Future posts to this blog, if any, will appear on my personal website,
Previous ones will remain here until the planet burns up. Thanks to all who viewed 46,972 pages, including the Russian bots, for visiting.
About neuroscience and music (mainly classical). Exploring the relationship of music and the brain based on experience of two careers.
"Dr. Ellenberger has written two books in one. The first part covers your brain on music, providing a neat summary of the current neurological research -- everything we know as well as what we don't. The second part includes a series of essays covering his life in music (as the founder of the Mt. Gretna Music Festival, he has seen a lot). Some readers might gravitate more to one side of the book than the other, but I found both parts tremendously interesting and enjoyable. Although a classical musician by training, he is equally at home talking about Prince as he is about Mozart, and seamlessly transitions from jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall. I found additional evidence for musical education in how deftly written this book is. Dr. Ellenberger's ear, trained for the flute, obviously extends to the music of the English language as well."
Now, pray thee, come;
Or, if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.
Note this before my notes;
There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.
Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing.
". . . he was going upstairs to his room when a young creature jumped out at him and immediately attracted his attention. The child was neatly dressed in a short silk bodice with slashed Spanish sleeves and puffed-out long, slim trousers. Its long black hair was curled and wound in locks and braids on its head. He looked at the figure with amazement, uncertain whether it was a boy or a girl. . .
Wilhelm could not take his eyes off her; her whole appearance and the mystery that surrounded her completely absorbed his mind and feelings. He thought she was probably twelve or thirteen years old. She was well-built, but her limbs suggested further development was to come, which possibly had been arrested. Her features were not regular, but striking: her forehead seemed to veil some secret, her nose was unusually beautiful, her mouth, though too tight-lipped for her age and inclined to twitch at times on one side, had a certain winsome charm about it.
. . . Mignon attracted him more and more. There was something strange about everything she did. She never walked up or down stairs, she always ran. She climbed up on to banisters, and before one knew it, there she was on top of a closet, sitting quite still. Wilhelm also noticed that she had a different greeting for everybody. For some time now she had been greeting him with arms folded on her breast. Some days she would be completely silent; on others she would answer certain questions, but always strangely so that it was difficult to decide whether it was a joke or her German mixed with French and Italian was intentional or the result of an imperfect knowledge of German. She was tireless in Wilhelm’s service, getting up at sunrise but retiring early to rest on the bare floor of one of the rooms. Nothing could persuade her to sleep in a bed or on a straw mattress.
She wept with such tears as no tongue can describe. Her long hair hung loosely around her as she wept, and her whole body seemed to be dissolving into a steady flood of tears. Her rigid limbs unfroze, her whole inner self poured itself out, and in the confusion of the moment Wilhelm feared that she might melt away in his arms so that nothing of her would remain. He grasped her more and more firmly to himself. “My child!” he cried, “My child! You are mine. Let that console you. You are mine! I will keep you. I will never leave you!” Her tears continued.
Finally she raised her head, and a gentle serenity lit up her face. -“My father!” she cried. “You will never leave me! You will be my father! - and I am your child!” . . . holding his child ever close in his arms, [Wilhelm] experienced a feeling of the most perfect, indescribable bliss.The next day Mignon sings her first of four songs to Wilhelm. Dozens of composers have imagined the music to the four Goethe poems about the land from which she has been stolen: Bid me not speak, Only he who knows longing, So let me seem, and Do you know the land?
"Divorce, behead, die, divorce, behead, die. This grade school memory game is how I first came to know about the six wives of Henry the VIII, King of England from 1509 to 1547. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the personal consequences of power that befell the Tudor family and the circle of political intrigue of both church and state which caused such a wrenching in the private lives of the seven people—Henry and his six wives.
Try Me, Good King is a group of five songs drawn from the final letters and gallows speeches of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard. Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, outlived him and brought some domestic and spiritual peace into Henry’s immediate family. Although her written devotions are numerous, and her role in the story of the six wives of Henry VIII is that of a peaceful catalyst. In these songs, I chose to focus on the intimate crises of the heart that affected the first five of the six wives. In a sense, this group is a monodrama of anguish and power.
I’ve interwoven a lute song into each song, including John Dowland’s In Darkness Let Me Dwell (Katherine of Aragon and Katherine Howard), Dowland’s If My Complaints (Anne Boleyn), Praetorius’ Lo, how a Rose E’er Blooming (Jane Seymour), and Thomas Campion’s I Care Not for these Ladies (Anne of Cleves). These songs were composed during the reign of Elizabeth I, and while they are cast as some of the finest examples of the golden age, they also create a tapestry of unsung words which comment on the real situation of each doomed queen.
Two other musical gestures unify the songs, firstly, the repeated note, which recalls the lute and creates psychological tension. The second device I created is abstract bell-tolling, which punctuates each song and releases the spiritual meaning of the words."
If novelists know anything it's that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. They are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. At this moment, all over the world--and most recently in America--the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. Here in Germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. But there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. Those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along.