Friday, April 10, 2015

Random Poems about Music: Playlist for April 10, 2015

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Silent Music 

By  Floyd Skloot  

 

 

My wife wears headphones as she plays

 

Chopin etudes in the winter light.

 

Singing random notes, she sways

 

in and out of shadow while night

 

settles. The keys she presses make a soft

 

clack, the bench creaks when her weight shifts,

 

golden cotton fabric ripples across

 

her shoulders, and the sustain pedal clicks.

 

This is the hidden melody I know

 

so well, her body finding harmony in

 

the give and take of motion, her lyric

 

grace of gesture measured against a slow

 

fall of darkness. Now stillness descends

 

to signal the end of her silent music.
 

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Etude in E, by Frederic Chopin





 


The Victor Dog 

By  James Merrill  

 

 

for Elisabeth Bishop

 

Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez.

 

The little white dog on the Victor label

 

Listens long and hard as he is able.

 

It’s all in a day’s work, whatever plays.

 

 

From judgment, it would seem, he has refrained.  

 

He even listens earnestly to Bloch,

 

Then builds a church upon our acid rock.

 

He’s man’s—no—he’s the Leiermann’s best friend,  

 

 

Or would be if hearing and listening were the same.  

 

Does he hear? I fancy he rather smells

 

Those lemon-gold arpeggios in Ravel’s

 

“Les jets d’eau du palais de ceux qui s’aiment.”

 

 

He ponders the Schumann Concerto’s tall willow hit  

 

By lightning, and stays put. When he surmises  

 

Through one of Bach’s eternal boxwood mazes  

 

The oboe pungent as a bitch in heat,

 

 

Or when the calypso decants its raw bay rum

 

Or the moon in Wozzeck reddens ripe for murder,  

 

He doesn’t sneeze or howl; just listens harder.  

 

Adamant needles bear down on him from

 

 

Whirling of outer space, too black, too near—

 

But he was taught as a puppy not to flinch,  

 

Much less to imitate his bête noire Blanche  

 

Who barked, fat foolish creature, at King Lear.

 

 

Still others fought in the road’s filth over Jezebel,  

 

Slavered on hearths of horned and pelted barons.  

 

His forebears lacked, to say the least, forbearance.  

 

Can nature change in him? Nothing’s impossible.

 

 

The last chord fades. The night is cold and fine.

 

His master’s voice rasps through the grooves’ bare groves.  

 

Obediently, in silence like the grave’s

 

He sleeps there on the still-warm gramophone

 

 

Only to dream he is at the première of a Handel  

 

Opera long thought lost—Il Cane Minore.

 

Its allegorical subject is his story!

 

A little dog revolving round a spindle

 

 

Gives rise to harmonies beyond belief,

 

A cast of stars . . . Is there in Victor’s heart  

 

No honey for the vanquished? Art is art.  

 

The life it asks of us is a dog’s life.
 
(no reflective music here...too many composers!)

 

 

A Man in Blue 

By  James Schuyler  ith a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegsor rather, dowels). Next doorboys play soccer: “You got to startover!” sort of. A round attic window in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian daylapses from waltz to march. The grass,
rough-cropped as Bruno Walter’s hair,is stretched, strewn and humped beneath a sycamorewide and high as an idea of heavenin which Brahms turns his face like a bearded thumband says, “There is something I must tell you!”to Bruno Walter. “In the first movement of my Second, think of it as a familyplanning where to go next summerin terms of other summers. A material ecstasy, subdued, recollective.” Bruno Walterin a funny jacket with a turned-up collarsays, “Let me sing it for you.” He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spacesof naked elms he draws a copper beechignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazesa rhododendron “a sea of leaves” against gold grass.There is a snapping from the brightworkof parked and rolling cars.There almost has to be a heaven! so there could bea place for Bruno Walterwho never needed the cry of a baton.Immortality—in a small, dusty, rather gritty, somewhat scratchyMagnavox from which a fortedrops like a used Brillo Pad?Frayed. But it’s hard to think of the sky as a thick glass floorwith thick-soled Viennese boots tromping about on it.It’s a whole lot harder thinking of Brahms

in something soft, white, and flowing.
Under the French horns of a November afternoon

 

a man in blue is raking leaves

 

with a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegs

 

or rather, dowels). Next door

 

boys play soccer: “You got to start

 

over!” sort of. A round attic window

 

in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.

 

“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian day

 

lapses from waltz to march. The grass,

 

rough-cropped as Bruno Walter’s hair,

 

is stretched, strewn and humped beneath a sycamore

 

wide and high as an idea of heaven

 

in which Brahms turns his face like a bearded thumb

 

and says, “There is something I must tell you!”

 

to Bruno Walter. “In the first movement

 

of my Second, think of it as a family

 

planning where to go next summer

 

in terms of other summers. A material ecstasy,

 

subdued, recollective.” Bruno Walter

 

in a funny jacket with a turned-up collar

 

says, “Let me sing it for you.”

 

He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spaces

 

of naked elms he draws a copper beech

 

ignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazes

 

a rhododendron “a sea of leaves” against gold grass.

 

There is a snapping from the brightwork

 

of parked and rolling cars.

 

There almost has to be a heaven! so there could be

 

a place for Bruno Walter

 

who never needed the cry of a baton.

 

Immortality—

 

in a small, dusty, rather gritty, somewhat scratchy

 

Magnavox from which a forte

 

drops like a used Brillo Pad?

 

Frayed. But it’s hard to think of the sky as a thick glass floor

 

with thick-soled Viennese boots tromping about on it.

 

It’s a whole lot harder thinking of Brahms

 

in something soft, white, and flowing.

 

“Life,” he cries (here, in the last movement),

 

“is something more than beer and skittles!”

 

“And the something more

 

is a whole lot better than beer and skittles,”

 

says Bruno Walter,

 

darkly, under the sod. I don’t suppose it seems so dark

 

to a root. Who are these men in evening coats?

 

What are these thumps?

 

Where is Brahms?

 

And Bruno Walter?

 

Ensconced in resonant plump easy chairs

 

covered with scuffed brown leather

 

in a pungent autumn that blends leaf smoke

 

(sycamore, tobacco, other),

 

their nobility wound in a finale

 

like this calico cat

 

asleep, curled up in a breadbasket,

 

on a sideboard where the sun falls.

 

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No, 2 (1st movement) by Johannes Brahms



“Life,” he cries (here, in the last movement),
Place and Time 
By  Lisel Mueller 
 
History is your own heartbeat.                
                   —Michael Harper 
Last night a man on the radio,
 
a still young man, said the business district
 
of his hometown had been plowed under.
 
The town was in North Dakota.
 
Grass, where the red-and-gold          
 
Woolworth sign used to be,
 
where the revolving doors
 
took him inside Sears;
 
gone the sweaty seats
 
of the Roxy—or was it the Princess—
 
of countless Friday nights
 
that whipped his heart to a gallop
 
when a girl touched him, as the gun
 
on the screen flashed in the moonlight.
 
Grass, that egalitarian green,
 
pulling its sheet over rubble,
 
over his barely cold childhood,
 
on which he walks as others walk
 
over a buried Mayan temple
 
or a Roman aqueduct beneath
 
 
a remote sheep pasture
 
in the British Isles. Yet his voice,
 
the modest voice on the radio,
 
was almost apologetic,
 
as if to say, what’s one small town,
 
even if it is one’s own,
 
in an age of mass destruction,
 
and never mind the streets and stones
 
of a grown man’s childhood—
 
as if to say, the lives we live
 
before the present moment
 
are graves we walk away from.
 
 
 
Except we don’t. We’re all
 
pillars of salt. My life began
 
with Beethoven and Schubert
 
on my mother’s grand piano,
 
the shiny Bechstein on which she played
 
the famous symphonies
 
in piano reductions. But they were no
 
reductions for me, the child
 
who now remembers nothing
 
earlier than that music,
 
a weather I was born into,
 
a jubilant light or dusky sadness
 
struck up by my mother’s hands.
 
Where does music come from
 
and where does it go when it’s over—
 
the child’s unanswered question
 
about more than music.
 
 
 
My mother is dead, and the piano
 
she could not take with her into exile
 
burned with our city in World War II.
 
That is the half-truth. The other half
 
is that it’s still her black Bechstein
 
each concert pianist plays for me
 
and that her self-taught fingers
 
are behind each virtuoso performance
 
on the stereo, giving me back
 
my prewar childhood city
 
intact and real. I don’t know
 
if the man from North Dakota has
 
some music that brings back
 
his town to him, but something does,
 
and whatever he remembers
 
is durable and instantly
 
retrievable and lit
 
by a sky or streetlight
 
which does not change. That must be why
 
he sounded casual about
 
the mindless wreckage, clumsy
 
as an empty threat.
 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Impromptu in A-flat by Franz Schubert
 
 
 

 

Number Man 

By  Carl Sandburg   
 

(for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach)
 
 
 

He was born to wonder about numbers.

 

 

He balanced fives against tens

 

and made them sleep together

 

and love each other.

 

 

He took sixes and sevens

 

and set them wrangling and fighting

 

over raw bones.

 

 

He woke up twos and fours

 

out of baby sleep

 

and touched them back to sleep.

 

 

He mananged eights and nines,

 

gave them prophet beards,

 

marched them into mists and mountains.

 

 

He added all the numbers he knew,

 

multiplied them by new-found numbers

 

and called it a prayer of Numbers.

 

 

For each of a million cipher silences

 

he dug up a mate number

 

for a candle light in the dark.

 

 

He knew love numbers, luck numbers,

 

how the sea and the stars

 

are made and held by numbers.

 

 

He died from the wonder of numbering.

 

He said good-by as if good-by is a number.
 
 
 
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Perpetual Canon by J.S. Bach
 
 
 
 
 

History is your own heartbeat.                
                   —Michael Harp

Last night a man on the radio,

a still young man, said the business district

of his hometown had been plowed under.

The town was in North Dakota.

Grass, where the red-and-gold           

Woolworth sign used to be,

where the revolving doors

took him inside Sears;

gone the sweaty seats

of the Roxy—or was it the Princess—

of countless Friday nights

that whipped his heart to a gallop

when a girl touched him, as the gun

on the screen flashed in the moonlight.

Grass, that egalitarian green,

pulling its sheet over rubble,

over his barely cold childhood,

on which he walks as others walk

over a buried Mayan temple

or a Roman aqueduct beneath

a remote sheep pasture

in the British Isles. Yet his voice,

the modest voice on the radio,

was almost apologetic,

as if to say, what’s one small town,

even if it is one’s own,

in an age of mass destruction,

and never mind the streets and stones

of a grown man’s childhood

as if to say, the lives we live

before the present moment

are graves we walk away from.

 

Except we don’t. We’re all

pillars of salt. My life began

with Beethoven and Schubert

on my mother’s grand piano,

the shiny Bechstein on which she played

the famous symphonies

in piano reductions. But they were no

reductions for me, the child

who now remembers nothing

earlier than that music,

a weather I was born into,

a jubilant light or dusky sadness

struck up by my mother’s hands.

Where does music come from

and where does it go when it’s over—

the child’s unanswered question

about more than music.

 

My mother is dead, and the piano

she could not take with her into exile

burned with our city in World War II.

That is the half-truth. The other half

is that it’s still her black Bechstein

each concert pianist plays for me

and that her self-taught fingers

are behind each virtuoso performance

on the stereo, giving me back

my prewar childhood city

intact and real. I don’t know

if the man from North Dakota has

some music that brings back

his town to him, but something does,

and whatever he remembers

is durable and instantly

retrievable and lit

by a sky or streetlight

which does not change. That must be why

he sounded casual about

the mindless wreckage, clumsy

as an empty threat.

Place and Time


“is something more than beer and skittles!”“And the something moreis a whole lot better than beer and skittles,”says Bruno Walter,darkly, under the sod. I don’t suppose it seems so darkto a root. Who are these men in evening coats?What are these thumps?Where is Brahms?And Bruno Walter?Ensconced in resonant plump easy chairscovered with scuffed brown leatherin a pungent autumn that blends leaf smoke(sycamore, tobacco, other), their nobility wound in a finalelike this calico cat asleep, curled up in a breadbasket,on a sideboard where the sun falls.Under the French horns of a November afternoona man in blue is raking leaveswith a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegsor rather, dowels). Next doorboys play soccer: “You got to startover!” sort of. A round attic window in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian daylapses from waltz to march. The grass, rough-cropped as Bruno Walter’s hair,is stretched, strewn and humped beneath a sycamorewide and high as an idea of heavenin which Brahms turns his face like a bearded thumband says, “There is something I must tell you!”to Bruno Walter. “In the first movement of my Second, think of it as a familyplanning where to go next summerin terms of other summers. A material ecstasy, subdued, recollective.” Bruno Walterin a funny jacket with a turned-up collarsays, “Let me sing it for you.” He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spacesof naked elms he draws a copper beechignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazesa rhododendron “a sea of leaves” against gold grass.There is a snapping from the brightworkof parked and rolling cars.There almost has to be a heaven! so there could bea place for Bruno Walterwho never needed the cry of a baton.Immortality—in a small, dusty, rather gritty, somewhat scratchyMagnavox from which a fortedrops like a used Brillo Pad?Frayed. But it’s hard to think of the sky as a thick glass floorwith thick-soled Viennese boots tromping about on it.It’s a whole lot harder thinking of Brahms
in something soft, white, and flowing.

“Life,” he cries (here, in the last movement),

“is something more than beer and skittles!”

“And the something more

is a whole lot better than beer and skittles,”

says Bruno Walter,

darkly, under the sod. I don’t suppose it seems so dark

to a root. Who are these men in evening coats?

What are these thumps?

Where is Brahms?

And Bruno Walter?

Ensconced in resonant plump easy chairs

covered with scuffed brown leather

in a pungent autumn that blends leaf smoke

(sycamore, tobacco, other),

their nobility wound in a finale

like this calico cat

asleep, curled up in a breadbasket,

on a sideboard where the sun falls.

 
Place and Time


 

 
 

 

Number Man


 (for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach)

He was born to wonder about numbers.

 

He balanced fives against tens

and made them sleep together

and love each other.

 

He took sixes and sevens

and set them wrangling and fighting

over raw bones.

 

He woke up twos and fours

out of baby sleep

and touched them back to sleep.

 

He mananged eights and nines,

gave them prophet beards,

marched them into mists and mountains.

 

He added all the numbers he knew,

multiplied them by new-found numbers

and called it a prayer of Numbers.

 

For each of a million cipher silences

he dug up a mate number

for a candle light in the dark.

 

He knew love numbers, luck numbers,

how the sea and the stars

are made and held by numbers.

 

He died from the wonder of numbering.

He said good-by as if good-by is a number.

 

 
The town was in North Dakota.

Grass, where the red-and-gold           

Woolworth sign used to be,

where the revolving doors

took him inside Sears;

gone the sweaty seats

of the Roxy—or was it the Princess—

of countless Friday nights

that whipped his heart to a gallop

when a girl touched him, as the gun

on the screen flashed in the moonlight.

Grass, that egalitarian green,

pulling its sheet over rubble,

over his barely cold childhood,

on which he walks as others walk

over a buried Mayan temple

or a Roman aqueduct beneath

a remote sheep pasture

in the British Isles. Yet his voice,

the modest voice on the radio,

was almost apologetic,

as if to say, what’s one small town,

even if it is one’s own,

in an age of mass destruction,

and never mind the streets and stones

of a grown man’s childhood

as if to say, the lives we live

before the present moment

are graves we walk away from.

 

Except we don’t. We’re all

pillars of salt. My life began

with Beethoven and Schubert

on my mother’s grand piano,

the shiny Bechstein on which she played

the famous symphonies

in piano reductions. But they were no

reductions for me, the child

who now remembers nothing

earlier than that music,

a weather I was born into,

a jubilant light or dusky sadness

struck up by my mother’s hands.

Where does music come from

and where does it go when it’s over—

the child’s unanswered question

about more than music.

 

My mother is dead, and the piano

she could not take with her into exile

burned with our city in World War II.

That is the half-truth. The other half

is that it’s still her black Bechstein

each concert pianist plays for me

and that her self-taught fingers

are behind each virtuoso performance

on the stereo, giving me back

my prewar childhood city

intact and real. I don’t know

if the man from North Dakota has

some music that brings back

his town to him, but something does,

and whatever he remembers

is durable and instantly

retrievable and lit

by a sky or streetlight

which does not change. That must be why

he sounded casual about

the mindless wreckage, clumsy

as an empty threat.

Place and Time

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