Siege Diaries 2/20/2021


Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:   Are the pleasures I’m chasing actually worth it?

Yes.  Because I’ve learned, over the years, that many of the things that give me pleasure are worth pursuing.  And honestly, I don’t have to really pursue many of them, although I do need to cultivate them to allow them to grow and bloom on their own.

But I’m not that perfect.  What I have learned is that I can function perfectly fine without luxuries like travel, or concerts, or that kind of thing.  When we’re past this pandemic, will I start those things again?  Yes, I will.  But always with a sense of balance and gratitude–something that even before all of this I had started to realize.  

Duke Derp Cat is done.  I am rather pleased with the solution I came up with to effect the shading on the original illumination, which was to underlay the shaded areas with black before stitching the gold on top.

Now I’ve picked up Rocket Cat again, taking out the work I had started in cotton and starting again in silk.  I have the right colours–it seems a shame not to use them.

In other news, my FBAR is done, which means the initial compilation of the tax gack has happened.  Most of my investments mostly tread water this year–which is, of course, better than losing money (there was, in fact, a sizable dip mid-year, but things have recovered.)  And for the midst of a pandemic, I am not complaining.

Wandering the musical rabbit holes today:  I started off with the Berlin Philharmonic livestream today–part of their Golden 20s Festival.  It started with Prokofiev’s Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, with its earworm “March” (one of those tunes I need only mention and it gets going in my head), went on to Sibelius’ rather lush and lovely Symphony no. 6 (during which I googled Sibelius facts, finding out that his was a Swedish-speaking Finnish family originally and that his original given name was Johan.  I also learned that he wrote almost nothing the last 30 years of his life and no one is completely sure why.  (There will likely be more Sibelius in my future–I especially want to check out the more Finnish-themed works, and the violin concerto).  The last work was more Kurt Weill, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogonny Suite, which was much more classic Weill than the symphonic works I heard on Tuesday (and would hear again later).  This was just the music from the opera, and it was so very much a spiritual cousin of things like Shostakovich’s score for the film The New Babylon– in other words, that classic late 20s-early 30s cabaret or vaudeville-infused feel, with saxophones and a banjo.  More music to follow up on for sure.   I decided that since it was available, I’d go back and hear last weekend’s kickoff concert for this festival, which featured an early Weill work, which did not excite me, and Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, which very much did. The Stravinsky work dates from his neo-classical period, but puts an interesting twist on “classical.”   Stravinsky apparently stated that the main singers–there are several solo parts–were to stand stock still and wear masks–almost as if they were classical statues who had suddenly been given the ability to sing.  There is a distance, a dryness, and a sense of austerity about the lack of emotions that puts all of the focus on the words (in Latin) and music itself, especially at the end where Oedipus is depicted, dispassionately, with blood streaming down his face after he’s put out his own eyes.  

And so I decided to pick up the Stravinsky thread and take it on to his next famous choral work, the Symphony of Psalms, which dates from 1930.  Its text is also in Latin, and is based around settings of portions three of the Psalms — Psalm 38, versus 13 and 4; Psalm 39 verses 2, 3, and 4; and Psalm 150 (almost the entire text).   The idiosyncratic scoring includes no violins, violas, or clarinets, but does have two pianos, which feature prominently.  The first two movements are quite short, but particularly the first one is quite intense.  But it’s the third that caught my ear, and not just for its gorgeous harmonies and quiet, C major ending.  It was the initial appearance of Laudate, Dominum–which Stravinsky is said to have originally based on the Russian words “Gospodi Pomiluy” rather than the Latin. More specifically, what jumped out to me was the three-note phrase on “laudate,” which is intoned in unison.  If you hear a particular sequence of notes enough times you start to recognize them by pitch (even if you don’t have perfect pitch), and I was almost certain–and confirmed it with the score–that what I was hearing was a very close cousin of Shostakovich’s “DSCH” motif.  The D and the E flat are identical, and then the third note, omitting the C, drops down to a B flat (rather than a B.)  Here’s the thing:  Shostakovich loved this piece.  He made a version for piano four hands, and that version and the original score was one of only three manuscripts he brought with him when he was evacuated from Leningrad. I really have to wonder if that’s where that motif begins its development.  

Mysteries aside, it’s an amazing work.  I will be adding this one to my music collection.