The Wand Masters: Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan

Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan; two very different maestros, two very unique styles; two contemporaries expressing their common ‘call’ in very distinct ways.

The two maestros appreciated each other and there is a rumour that they were planning to collaborate, late in their lives. This plan sadly didn’t materialise. Still, by these men living in the 20th century we are given the opportunity to listen to their interpretations and get glimpses of their ways of conducting life and music freely online.

I got hooked the other day listening to Bernstein after I started watching his Norton Lectures at Harvard on Music (via openculture). I was impressed by the interdisciplinary take of this modern man. So I started listening to him and was fascinated by his  (American) style of referring to his mentors throughout his career and giving a lot of importance on mentoring and education.

It was at that point that I felt the need to check out Karajan’s style, which seemed to me a lot more controlled, a more traditional approach, appropriate for an Austrian man.

The first cd I listened to in my life was the Deutsche Grammophon’s recording of Bethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It was a memorable introduction to the then new quality of sound. The surprise has stayed with me. So it was absolutely great when so many years later, that is few months ago, I found on the the itunes store an app for ipads for the 9th symphony (by Touchpress). This absolutely beautiful, easy to use app is made to help us explore and appreciate Beethoven’s music on two versions, a free one and a paid one. There you can listen to Karajan’s, Bernstein’s and others interpretation of this music, the development and use of the orchestra, the dynamics and the choices they made. It is a great app for all of us lay people to explore and understand the beauty of Beethoven’s music.

But it seems that there is always a visionary behind a masterpiece. So here are two interviews shedding some light into the personalities of Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan respectively. Two people that passed on some great old music down the to us to enjoy.

Leonard Bernstein

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”

“Teachers and Teaching” is an autobiographical documentary by Bernstein about his mentors and his ethics as a maestro teacher (duration: 1hr)

Herbert von Karajan

“If I still have so many things left to say and my body lets me down then it’s up to nature to give me another body. The greatest goal is to see one’s profession as a calling.”

“Karajan Or Beauty As I See it” is a documentary about the life and work of Herbert von Karajan by Robert Dornhelm. (duration: 1hr32mins)

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Happy 2014 !!

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Fresco from Livia’s Villa, now displayed in Museo Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome.

“Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton (The Four Quartets )

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Femmes Algériennes, Stories of history in photos

algerian woman by m garanger

I bumped into these photos of Algerian Women in the 1960’s by Marc Garanger about a year ago and I visit them  regularly online, because frankly I find them striking. The women are just beautiful and the shots are so encapsulating. But there is a story behind them that has given this “Femmes Algériennes 1960” portfolio an even more revealing history.

Marc Garanger served in the French army in the Algerian War, the infamous end of the French colonisation epoch in the 60’s. Garanger opposed the French occupation but he was serving there as a soldier photographer. While there he was asked to take photos of the regional population for their ID’s. Within ten days he took some 2.000 pictures, some of them of women who had never before taken off their veils in front of a stranger. There is much talk about the captured looks of these women, their resistance, their strength and their reservation. That is all interpretation as far as I am concerned.

Garanger soon after fled the army and went to Switzerland to publish these images in the hope that he would tell a striking story about the force and demoralisation exercised by the French occupying army towards the peoples of Algeria. And he was right. His images told a story and the discussion on these images hasn’t seized since, while Marc Garanger has made a celebrated career as a culture documentary photographer.

Femmes Algeriennes by Marc Garanger

I tried to find more information online about these women and their conditions of life, their traditions, their ways in the various cultures that make up Algeria. Most of the articles I have found bound these images with oppression, Islam, the French occupation and feminism. The only things I have found so far simply on their ways of life just mention that they come from either Islamic or Berber Algerian communities. The Berber ones wear face tattoos. These could not be seen in public because they were hidden by their veils. They were certainly beauty signs but they were also meaning carrying symbols. The tradition of face tattoo has died away in today’s Algeria, but there are still old ladies alive who carry them. Most of them do not remember the symbolism and I find that astonishing, because it is in their face. Apparently, the profession of the tattoo artist that used to travel between the tribes to give them these tattoos has died away along with this tradition. The most concrete information and a sort of background I found for this desert tattoo rite was on  Yasmin Bendaas‘s research project (funded by the Pulitzer Center), which she updates regularly.

Traditions die away and memory fades. History is made continually, gets piled and gets done and undone. In this Femmes Algériennes photos I find beauty in women, in photography, in history, in locality, in awkwardness, in the richness of a moment in time.

Marc Garanger is still working on his photography and he has travelled in many locations to record history. Here is a 4min video where he shares his take on his projects.

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'Performers at Sea', sculpture by Yiorgos Mavrdidis. Photo by me. Paros, August 2013

‘Performers at Sea’, sculpture by Yiorgos Mavridis. Photo by me. Paros, August 2013

“So much desire must create a reality.”

                                                                                      James Broughton

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Anicca Anicca Goenka Ji

s.n. goenka

“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”

S.N. Goenka’s continuous advice during the Vipassana meditation course

I read today that S.N. Goenka died yesterday at the age of 90, due to old age.  Bye bye Goenka Ji, and thank you…

Goenka was the equivalent to a Guru for Vipassana meditation. He  spent most of his adult life ‘exporting’ to the world this almost lost meditation technique, practiced by Buddha.

The idea of doing this blog, its title, its content, everything came to me during my second 10day Vipassana course. Although this means that while I was sitting trying to meditate my mind was floating around, dreaming up blogs, I guess it also comes to show that good creative ideas can come out at breaks from deep concentration of the mind.

I first heard of Vipassana by Mika on a wonderful summer swim at Farangas beach on Paros. It sounded interesting but I had nothing to do with meditation, so it got stored in the ‘interesting stuff‘ file in my mind. Then, a couple of years later I was travelling in India, and meditation was so normal in the daily practice and lifestyle over there that, when Omar answered to me that he probably got that beautifully serene look on him from his Vipassana practice, I was convinced I had to try it too.

A few days later I went to do to my first 10day Vipassana course. The information on the application form said that through Vipassana you get peace of mind and that was enough for me to hand in to the management upon my arrival my passport, money, bank cards, cellphone, etc and admit myself to a 10 day silence with a 10 hour meditation practice per day regime.

As tough and crazy as it may sound in the above description it is exactly that in its actual practice and in its results! Because it is absolutely tough to sit for so many hours day after day concentrating on yourself, on your silence, on your bodily sensations in order to gain access to yourself and to the way your mind forms and works on your thoughts, memories, fears and desires; and it is absolutely crazy how balanced and calm and strong, enriched, confident, even happy, you feel at the end of it.

Every time I am asked how this works, I try to explain it and I always feel I fail to do so. So this being a post about S.N. Goenka I should let him do the talking.

Here is a pretty recent interview of Goenka on Indian tv about him and Vipassana:

And here is another older video where Goenka gives and introduction to Vipassana meditation:

“We operate on the unthinking assumption that the person who existed ten years ago is essentially the same person who exists today, who will exist ten years from now, perhaps who will still exist in a future life after death. No matter what philosophies or theories or beliefs we hold as true, we actually each live our lives with the deep-rooted conviction, ‘I was, I am, I shall be.”

S.N. Goenka

* Anicca means impermanence in Pali (old Indian). It is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux. The Pali word anicca literally means “inconstant”. According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. This is applicable to all beings and their environs including devas (mortal gods). The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering (dukkha). [Quoting from Wikipedia]

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Moving in Silence

Tomorrow has almost come. Tomorrow will be the first Studio Work day for the new Fall 2013 semester at the Aegean Center. Being a returner has never made me fill stuck, but rather progressing. Progressing into the silence of the still instant.

Before I embark on this new group dynamic, I would like to share my sea & rock & sky -scapes from last semester. These images  are of course best viewed on a calibrated screen. And I think is worth saying that these photographs seen in print make a whole different impact. I am proud of each and every one of them, a feeling never really believed to have me ‘attack’ with my photography. I hope you will enjoy them too.

 

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Sartre and Beauvoir in Love

Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir

Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir

I bumped today into the www.brainpickings.org website which seems very interesting. Having said that, let me just clarify that I haven’t really explored it yet, I have just glanced over some articles, but they were all interesting. Good start for a new fav website!

Anyway, it had two articles about Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre and Beauvoir had an open life long relationship that was intimate yet at times had space for other lovers to home in….

Here are links to reviews by Maria Popova on two books that give insight into these literary lovers’ way of love; one being a collection of his love letters to her and the other a collection of women’s breakup letters, including some of Beauvoir’s to her various lovers.

I had to share two of their quotes, one from his letters to her and the other from a breakup letter written by her to one of her other lovers, found on the above mentioned books (via links)….

“I am mastering my love for you and turning it inwards as a constituent element of myself.”

Jean Paul Sartre (in a letter to Simone de Beauvoir)

“I can still feel warm and happy and harshly grateful when I look at you inside me”.

Simone de Beauvoir (in a breakup letter to Nelson Algren)

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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Yes, Yes, Yes

Henri Cartier-Bresso, photo by John Loengard

Henri Cartier-Bresson, photo by John Loengard

“Freedom for me is a strict frame, and inside that frame are all the variations possible.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

In a 1971 taped interview, rediscovered in 1991 at the International Center of Photography (New York) archives, Henri Cartier-Bresson talks a bit about his take on his photography. Simple and real. “Yes, yes, yes”, as he says echoing someone else…

cartier-bresson

“Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

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The Union

Enosis, by S Skordos. Photo by D Dimouitsas

Text by Spyros Skordos. Photo by D.Dimoulitsas. EN mag, issue 3 (spring, 2010), pp. 9 and 11

And a bit of Greek on this blog….

Today is the anniversary of the union of Corfu (and the other Ionian islands) with the modern Greek State (1864). In Corfu town we have a public monument to physically mark this event in our large, green and flowery central town square, the Esplanade. Every year on this day this stone monument gets decorated but for the rest of the year it is left in peace and in darkness for teenage lovers to discover each other, in equal distance between seclusion from and proximity to public life. This monument seems to be sitting comfortably there awaiting them to mark their Union.

Thinking of that a few years ago, when, some dear dear friends of mine – Dionysis Dimoulitsas and Vasso Kotsi, among others – and I were producing a free press magazine about Corfu, called EN, we felt we had to connect those dots. To make a note of this personal and social union. The Spring issue of 2010 would be in circulation during this anniversary, so we asked from our witty editor, Spyros Skordos, to remind us all what ‘The Union” really meant for our Corfiot generation. I am sharing this lively article here. To access it, click on either images (above or below).

The text is in Greek. Whoever can, enjoy it!

en3

ΕΝ magazine, issue 3 (spring 2010), cover. Cover photo by D.Dimoulitsas

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Sunset over Parikia, Paros

“These things have an unreal reality, like mermaids, difficult to hold. They exist, but the uses of language fail, because their substance is thinner and finer than words.”

“Such was life in the age of happiness”

Freya Stark in ‘Ionia: A Quest

(with a sunset over Parikia bay, Paros)

Freya Stark Quotes

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