits a life of equal service to Mammon and the Muses. 

~~~

Illustration:  Wallace Stevens—looking rather more like W.C. Fields than he did in life—as drawn by David Hockney, for The Blue Guitar: Etchings by David Hockney Who Was Inspired by Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired by Pablo Picasso (1977), of which more here.

A tip of the cap and bells is owing to Evan Schaeffer for pointing out the Big Other Stevens Fest, which is well worth a browse.

~~~