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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, July 27, 2018


In the music section of Laie bookstore in Barcelona, there was a book that promised to be collection of writings by Lorca on music.  Excitedly, I took it down,  only  to discover that it was simply a reprinting of three of Lorca's lectures, and didn't even include some other lectures that have to do with music, like "Cómo canta una ciudad..."  It had a preface of two pages by a flamenco cantaor, El Niño de Elche, which I didn't even read.  This just won't do, I'm sorry.  I guess I should have read it, but I don't need to read some other brief anti-intellectual take on the duende like that, in an opportunistic book like this.  

A book purporting to represent own Lorca's musical thought just has to approached in a half-way serious way. You would also have to realize that the duende lecture is not an essay about music alone.    

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A string of creativity

I've had some productive times in the last half of this decade (so far). Out of nowhere, I started composing music in the summer of 2015. I also wrote a few books of bad poems a year later, published the second Lorca book, and began the Lorca and music project. I cannot really explain it. It is also important not to give to much emphasis to whether it's all "good." The poetry is bad on purpose, and the music depends on some cheap tricks for a lot of its effects. I'm more amazed that I can do it all, rather than being impressed with the actual results. The Lorca and music book will be good, I feel, because I can put everything I know into it, a large percentage of the scholarly base. The scholarly base is more like a reserve: no project uses all of what you know, but this will come a bit closer.

Curiously, or perhaps logically, the poetry dried up when I began the Lorca and music project. I'm not too worried about that, because it is still there.

Realizing that "anything is possible" is all well and good, but it sounds a bit like a motivational slogan with no content. What I mean by it is more that arbitrary obstacles and conventions should disappear. One example would be writing a music book without being a musicologist. Sometimes I think of something to do in class that I never would have thought of ten years ago. Nothing too radical, but I will have them write, themselves, one of the texts they are analyzing in the paper, and then attribute it to a fictional author.  

Mompou on delaying and holding notes

I bought this biography Mompou by the Spanish poet Clara Janés. She knew Mompou who was friend of her father's, and he set poems of hers (and of her father's) to music. She reproduces some type-written pages from Mompou's writing about expressivity in music.



Tota nota sensible, porta aquest dos moviments al mateix tempo.

Ser nota retrassada, nota retinguda, ó nota retrassada i retinguda, vol dir: que en uns casos domina el retraso, en altres el retingut i altres que la nota sensible necessita tant de l'un com de l'altre.


1. Tota nota porta el moment de retrás més o menys pronunciat segóns el valor de sensibilitat.

II. Tota nota retinguda porta avans del moviment, un retrás d'origen.

Es pot dir que la nota sensible és de origen retrassada.

[Every sensitive note carries those two movements at the same. To be a delayed note, or a held note, o a note delayed and retained mean: that in some cases the delay dominates, in other the holding and in other cases the sensitive note needs both things equally. Better: I. every note carries the moment of delay more more less pronounced according to the value of sensitivity.  II. Every retained note carries before the movement of retention, a delay in origin. It could be said that the sensitive note has a delayed origin].

This is quite extraordinary, since it tell us exactly how to play his "Música callada."  Delaying a note, playing it later than expected, and holding it for longer, letting it die out slowly, become part of the same continuum of sound. Whether I can achieve that or not, I at least know the direction to take.  There are more technical details about notation that he explores too.  He is tired of the Italianate language of musical indications. He makes the point that the purpose of phrasal lines is not to link notes together, but to indicate where the breath should come. They are not really "lligats"  then but "deslligats."  

The Catalan is extraordinary too. I feel that the Catalan conveys that emotion better than the exact translation into English or Spanish.  "Retinguda" has a better feel that "retenida" would.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

He thought

He thought "Untitled Original" was the title of that song

that a get-away driver should be slow and unobtrusive

in a good spy movie you wouldn't know who the spies were

or even that is was a spy movie

he explained

we set him straight  

Bird Droppings

Here is why most of your publications should be substantial articles rather than bird droppings.  Imagine a tenure / promotion reviewer given a to to on google drive with 18 or 19 items. You don't want 12 of those to be prefaces to someone else's book, book reviews, or less substantial talks / articles fewer than 5,000 words. The tenure promotion reader dutifully clicking on all those docs in google docs is looking for material of substance, but now he is crossing things off the list in a frustrated mood.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Balladen Om Den Store Hest Som Ikke Ville Drikke

Here is a Danish version of the lullaby from Bodas de sangre.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Study Abroad

My students here in Barcelona speak English among themselves. And they spend most of their time together, in small or large groups.  They can be attended in English in stores and restaurants. They do have their home stays, though there are two students to each house, and we speak Spanish in class, but the program is only 6 weeks long. I think I was in Spain four months the first time before I began to understand what people were telling me. I had a much more immersive experience.

[I feel embarrassed when I have to switch to Castellano instead of Catalan. Just being able to say bona nit or adeu or fins ara feels satisfying. When I bought a folder in a papeleria I was able to say "blau" instead of "azul' when asked for the color I wanted in Catalan.  I am very proud of a few conversations I had in Portugal in which the entire thing transpired in Portuguese. I am reading a long tedious novel by Saramago in Portuguese.]

It's not really the students' fault. It is very hard to speak in Spanish to people when the common language you have together is English and your Spanish is not so fluent. The group dynamic is so much stronger than the impulse to practice Spanish. Touristic experiences, even with a cultural aim, end up being, well, tourism, not study. The students are not dissatisfied, since they are having fun, but I think we should have some kind of pledge not to speak English, like they do in Middlebury.