China Cap, sunclipse, from Hart Butte. Eagle Cap Wilderness. . .
On the road in the American Northwest.
GRAND PARTITA—a long-line sonnet
after hearing Viktoria Mullova
play the great Chaconne in the Church
of St. Nicolai, Commemoration Concert of the
Peaceful Revolution & Fall of the Berlin Wall 1999
"Wir sind das Volk!" How are we to translate
The wonder of liberation? "We are the people!"
Leipzig: City of Lindens; City of Bach.
Through the cracks and fissures of Lenin and Trotsky
Rises the defiant sound of a solo violin.
Bolshevism it seems was good for discipline:
Oistrakh would get up in the dead of Russian winter
And play his Shastakovich cadenzas cold.
When Glenn Gould played Bach at the Bolshoi, nobody came.
But by the interval, half of Moscow was there.
So the Wall fell, not with tanks and tough talk, but with spirit.
The Church—Bach's church—is packed with ordinary people.
All eyes are on the young woman playing her Bach. This is
How the Wall fell. When even angels listen, it must be so.
Eagle Cap Wilderness
A QUARTET OF LONG-LINE SONNETS . . . .
Here are four pieces from a new series of what I'm calling
long-line sonnets. This is a new variation on an old form:
four stanzas of 4 + 4 + 3 + 3 lines, without end-rhymes,
and only with a rough step or syllable count—as in a dance—
of ± 12 steps per line or phrase. As always, what is primary
for me is the movement of the sound itself, as a kind of music.
Very much secondary is how a poem is written down
or notated on the page. Indeed, the notation is simply a
kind of elementary score, no more and no less, just as if it
were intended for flute or voice, or keyboard.
The series is unified firstly from within by what I sense as
a similar sonorous sound, with the long-line phrases all
being based on the breath just as a good singer might do.
In addition, there's much attention given to what I think
of as related species of resonance. The latter replaces—
happily, in my view—the somewhat rigid and outmoded
emphasis on the mechanical patterns of similarity we call
"rhyme." More on this later.
Second, for me personally, the series is held together by its
European cultural theme. In a word, what interests m here is
what I sense as a kind of rough-hewn spiritual excellence:—.
a kind of miraculous clear mountain quartz of the soul just
after its opaque gray-green clay is washed off. And this,
regardless of where it manifests, whether it be a a magnificent
cathedral, a defiant old poet on top of an appallingly hubristic dam
in the French-speaking Alps, or simply in the care and skill
with which a mountain farmer builds his piles of well-composted
cow shit. Indeed, this is what moves me to compose and work
on them in the first place:—a kind of Heimweh or homesickness
for a part of me that is much more European than North American.
Part of that is my past. After all, I've lived in different European
countries, especially the lowlands of Holland, and the higcountry
of the Alps and Switzerland, the better part of my adult life. But
this is not the Europe of tourist buses and famous attractions
known to many speakers of English. It is a far lesser travelled,
and yet much more vibrantly alive "old country" which exists
in its own, indeed ancient, and to my way of thinking still
In this view, real beauty does not grow old.
The beauty and power of Bach, or of John Dowland, is in this
sense timeless. And there is a part of Bach, for example, a depth
of feeling and resonance, that I think we miss entirely in America.
The latter must—and I offer this only as a conjecture—have something
to do with the beauty of the German language itself, as well as the
organic power of the German highland countryside out of which
its sound and rhythms emerged. The English spoken in North
America is, to my ear at least, still far too young to have
developed anything like this kind of profound realtionship
between sound, and meaning, and love of the living, pulsing
| listen to the quartet, with musical interpolations of
some of my own compositions |
| download mp3 | c. 9' 11.6 Mb [Windows: r click; Mac: opt + click] |