A short while back, I came upon this very funny and inspiring TED talk by conductor/cellist/composer/pianist/educator/comedian Benjamin Zander:
Some thoughts of my own:
One of the several reasons “the c makes the b sad” is that, in the symbolic language of Classical Music, the descending semitone figure (in this instance, c” to b’) signifies a sigh – probably a kind of musical onomatopoesis. Another sadness-related interval in this piece is the descending tritone (here, c” to f#’), symbolic of a sob (more musical onomatopoesis, more than likely…); though filled in, and somewhat obscured by the emphasis on b’, this interval is still pretty prominent, since c” is the highest tone of the opening section, and since it’s on the arrival at f#’ that the first section ends, and the melody turns around and starts over.
Even more striking is something that the composer (that would be Frédéric Chopin) leaves out, namely the picardy third at the very end of the piece. In Classical Music, compositions in the minor modes will often end on a major chord, both for a better resolution (from a purely acoustic point of view, that is, since major chords more closely track the overtone series), and for a slight sense of uplift in spite of all the preceding dolorosity. But Chopin concludes this piece on a very dark e-minor chord, voiced in the mid-range of the piano but, with the root reinforced in an octave much deeper down, probably symbolizing a kind of deep rest in sadness. All of which is particularly poignant, since e-major (the chord on which the music would have ended up had Chopin deployed the aforementioned picardy third) is generally used as a symbol of heaven.
(For more on this symbolic musical language, mostly skipped over in musicological discourse and pedagogy on this side of the Atlantic – though I’m sure Zander is cognizant of it, due to his having been born, brought up, and educated in England – see The Language of Music, by the British musicologist/critic/composer Deryck Cooke; there is also what a very interesting-looking series of twenty-four articles about the the closely-related subject of the feelings and emotions generally associated with the various keys of Classical Music, as derived from the theories of Austrian pianist/composer/educator Ernst Pauer, at a website called Interlude.)
Also note how, in this piece, the slow, ultra-simple, almost oscillating, melodic figures in the right hand seem to subtly change pitch as the underlying chords played by the left hand shift slowly downward. Said shifting is also worthy of note, since, rather than going from one discrete chord to another, the harmonic texture transforms gradually, almost one tone at a time (I’ve sometimes heard this referred to as “the creepy-crawly technique”…).
Finally, if this music sounds familiar, it’s because just about everybody who studies piano under conventional pedagogy learns it at some point or another. Since popular music is full of people who’ve studied piano that way, various bits and pieces of this composition have been percolating out into the wider world for at least the past century.
(The piece under discussion here is Chopin’s Prelude, Opus 28, Number 4 (often known as the E Minor Prelude or Prelude in E Minor), for more on which, click here and here; for the score, click here. For Benjamin Zander’s own website, click here; for more Benjamin Zander on YouTube, click here.)
Johns Hopkins University has published this detailed note on avoiding the contagion, which is offered here in the spirit of sense testimony, because it lays out the current scientific knowledge about COVID-19 so clearly and succinctly. (Sometimes, the more focused the Translation, the better…):
* The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA)
covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by
the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, changes their genetic
code. (mutation) and convert them into aggressor and multiplier cells.
* Since the virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it
is not killed, but decays on its own. The disintegration time depends
on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.
* The virus is very fragile; the only thing that protects
it is a thin outer layer of fat. That is why any soap or detergent is
the best remedy, because the foam CUTS the FAT (that is why you have to
rub so much: for 20 seconds or more, to make a lot of foam). By
dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down
on its own.
* HEAT melts fat; this is why it is so good to use water above 25
degrees Celsius for washing hands, clothes and everything. In addition,
hot water makes more foam and that makes it even more useful.
* Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 65% DISSOLVES ANY FAT, especially the external lipid layer of the virus.
* Any mix with 1 part bleach and 5 parts water directly dissolves the protein, breaks it down from the inside.
* Oxygenated water helps long after soap, alcohol and chlorine,
because peroxide dissolves the virus protein, but you have to use it
pure and it hurts your skin.
* NO BACTERICIDE SERVES. The virus is not a living organism like
bacteria; they cannot kill what is not alive with anthobiotics, but
quickly disintegrate its structure with everything said.
* NEVER shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth.
While it is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and
disintegrates only between 3 hours (fabric and porous), 4 hours (copper,
because it is naturally antiseptic; and wood, because it removes all
the moisture and does not let it peel off and disintegrates). ), 24
hours (cardboard), 42 hours (metal) and 72 hours (plastic). But if you
shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air
for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.
* The virus molecules remain very stable in external cold, or
artificial as air conditioners in houses and cars. They also need
moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness. Therefore,
dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.
* UV LIGHT on any object that may contain it breaks down the virus
protein. For example, to disinfect and reuse a mask is perfect. Be
careful, it also breaks down collagen (which is protein) in the skin,
eventually causing wrinkles and skin cancer.
* The virus CANNOT go through healthy skin.
* Vinegar is NOT useful because it does not break down the protective layer of fat.
* NO SPIRITS, NOR VODKA, serve. The strongest vodka is 40% alcohol, and you need 65%.
* LISTERINE IF IT SERVES! It is 65% alcohol.
* The more confined the space, the more concentration of the virus
there can be. The more open or naturally ventilated, the less.
* This is super said [sic – sad?], but you have to wash your hands before and after touching mucosa, food, locks, knobs, switches, remote control, cell phone, watches, computers, desks, TV, etc. And when using the bathroom.
* You have to HUMIDIFY HANDS [,] DRY from so much washing [of] them, because the molecules can hide in the micro cracks. The thicker the moisturizer, the better.
*Also keep your NAILS SHORT so that the virus does not hide there.
“… an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota.”
Osterholm is the author of, most recently, the book Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs, available on Amazon here. For more information, visit the CIDRAP website here.
Also note: This discussion ranges far beyond the coronavirus crisis to address other issues of public health, such as SARS, MERS, Ebola, BSE, and chronic wasting disease among the deer population.
“How should they have given a thought to anything like
plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the
exchange of views.”
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images
Plagues routinely start with denial. In his great novel, The Plague, Albert Camus describes a scene at the very beginning, after several rats in a town started dying identical deaths:
rats, now?’ the magistrate began. [Doctor] Rieux made a brief movement
in the direction of the train, then turned back toward the exit. ‘The
rats?’ he said. ‘It’s nothing.’ The only impression of that moment
which, afterwards, he could recall was the passing of a railroadman with
a box full of dead rats under his arm.
is not to excuse the negligence of the Trump administration and the
CDC. But it helps explain it. Plagues are such an enormous disruption of
regular life that it is always hard to accept that we are engulfed in
one. This is why plagues, of course, always tend to have the advantage
over people. Soon enough, however, the direness of the situation began
to set in:
a very few days the number of cases had risen by leaps and bounds, and
it became evident to all observers of this strange malady that a real
epidemic had set in … Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of
recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones
that crash down on our heads from a blue sky … In this respect our
townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves … They went
on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should
they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any
future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views.
of us who have already been through a plague experience in our lives
know this all too well. As the clear signs of a new and deadly epidemic
began to emerge among gay men in the early 1980s, most people ignored or
downplayed or even joked about it, and many of those most at risk shut
Randy Shilts, in his epic tale of this nightmare, And the Band Played On,
relays the first guidance from the American Association of Physicians
for Human Rights: “Sensitive to concerns that the group not be
‘sex-negative,’ the guidelines assured gay men that there was nothing
wrong with having sex, but they should check their partners for KS
lesions, swollen lymph nodes, and overt symptoms of AIDS.” Even the Gay
Men’s Health Crisis in New York — an activist group formed to confront
the reality of this new plague — put “the accumulated wisdom of
homosexual physicians in one phrase: ‘Have as much sex as you want, but
with fewer people and HEALTHY people.’” Even though it was by then clear
that asymptomatic carriers were just as capable of transmitting the
virus, denial was too strong.
San Francisco in early 1983, epidemiologists had a curious resemblance
to the CDC now. After the first quarter’s AIDS incidence report came
out, Shilts writes:
Andrew Moss concluded that ‘in some cohorts of gay men in San
Francisco, AIDS incidence rates in the thirty and forty year old groups
are now of the order of 1 to 2 percent.’ Only later would studies show
that by this time in 1983, the 62 percent of gay men who still engaged
in risky behavior had at least a 25 percent chance of being intimate
with someone infected with the new virus.
So the estimate was off by a factor of ten, which informed my decision to self-isolate a week ago.
— which facilitated even higher rates of transmission — stayed open.
The gay press needed the ads from the bathhouses, and the bathhouses
were profitable; and the liberationist culture that had only recently
emerged simply could not concede that liberation, in this instance, was
laced with death.
The same denialism can be see in Camus:
the regulations now in force were inadequate was lamentably clear … The
only hope was that the outbreak would die a natural death; it certainly
wouldn’t be arrested by the measures the authorities had so far devised
… There was enough for immediate requirements, but not enough if the
epidemic were to spread.
Which is the case with ICU beds right now in the U.S. Even when the deaths mounted in The Plague, the public resisted facing the reality:
townsfolk apparently found it hard to grasp what was happening to them.
There were feelings all could share, such as fear and separation, but
personal interests, too, continued to occupy the foreground of their
thoughts. … It was only as time passed and the steady rise in the
death-rate could not be ignored that public opinion became alive to the
truth … These figures, anyhow, spoke for themselves. Yet they were still
not sensational enough to prevent our townsfolk, perturbed though they
were, from persisting in the idea that what was happening was a sort of
accident, disagreeable enough, but certainly of a temporary order.
“A lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat,” President Trump said on February 10. “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle,” he said
over two weeks later. “It will go away, just stay calm,” he insisted as
recently as this past Tuesday. Many of his supporters declared the
epidemic a hoax, or insisted it was nothing more than the regular flu — even though it is estimated
to be at least ten times as lethal. Yes, these denialist declarations
are driven by tribal politics. But they exist beyond the Trump cult, and
are also propelled by the ancient human resistance to accepting that
our normal lives are over, that we live in a new paradigm, and there is
no escaping it.
like watching a movie when the screen suddenly and unaccountably slips
out of focus, or keeps freezing for a few seconds, and you wait for the
reel to be corrected, or get back to where it was, but it doesn’t. After
a while, you begin to realize that this is the movie, that you
will have to learn to watch it in a new way, and that waiting for a
return to normal is a delusion — a very human delusion, but false
is rare that the authorities act swiftly enough and drastically enough
to stop a plague from growing. Even with the difficult-to-catch HIV
retrovirus, by the time it was very clear that the best course of action
was no sex or very safe sex, the die was cast. Plagues are dynamic
things and are fueled by complacency. With this coronavirus, which is
far, far easier to catch, we had obvious warning signs from China, but
assumed a travel ban would keep the U.S. safe. We had a chance to roll
out WHO testing kits, to ensure that if there were an outbreak in the
U.S., it could be contained. But the Trump administration decided to
produce an American version of the test, which was screwed up by errors,
delaying it for weeks. And so we had no real grip on the spread or
incidence of the virus, which is asymptomatic in most cases to begin
with. We had no idea where it was, and we still don’t. It might have
been possible to contain the illness even a few weeks ago. But we were
flying as blind as the authorities in 1918 — even with 21st century
technology. So now we have a pandemic that can only be managed rather
this is not entirely a function of the Trump administration’s
incompetence. Look at Italy. What’s needed is a set of draconian
measures at a time when the epidemic is still small, and normal life is
in full swing. But in a period when relative normalcy still prevails,
such draconian measures will inevitably seem completely panicky for
most, slowing economic activity and growth and making a government
instantly unpopular. In Western democracies, this makes a plague far
harder to stop. Appeasement of plagues, like appeasement of dictators,
Trump is not the only complacent figure. In Britain and Germany, Prime
Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Angela Merkel have all but
resigned themselves to an inevitable culling
of the population, and have imposed few draconian measures by fiat.
Only yesterday, Johnson was unwilling to shut down soccer matches —
before the soccer authorities decided to do it on their own.
if you want to see a classic example of how a virus spreads, just look
at the House of Commons, where the entire political class crams into a
tiny space cheek by jowl — even after several members of Parliament, and
the the Health Secretary, have already fallen ill. Watch this video
of a health minister coughing and spluttering at the despatch box. It’s
madness. But the alternative — a suspension of Parliament; measures to
end all public gatherings, restaurants and bars, and theater
productions; mandatory self-quarantining for everyone, sick or well, for
a couple of weeks — seemed utterly bonkers even a few days ago. But
they would have helped a lot a month ago.
Trump, we have a deeper crisis, of course. Trump is incapable of
admitting error, numb to any form of empathy, narcissistic even in a
communal crisis, and immune to any kind of realism. He simply cannot
tell anyone bad news. And he cannot keep a story straight, which is
essential for public health. His only means of communication is
deceptive salesmanship. He defunded the federal body designed to tackle
such emergencies, and his Cabinet is packed with incompetence,
corruption, and fealty. He cannot summon trust among at least half the
country, and he has willfully destroyed confidence in the public
institutions we desperately need to get through this.
this, he is a typical man-at-the-bar pontificator, or shock-jock
tweeter, whose strange theories are matched only by his own refusal to
be tested for the virus, even though we now know he has been exposed. He
is in charge of public health but can still blithely say something
completely untrue — like everyone coming into the U.S. is being tested,
or that anyone who wants a coronavirus test can get one, to give two
damning examples. Rather than concede a failure, Trump will always lie.
He is utterly unfit to be president, and always has been. We had a
chance to remove him from office before a catastrophe struck, but the
Senate kept him in power. This is their responsibility too.
still unfair to blame all this on one man, when we have all been
complacent because we are human, and the way we have responded is almost
exactly how almost every community in the past has responded as plagues
set in. But from here on out, we have to grapple with the fact that we
are on our own. Trump is singularly incapable of addressing this
credibly or effectively, with anything like the right mix of realism and
hope the crisis demands.
is immune to data, resistant to any facts that might suggest his own
administration’s failure, and his prime-time address was deeply
unsettling and off-kilter. We have been so, so lucky to have avoided a
major crisis for the last three years, but our luck has now run out. We
can rarely halt a plague, but we can manage one with the least human
collateral damage. It seems to me that we may be headed, instead, for
another 1918, mitigated only by antibiotics to deal with the bacterial
infections that a century ago piggybacked on viral infections and
multiplied the victims.
only thing we now know for certain is that a description of this era as
surreal is now out of date. At some point, reality was bound to step
in, of course, and it’s been quite amazing how long we have been able to
postpone it. But this is now as real as it gets. And it is just the
…which was totally different, but every bit as good, with a lush arrangement that recalls (at least to my ear) Sketches of Spain. McLaughlin‘s interpretation is from a 1995 compilation called Jazz to the World, which one can hear in its entirety here.
To access the many other versions of “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” (“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”) – including this one (complete with burning Yule Log!) by BB faves Pentatonix – on YouTube, click here and/or here.
“…I had given myself my word that during the whole of this time I wold do no writing whatsoever, but would only, for the well-being of the most deserving of these subordinate parts, slowly and gently drink down all the bottles of old calvados now at my disposal by the will of fate in the wine-cellar of the Prieué, and specially provided the century before last by people who understood the true sense of life.”
– From Meetings with Remarkable Men (p. 1), referring to the short break Gurdjieff took after finishing the first volume of his All and Everything trilogy. The expression “subordinate parts” refers to those parts of himself that had, of necessity, been subordinated to the writing process, and were thus in need of serious attention after the completion of such a major undertaking.
For more information on calvados, click here; for more on the difference between calvados and applejack, click here ad here.
“True artists are possessed…they are messianic egomaniacs. They believe that what they do is unspeakably important: it is only that conviction that makes the writer important…So Beethoven does draft after draft of his works, scrutinizing, altering, improvising them long after anyone commonly sane would have stopped, delighted…only the absolute conviction that with patience enough he [or she] can find his [or her] way through or around any obstacle—only the certainty solid as life that he [or she] can sooner or later discover the right technique—can get the true artist through the endless hours of fiddling, reconceiving, throwing out in disgust…If he [or she] does his work well, the ego that made it possible does not show in the work…He [or She] builds whatever world he [or she] is able to build, then evaporates into thin air, leaving what he [or she]’s built to get by on its own.”
– From “…the afterword he [Gardner] wrote for a collection of critical articles on his work…published in 1982…” (for more info about this collection, click here), as quoted by Charles Johnson in his Introduction to Gardner’s novel The Sunlight Dialogues.
Also note Gardner’s subtle reference to Shakespeare (whose works, according to Wikipedia, were a constant presence in Gardner’s childhood years, due to his parents’ love of those works…), and indeed to Prospero, in his last sentence – thus adding an extra dimension of magic…
Last year, for Bastille Day, I posted Three Scenes from Jacques Tati‘s classic film MonOncle. A few nights ago, I found that it’s now up, in its entirety, on You Tube – an absolutely gorgeous print, with very clear subtitles and great sound.
The story-telling is elliptical, the plot minimal, and the dialogue fairly hard to follow – even with the good subtitles. But all that’s beside the point – or rather the several true points – of this film, which are, to name just a few: the dazzling cinematography; the timing and pacing; and, as I put it last year, “the whimsical humor and run down dignity” of France in those days, and indeed of Jacques Tati himself, who moves through the variegated urban and industrial landscape with the grace of a dancer and the touch of a clown. What’s more, as Tom Keogh puts in a review posted at the Famous Clowns website, “…Tati also employs his trademark techniques with sound and production design to achieve the indefinable, comic genius of his films: the rhythmic clacking of footsteps, the cartoon-panel distance of his camera frame from the heart of the action. (Why are funny things funnier when seen from a few extra feet away?)…“ Then, of course, there’s the musical score by Alain Romans and Franck Barcellini, also whimsical and humorous, which functions as an almost constant counterpoint to – and indeed an often snarky commentary on – the main action of the film.
Well worth a viewing…
Update: Drat! Some espèce de bachi-bouzouk took it down! Still, available on Amazon for sale or rent (link). Worth a few bucks? I’d say so (but, then again, I would!). Also, lots of short clips, etc, continuing up on You Tube (link).
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