News and Blog
Reading Carter's biography of Proust, I came upon this mention of Saint-Saëns's Opus 75 and accessed it on iTunes as both the narrator and Swann go on expansively about "the little phrase" which finds it source here.
Despite "passionate" admiration for Saint-Saëns's work, Proust thought less highly of the composer's accomplishments than did his former pupil (the composer) Reynaldo (Hahn). But the haunting melody of one section of the first movement of Saint-Saëns's Sonata I for Piano and Violin, Opus 75, captivated him. Marcel never tired of hearing it and asked Reynaldo (his lover) to play it for him again and again, referring to it as “the little phrase." In the Search… Swann asks Odette (his lover) to play it for him again and again, "the little phrase," now attributed to Proust's fictional composer Vinteuil.
Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000
The Saint-Saëns sonata, is it in a minor key—it feels like it—I'm not sure, but after listening to it, Swann in love I'm not, and of that I'm sure. I did download piano music by Reynaldo Hahn, not being familiar with his work, to give it a listen.
But before we go, here is an excerpt of Proust speaking of the language of music as Swann listens to the Vinteuil sonata containing the little phrase performed at the home of the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's.
At first the piano complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and answered it, as from a neighboring tree. It was as at the beginning of the world, as if there were as yet only the two of them on the earth, or rather in this world closed to all the rest, so fashioned by the logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves: the world of this sonata. Was it a bird, was it the soul, as yet not fully formed, of the little phrase, was it a fairy—that being invisibly lamenting, whose plaint the piano heard and tenderly repeated? Its cries were so sudden that the violinist must snatch up his bow and race to catch them as they came. Marvelous bird! The violinist seemed to wish to charm, to tame, to capture it. Already it had passed into his soul, already the little phrase which it evoked shook like a medium's the body of the violinist, "possessed" indeed. Swann knew that the phrase was going to speak to him once again. And his personality was now so divided that the strain of waiting for the imminent moment when he would find himself face to face with it again shook him with one of those sobs which a beautiful line of poetry or a sad piece of news will wring from us, not when we are alone, but when we impart them to friends in whom we see ourselves reflected like a third person whose probable emotion affects them too. It reappeared, but this time to remain poised in the air, and to sport there for a moment only, as though immobile, and shortly to expire. And so Swann lost nothing of the precious time for which it lingered. It was still there, like an iridescent bubble that floats for a while unbroken. As a rainbow whose brightness is fading seems to subside, then soars again and, before it is extinguished, shines forth with greater splendor than it has ever shown; so to the two colours which the little phrase had hitherto allowed to appear it added others now, chords shot with every hue in the prism, and made them sing.
Swann's Way Volume I, 495ff; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrief and Kilmartin, revised by Enright. The Modern Library Edition.
My reply to email from a customer who had been waiting for more Musik garlic and to his comment about my blog entry concerning paying for digital access to the New York Times.
We did not plant any Musik this year as there was a nematode, as described by Cornell University's Diseases of Garlic Factsheet, that invaded much of the seed garlic in the Northeastern United States & Canada; the only clean seed (free of all diseases including the nematode) we could find to plant within a reasonably priced shipping distance was a German White porcelain (like a Musik) and a Ukranian Red rocambole. The nematode problem was so pervasive that the Saugerties Garlic Festival prohibited wholesale sales last September and the SGF is a major market for seed garlic in the NE; this was the 1st sales prohibition in the 17 years of the festival's existence.
As far as the New York Times is concerned, it is not an either/or situation as you describe: the Times will cease to exist as we know it and readers paying for it will not make up for revenues lost in advertising. As you know, there is a redefinition of news media going on brought on by the Internet: no longer is media a one-to-many activity (NYT > public, as in a traditional print newspaper), it is a many-to-many activity (public > public, like The Huffington Post and other blogging websites). This redefinition will only accelerate leaving the Gray Lady sick and getting sicker.
But the Times will be free again (I've read estimates of within 10 months) as it attempts to recapture readership lost by charging for digital subscriptions; but the death throes will howl on longer than if the Times, that venerable broadsheet, were a publicly managed company, rather than being family managed as it is now, because blood (tradition) is thicker and stickier and blinder than red or black ink.
Other than that, what are you reading in French?
This morning's reading:
"Adjectival styles often succeed in nonfiction descriptions of firsthand experience. A cellist calls on adjectives…to answer the question, "How do the members of a string quartet play together and tour together year in and year out, without killing each other?" Below, the adjectives are italicized...
Conversely, there is a danger that individual criticisms can become destructively hurtful and bitter. If they are voiced too harshly and personally, no one ends up in a fit state to play. After all, the deep feelings conjured up when we play great music already make us feel vulnerable. In addition, nearly all playing requires maximum self-confidence and complete physical ease and relaxation, even (or especially) in music of great intensity and ardour, or that is rapturous or celebratory…
David Waterman, "Four's a Crowd"
From Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style Virginia Tufte 2006
Even when it's not raining upstate one must wear a coat outdoors for all but a few hours in the early afternoon—it's still that chilly and it feels colder when wet. This is the time of year of mud. The Spring rain makes a boot sucking mud of the recently thawed soil,
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
The Wasteland T. S. Eliot, 1922
It was Saturday. New Yorkers do not know mud; the city is paved and there are cement sidewalks to stroll upon. Before driving to Manhattan, I put on my Blundstones and looked down to see semi-dried mud caked on them. It was 5:30 AM, it was too late to wash my boots: my feet would be wet during the cold morning hours. Instead I would take the farm with me to the city on the soles of my boots. I was going there to sell, to see and not to be seen, I told myself.
And I should do something other than hang out at the stand in Union Square as I usually do. I have competent sales help at market; they really don't need me there. Maybe I should take in a Chelsea gallery or two, see an exposition at one of the uptown museums or even go to a downtown movie, one that will never play upstate...I brought The New Yorker along to see with what kind of city idyll "Goings On About Town" could tempt me.
If one had to read but a sampling of À la Recherche du temps perdu it would be Noms De Pays: Le Nom, the last section of volume I, Du côté de chez Swann. The tone is lovely; the account is self contained and it has a wistful yet mature view of time past and has no need of the madelaine gimmickry that Proust uses to conjure 'involuntary memory'.
Robert de Montesquiou, the aesthete who was the model for Proust's Baron de Charlus (perhaps the most intriguing and certainly the most amusing character of the 2000 personages, real or fictional, in À la recherche du temps perdu), had his first love affair
"with a female ventriloquist who, while Montesquiou was straining to achieve his climax, would imitate the drunken voice of a pimp, threatening the aristocratic client."
Pages from the Goncourt Journals, (1851-1896) the Goncourt Brothers, Edmund & Jules, translator Robert Baldick, 2006.
Colette has given us a portrait of Marcel that is all but forgotten, yet which is shocking in its disdain:
“At ‘mother Barmann's’ [that is to say Mme Arman] I was hounded, politely, by a pretty, young literary-minded boy. The young fellow had fine eyes, with a hint of blepharism...He compared me—my short hair again!—to Myrtocleia, to a young Hermes, to a love of Prud'hon's...My little flatterer, thrilled by his own evocations, never left me...He contemplated me with his caressing eyes, with their long eyelashes...”
Colette did not much care for
“his over-weaning politeness, the excessive attention he paid to those he was talking to,”
she once again described
"the large, brownish, melancholy eyes, a skin that was sometimes pink and sometimes pale, an anxious look in the eyes, a mouth which, when it shut, was pursed tightly as if for a kiss...”
Marcel Proust, A Life by Jean-Yves Tadié, 1996 p. 211.
Sarah of Hawthorne Valley, a biodynamic farm in the Union Sq. Greenmarket and our neighbor there on Saturday, had a baby that she and father Ben (Hawthorne Valley too) call Hannah; Sarah knit the hats pictured here from our wool, and a Catskill Merino sheepskin helps keep them warm.
Hannah and Sarah