Saturday, 5 April 2014


“Emphasis on the common emotive or affective origins of music and words in the first cries of humankind undermines words.” - Jean Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau (25 September 1683 – 12 September 1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François Couperin.

Little is known about Rameau’s early years, and it was not until the 1720s that he won fame as a major theorist of music with his “Treatise on Harmony” (1722). He was almost 50 before he embarked on the operatic career on which his reputation chiefly rests. His debut, “Hippolyte et Aricie” (1733), caused a great stir and was fiercely attacked for its revolutionary use of harmony by the supporters of Lully’s style of music. Nevertheless, Rameau’s pre-eminence in the field of French opera was soon acknowledged, and he was later attacked as an “establishment” composer by those who favoured Italian opera during the controversy known as the Querelle des Bouffons in the 1750s.

Rameau’s music had gone out of fashion by the end of the 18th century, and it was not until the 20th century that serious efforts were made to revive it. Today, he enjoys renewed appreciation with performances and recordings of his music ever more frequent.

Here is his “Les Surprises de L’ Amour” (Suite en Concert, 1757-1758)

I. Ouverture (Vif - Adagio - Gai)
II. Ritournelle - Entree Des Crotoniates - Air Tendre Pour Venus Et Les Graces – Sarabande
III. Entree Des Jeux, Amour Et Plaisirs - Menuet - Air Pour Les Sybarites - Passepied - Gavotte I & II
IV. Rigaudon - Loure - Passepieds I & II - Tambourins - Air Pour Les Gladiateurs
V. Entree Des Suivants De L’ Amour Et De Bacchus - Gigue En Rondeau
VI. Mouvement De Chaconne – Contredanse
VII. Annonce De Chasse - Descente De Diane - Sommeil D’ Endymion - Air Pour Diane – Majestueusement
VIII. Rondeau - Sarabande - Annonce De Chasse - Airs I & II
IX. Entree Des Sirenes – Gavotte
X. Sommeil D’ Anacreon
XI. Gavotte Tendre Pour Les Graces - Sortie Des Bacchantes – Entrée

Played by “Les Musiciens Du Louvre” directed by Marc Minkowski.

Friday, 4 April 2014


“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” -  John Donne

Daylight savings time ends this weekend in Melbourne and we go back to Winter time. That is always indication that Autumn is here, as if the cooling temperatures, rain showers and yellowing leaves were not enough. As the temperatures are cooler, especially so in the evenings, what better to eat than a hot, hearty soup with some crusty bread, a glass of red wine and some tasty cheese?

Besides their clear health benefits, vegetable soups are the perfect dish for using what is in season. This time of year, warming soups filled with a variety of fresh autumn vegetables are just the thing. The foundation of onion and carrots is enhanced with chunks of butternut pumpkin, celery and the last of the beans in a broth infused with herbs and spices.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups 1 cm-cubed peeled butternut pumpkin
1 cup of chopped string beans
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch cayenne pepper; more to taste
Salt to taste
1.5 litres chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian)
4 sprigs fresh thyme


Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, beans and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the pumpkin, allspice, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt stirring to combine. Add the broth, and thyme.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Discard the thyme springs before serving. Season to taste with more salt and cayenne and garnish with parsley sprigs.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,

and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or faraway.” Henry David Thoreau

The Greek Orthodox faith celebrates Holy Nicetas the Confessor’s and Holy Joseph the Hymnographer’s Feast Day. Catholics observe Thursday of the 4th week of Lent.

Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
Philip III (“the Bold”), king of France (1245);
Henry IV (Bolingbroke), king of England (1367);
George Herbert, metaphysical poet (1593);
John Hanson, US politician (1715);
Washington Irving, writer (1783);
William Farrer, federation wheat developer (1845);
Daisy (Margaret Mary Julia) Ashford, writer (1881);
Leslie Howard (Leslie Stainer), actor (1893);
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Italian composer (1895);
Henry (Robinson) Luce, publisher (1898);
Marlon Brando, actor (1924);
Doris Day (Doris von Kappelhoff), actress (1924);
Helmut Kohl, German statesman (1930);
Jane Goodall (Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall), ethologist of ape fame (1934);
Wayne Newton, singer, (1943);
Tony Orlando (Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis), singer (1944);
Eddie Murphy, US actor (1963).

The golden crocus, Crocus aureus, is the birthday flower for this day and it symbolises the gladness of youth. The ancient Greeks had a rather more lugubrious tale to tell. Crocus was a beautiful youth who loved Smilax, a nymph.  His love was unrequited and he pined away and died. The gods turned the hapless youth into the flower while the nymph was changed into the yew tree.

Dying on this day: In 1287, Honorius IV (James Savelli), Pope of Rome; in 1682, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Spanish painter; in 1862, Sir James Clark Ross, English polar explorer; in 1868, Franz Adolf Berwald, Swedish composer; in 1897, Johannes Brahms, German composer; in 1901, Richard d’Oyly Carte, English impresario, supporter of Gilbert and Sullivan; in 1950; Kurt Weil, German composer, especially associated with the music to Brecht’s lyrics; in 1986, Peter Pears, English tenor; in 1990, Sarah Vaughan, US singer.

Guinea celebrates its Second Republic Day today. Guinea is bounded on the north by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mali and on the south by Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. The Niger River runs eastward and arises in Guinea. The population of the country is around 10 million composed of around 24 ethnic groups. The largest of these groups are the Fula, Mandinka, and Susu. The dominant religion is Islam which accounts for 85% of the population. The capital and largest city is Conakry. Endowed with rich mineral resources, Guinea holds half of the world’s known bauxite reserves, roughly around 25 billion metric tons. Bauxite and alumina are the major exports, which provide 80% of Guinea’s foreign exchange. Other resources include diamonds, gold and other metals. Agriculture is also an important sector employing around 80% of the country’s labour force.

Here is Marko Topchii playing the “Capriccio Diabolico” by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Op 85, “Omaggio A Paganini”).

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” - Saint Augustine

We are constantly aware of time’s passage and we speak of it endlessly. We have it on our hands, or we waste it, we double it, mark it, value it, share it, limit it, find it, save it, flex it, kill it, lose it, take it, have it, bide it, keep it perfectly, run out of it. We are sometimes ahead of it, sometimes behind. We speak of things time-tested, timeworn or time-honoured. We have time in bombs, zones, capsules, lines, sheets, exposures, charts and calendars…

“Time brings healing” said Euripides, and it does in fact heal both physical, as well as psychic wounds. It teaches us to be patient, gives us a past and a history to draw upon, a present to savour and a future with potential and promise. Time can be frustratingly miserly, as when it doles out pleasure, giving us only happy moments. And all of this without us fully comprehending what time really is…

Poetry Jam this week is all about time. We were enjoined to consider time in all of its nuances when writing our poem. Here is mine:

Tempus Edax Rerum*

Infinite Time forever rushing forth

You run, you never stop, never to die.
In, out, unendlessly you weave a cloth,
A wily web in which we fall and helpless lie.

Time, tireless traveller, you never tarry

Unheeding to our cries of: “Mercy, stop!”
You hurry forward and Death you carry
His sickle sharp and ready for the crop.

Unending Time, the one without beginning,

How weak we be, if we should try to fight!
You only can the victor be, forever winning;
Glory for you, Time, fame and light; for us an endless night.

Even the strong you break as forth inexorably you fly;

Time in the end only surviving, all other things to die.

*(Latin [from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” 15, 234-236: = "Time, devourer of all things")

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.” - Sholom Aleichem

April Fool’s Day is a holiday that seems to be linked with the Vernal Equinox on the 21st of March.  There is some resemblance to some other Spring festivals, such as the Hilaria of ancient Rome (celebrated on the 25th of March) and the Hindu Holi.  The April Fool customs were probably initiated in France after the reformed calendar was adopted in 1564.  Until that time, the New Year began on the 21st of March and its festivities ended on April 1st, the last day of the celebrations being particularly boisterous.  When the beginning of the year was set back to January 1st, some people still continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. These people were called April Fools.

This apparently gave rise to the custom of fooling one’s friends and relatives on this day. The custom quickly spread to other countries, reaching England by 1600.  The most time-honoured method of making an April Fool of someone is to send them on a Fool's Errand.  Small children may be sent to fetch some “pigeon's milk” or “striped paint” or a “book of the life of Eve's mother”.  The fooled person is known in France as a Poisson d’ Avril (i.e. an April fish) and in Scotland as a Gowk (i.e a cuckoo).

In Scotland, the errands are written on a piece of paper, sealed in an envelope and given to a “gowk”.  He opens it, thinks up of a new errand and finds another “gowk” to pass the envelope on to.  This is referred to as the “hunting of the gowk”.  It should be noted that the fooling is confined to the morning hours because:
Twelve o' clock is past and gone
You're the fool for making me one.

Monday, 31 March 2014


“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

Human nature is often described of being made up of characteristics that are angelic and demonic at the same time. In an average individual’s life there is constant struggle between the two, and each of us may find being pushed or pulled to one of those sides, making us alternately paragons of virtue and goodness, or at other times devils intent on doing the worst possible to other people, and not uncommonly to ourselves also.

For Movie Monday today I am looking at The Mission, the classic 1986 Roland Joffé film that looks at this dichotomous nature of the human psyche and examines the question: “What consequences do my actions have, on me as well as on other people?” It stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons and Ray McAnally.

It is a beautiful movie, shot lushly on location in the jungles of Argentina and Colombia (“The Mission” won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1986). It is set in 18th century Amazonia as the European colonial empire moves into the unexploited jungle. The Spanish Jesuits are the first Europeans on the scene, trying to develop a relationship with the native Indians. The Portuguese, to whom the colony is ceded to by Spain, are the imperialist powers that want to enslave the Indians and exploit the jungle. The canvas is ready to be painted with the theme of humanity versus politics, and faith versus cynicism.

The story revolves around Father Gabriel who ascends the mountains of Brazil to bring Christianity to the natives. He has success and creates a peaceful community based on Christian values. Mendoza, a slaver, kills his brother in a fit of rage, and only Gabriel’s guidance prevents his suicide. Gabriel brings Mendoza to work at his mission with the natives, and Mendoza finds peace, thinking about becoming a priest. When the Portuguese come in, Mendoza organises a resistance movement amongst the natives, who try to defend themselves against the imperialistic hordes. The ending is predictable, but nevertheless does not detract from the film, it rather heightens the tragedy.

The music score by Ennio Morricone is absolutely amazing and reason enough to watch the film, if for nothing else. If you have not seen the movie, nor heard the soundtrack, here is the magnificent oboe theme to whet your appetite.

The film has been accused of being thin on the story line, having less than optimal character development and an ending that drags. To me personally, these are minor points and the themes of the movie, my own knowledge of history, imagination and intelligence are enough to gloss over any minor flaws. Overall, this is a movie that is confronting, controversial, tragic, powerful and immensely melancholy. Well worth seeing!

Sunday, 30 March 2014


“A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.” - Hedy Lamarr

For Art Sunday, William Logsdail (25 May 1859 – 3 September 1944), who was a prolific English landscape, portrait, and genre painter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery (London), and others. He is notable for his realistic London and Venice scenes and his plein air style.

He was born in the Close of Lincoln Cathedral, in Lincoln, England, May 1859. He was one of seven children, six boys and one girl. His father was a verger at the cathedral. As a boy, William attended Lincoln School, and also earned money by guiding visitors up the central tower of the cathedral. Logsdail then attended the Lincoln School of Art, where he initially showed an aptitude for architecture, but with the encouragement of his art master, Edward R. Taylor, he took to painting. While at the Art School, he won the Gold Medal for his work in competition with students at other English art schools.

He went on to study in Antwerp, at the École des Beaux-Arts, under Michel Marie Charles Verlat. While there, he became the first Englishman to win first prize at the School. One of his works from this period, “The Fish Market” (1880), was bought on behalf of Queen Victoria for Osborne House. When told of this, Logsdail supposedly commented, “Shows her Majesty’s good sense”.

In the autumn of 1880, Logsdail visited Venice where he was to remain, with occasional visits to England, the Balkans, Egypt and the Middle East, until 1900. During this early period in his career, he gravitated towards architectural and subject paintings. His “The Piazza of St. Mark’s, Venice”, painted in 1883, was judged by the Royal Academy to be the “picture of the year” when it was exhibited in London, although he appears to have been dissatisfied by it, and seriously considered cutting the painting up during its composition.

He also painted some sixty-nine small paintings for the Fine Art Society on the subject of the French and Italian Riviera. In 1893, Logsdail was awarded a medal for oil painting at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair). After spending two years in Taormina and Sicily, he and his family returned to England, settling in West Kensington, London, where his “The Early Victorian” (1906) (a costume portrait of his daughter Mary) was well received. This marked the beginning of a period of portrait painting for Logsdail, who was offered so many commissions that he was able to pick and choose his sitter at will. In 1912, he was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. As his career progressed, he turned to flower studies.

In 1892 Logsdail meet Mary Ashman of Necton, near Swaffham in Norfolk, marrying her in May of the same year. With her, he had three children. In 1922, he and his family moved to Noke, near Islip, Oxfordshire, where Logsdail would remain until his death at age 85. Logsdail was a friend of Frank Bramley, who also attended Lincoln School of Art and went on to co-found the Newlyn School and be elected to the Royal Academy. While Logsdail was still studying, the art critic John Ruskin saw his painting of Lincoln Cathedral’s south porch and expressed a favourable opinion of the work, later writing to him and suggesting that he go to Verona once his studies had reached a conclusion, advice the young artist ignored. While in Venice, Logsdail moved in a social circle that included Harper Pennington, Robert Frederick Blum, Martin Rico y Ortega, Frank Duveneck, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, the latter of whom inscribed a picture to Logsdail.

Logsdail cultivated a tight objective and realistic style, although his later portraiture and the works painted while in Sicily demonstrate a relaxation of this style. His Venice-based works exhibit a high degree of draughtsmanship described as beautiful and nearly photographic. There is a cool proficiency in his architectural work and street scenes that express what was actually there before him. For example, in the winter in which he came to paint his “St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields” (1888), he hoped for a snow scene, but when faced with only rain and sleet, Logsdail, with his feet buried in straw to keep them warm, painted the scene without snow.

The painting above is “Picking Flowers in an Orange Grove” (oil on canvas, 51 x 73cm), which was sold at auction on 29 October 2008, for £6,000 (AU$ 10,797). The artist’s grandson, William has suggested that this picture was painted by Logsdail during his trip to Sicily where he spent two years after his lengthy stay in Venice.
 The character on the right by the tree is probably the artist’s wife May who appears in many of Logsdail’s compositions. It is typical of Logsdail’s early work and shows a facile use of the medium to convey light and colour naturalistically.