Saturday, March 13, 2010


I haven't posted recently about art and music. This is not for lack of joyous experiences as the local international arts festival has just completed. Perhaps in the post-concert chats I had exhausted my commentary ~ in opinion, observation, criticism and critique (the four dimensions of integral commentary).

Astounding was the performance of Simeon ten Holt's Canto Ostinato for five pianos, the Hilliard Ensemble (with an honoring Consort) performed Arvo Part's Passio passionately, the Australian Brass Quintet exhibited virtuosity, fused arranged with ambition dramatically and the Branford Marsalis Quartet challenged impeccably. Yet it was a familiar piece I want to reflect on.

My beloved WASO (who have given me thirty years of listening pleasure, and my mother thirty before this and my grandmother thirty before her) chose the sea to behold for their 2010 opening concert, including the world premiere of Andrew Ford's evocative commissioning, A Dream of Dreaming evoking the breath of life into Tim Winton's dream. On the program was also Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, which I last saw performed by WASO in 1994, recalled as if it was yesterday. Yet, last night I heard the libretto inspired by Walt Whitman with new ears.

The second movement On the Beach at Night, Alone extracted from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass opened up vistas of the 'similitude' this night. Here are the words again, as used by Vaughan Williams and performed by the colossus (in voice) Teddy Tahu Rhodes:

"On the beach at night alone, As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song, As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future. A vast similitude interlocks all, All distances of [space] however wide, All distances of time, All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, All nations, all identities that have existed or may exist, All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them."

May art in nature, prose and music's muse, make us reflect in smallness, on many a wondrous day.

What holds the universe, the universal all held?

The 'similitude' ... in the guise of the all, as it appears to us mere passengers, within a farther sailing Soul.

Behold, each day, the sea.

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