Siege Diaries 11/16/2020


Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  Can I cease both hoping for and fearing certain outcomes?

Because of its focus on the future, rather than the present, Stoics generally saw hope and fear as two sides of the same coin.  Later Christian conceptions of the Virtues saw hope as a cure for wrath–interestingly enough, because wrath was seen as too wrapped up in the turmoil of the current day, whereas hope presented the prospect of eventual future salvation.   I think part of the issue here is in the definition of hope, in particular, as a passive quality, rather than something that can actively be pursued through actions in the present.  There is also the issue of sliding into fatalism–the idea that the future is predetermined (or even just unknowable), and nothing can be done in the present to impact that.  That is demonstrably false.   It really comes down to the ability to accept–and plan for (as antithetical as that sounds) uncertainty in life.   

Here’s a great example, using the current situation: Right now, we have in issue with rising cases of COVID infection.  At the same time, we’re hearing promising indications of efficacy of two vaccines now.  That’s wonderful, but it is no guarantee, and it does not impact what needs to happen right now.  At the same time, there is always the possibility out there that a vaccine will take years (and might not happen at all).  Again, no impact on the situation right now.  

My new personalized license plate arrived today (that’s it above, before attachment to the car).  With my area now being in the “red zone,” I was wondering whether this would impact ServiceOntario, since transferring over the new plate to the car was something that had to be done in person.  No issues whatsoever–other than the fact I had to come back home to get my husband to come with me since the new plate was purchased in my name only and the car is registered to both of us.  It was complicated by the fact that I was removing and keeping another personalized plate–which had to be “de-registered” so I don’t just go out and slap it on another car with a valid sticker.  The first person I had talked to had said I just had to have him sign a single form–but it turned out to be quite a bit more complicated, so much so that the clerk had to call into a support office to get the precise details. But in the end, it was all taken care of, and just in time to avoid the lunchtime rush.  And we extended the sticker into 2022, so that will mean we won’t have to worry about it for another 17 months or so.  

I also spent some time with the Schumann Violin Concerto, now that the CD has arrived.   Now if that book about its rediscovery would just show up–I am itching to write more.  That third movement–the one that’s supposed to be the proof that Schumann’s faculties were already halfway to insanity–is an incredible earworm.  Supposedly Schumann provided an extremely slow metronome marking, which Renaud Capuçon, the violinist in this recording, reportedly ignored.  And the slow middle movement has an aching kind of melancholy to it.   It’s a quite a lovely work, really, and the fact that Schumann was able to compose it is a little bit of a triumph.  


The latest “DSCH Deep Cuts” post to Reddit:

David Fanning writes in The Cambridge Companion to Shostakovich about the importance of the scherzo for trainee composers: “It invites immediacy rather than profundity of character, and imaginative variety rather than consistency of texture…it poses craftsmanly questions, principally as to how transitions and return will be handled…(it) offers a testing ground for characterful invention and sense of form.” Fanning goes on to mention that this work is almost certainly an orchestration of a recently (partially) rediscovered Piano Sonata in B minor. “It already shows some ingenuity in contrapuntal combination of themes, surely at the behest of Steinberg (his teacher), and it features a sophisticated retransition, in which the climax of the central lyrical trio section and the return of the the scherzo are telescoped into one another.” It’s not his earliest known work, but he obviously considered it important enough to give his Opus 1 designation to. It’s now believed that the work may have been started in 1919, completed (as a piano piece) in 1920, and then scored in 1921.

Incidentally, Shostakovich reportedly burned many of his early works, although some seem to be turning up in the archives and were recently premiered.

Listen carefully. If you’re like me, I think you’ll hear Shostakovich clearly evident in this piece, even at around 13 or 14 years old.