Saturday, February 27, 2010

Musing on Frank Lloyd Wright - in Song, Word and Stained Glass

I'm taking a stained-glass-window-making class at a great studio/store The Cradle of the Sun on 24th Street in Noe Valley. I made one window there about a year ago, in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's "prairie" designs for windows -- long, thin strips of glass, not too much color but lots of texture and uneven lines -- perfect for a novice window maker! I called the first one my "Winter Window" because it looked like snow falling on a city, and the only colors were shades of blue. This second window is "Spring" and naturally has shades of green, with some really interesting glass that has seed-like spots embedded in it. I'm going to finish off the Four Seasons over the next year or so, whenever I need a fix of "manual" creation (instead of sitting and thinking/typing/reading/writing) - it's really good for the hands and soul to make something from start to finish (cooks know this, as do all artists).

But speaking of Frank Lloyd Wright, I recently read the book "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan (2008) which chronicles the intensely interesting years of his love affair with a woman named Mamah Cheney (pronounced May-mah), who left her husband and children and escaped to Europe with FLW for a while, then lived with him in Wisconsin -- his wife refused to grant him a divorce. Excellent book - a debut author, too (as I myself will be come this July yay!)

And the song reference for FLW?  Two I can think of offhand: Simon & Garfunkel's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album; and a reference in a song on Sufjan Steven's Illinoise album, to wit, "What would Frank Lloyd Wright think?" Anyone know any other musical or literary references to the great architect?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Variations on a Theme - Music & Novel?

At the SF Symphony a week ago, listening to Beethoven's "Eroica," I was struck (again) by the inherently wonderful idea of Theme and Variations, which he employs in the last movement. And of course, Bach's famous Goldberg Variations came to mind as well. So, being a writerly sort of person, I thought, how about a novel, or series of connected short stories, that would parallel the musical structure of a variation? And immediately following was another thought: I'm sure it's been done. As indeed it has.

A Google search brought up scores of pages of references, one of which I found really interesting enough to request it from my local library branch: "Goldberg: Variations" by Gabriel Josipovici (2002) about a writer in the early 19th century in England who has taken on the job of reading through the night to a man who suffers from insomnia -- which is how the legend of the original Goldberg Variations goes (only substitute Bach and his music for the writer). The novel has 30 chapters, for the 30 variations, and I think it's going to be a very interesting and intellectually stimulating experience to track the two structures together. More to come!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Milton, Dostoyevsky and the Temptation of Christ

I recently began attending Mass at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, a beautiful and large cathedral-like church on the campus of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. Last Sunday, Feb. 20th, the Gospel reading was about the three temptations of Christ by the Devil -- you know, "Turn these stones into bread", whereupon Christ says, "Man does not live by bread alone." And the second one, where the Devil tells Christ to throw himself down from the parapet of the Temple, because "It is written, He shall send his angels to minister to you, so that you shall not dash your foot against a stone" -- prompting the familiar saying ever-after, that "even the Devil can quote Scripture." The third temptation is the Devil offering to give Christ the power over all the earth, if he would only bow down and worship the Devil. Anyway, after this impressive reading, the presiding priest, a resident Jesuit, commented that there have been many paintings depicting this biblical event, as well as several literary presentations -- to whit, Milton's Paradise Regained and Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor section.

Well, I sat there nearly open-mouthed with awe and delight as a delicious feeling swept through my brain (can one 'feel' with one's brain? no matter!) -- it was like being at a mini-graduate seminar! like being back at college, listening to a favorite professor open up the mysteries of great literature. I looked around me at the members of the congregration, and saw people nodding their heads knowingly and appreciatively. This would never have happened at the homey parish church I had been going to previously -- as good and as nice as those people were, I'm sure they'd be scratching their heads at the mention of Dostoyevsky and Milton! At the end of the sermon, I gave a little sigh of satisfaction and joy. Man, I love those Jesuits.