Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This Mozartal Coil, in Iambic Pentaheptapentameter

Perhaps inspired by the fact that the Kashima Philharmonic (fanfare...cue the fanf...hey, where'd all the brass go??!? ) is going to be performing Mozart's piano concerto kv. 23 in our December concert (with me on 1st clarinet), I popped on my DVD of Amadeus and watched it today. It had been a while since I'd seen that flick, and I'd forgotten how much I like it. I guess it's just the musician in me, but that movie always moves me very deeply.

(Yes, I DO actually like some movies that aren't sci-fi or fantasy!)

Speaking of dying young, by sheer coincidence (or psychic programming, one of the two), two of my friends in (and out of) Blogland have recently posted topics dealing with that very subject. Tooners over in Bahrain, in her post entitled "What about you?", asks what you would do if you knew you were about to die. How would you spend your final days? That's definitely something to think about. Would you travel? Would you try to do something that you'd always wanted to but had never gotten around to it? Would you do something totally nuts just for the heck of it? Would you just shrug your shoulders and follow your usual routine? Or would you throw all your energy into one, last, big, final project? My school pal (and occasional literary critic) Kami takes it through a whole different window. She asks what her close acquaintances would do for her if they knew she'd be dying soon. That is a very bizarre thing to ask, but yet at the same time it makes perfect sense. If I came back to Oregon for a visit, for example, and all my friends there knew I was about to kick the bucket, what would they do for me? Would they awkwardly try to avoid the topic altogether? Would they disappear into the woodwork? Or would they indulge me with something...well...indulgent? It's not an easy question to answer, and I hope nobody asks least not if they expect a serious answer.

Mortality can be such a touchy thing.

On a totally different note (A#?), Olivia asked me to explain just what a tanka poem is. I realize I should have before, so I'll do that now. (Sorry, Mr. Intrepid Explorer, it's not a maker of toy trucks.)

Simply put, tanka is like a longer version of haiku. Haiku traditionally have seventeen syllables arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern. Tanka, on the other hand, usually have a total of thirty-one syllables. The classical form is 5-7-5-7-7, but there is a lot more flexibility than with haiku. As long as the total syllable count is thirty-one (or close to it), almost any kind of structure is permissible. Most of the tanka I have written thus far actually follow a 7-9-9-6 pattern or close to it, and I've had Japanese language/literature teachers here tell me they're just fine.

(Incidentally, modern haiku is also a lot more flexible with regard to syllable count, as with the excellent examples Wendy recently provided. However, there are still a lot of mixed feelings about that. A lot of people tend to be purists with regard to haiku, but I've never heard any such complaints regarding tanka.)

In order to capture the traditional style of either haiku or tanka, it is necessary to include a "season word", i.e. a reference to an event, flower, animal, or weather phenomenon that is characteristic of the season or month in question. It doesn't really matter whether or not the "season word" has any direct connection with the topic of the poem, but it can be considered "more clever" if some kind of metephorical link can be established.

I hope that makes it a bit clearer, and I look forward to your contributions!

Now...does anybody know any Salieri tunes?


  • Amadeus was an enlightening film and made me have a rethink about his music. I just don't like most of the Mozart music I hear on the radio. I don't like classical styles that much actually - prefer the later Romantics and the Russians.
    But... I just adore that Adagietta I think it is called from the 21st Piano Concerto. It is magical and we played a tape of it at my Mum's funeral. I'd like to get a hold of the music but I don't want to buy the whole book!

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 8:50 AM  

  • Moody: I believe this is my first comment on your blog. Firstly, I must say, I'm quite a bit impressed. I had no idea you played in a philharmonica(sp?). That's pretty freakin' amazing. It's not only a pleasure but an honor, too, to glimpse the writings of a figure of such grandiose proportions(and I'm not talking weight-wise).

    Now, I've wondered, too: what would I do if I knew I had but a short time to live. I've been wondering this lately especially since my wife visits an old lady left by everone since the death of her husband. Her step-daughters can't stand her and she is completely on her own. Moreover, she has a fatal disease and can die any at any second, even as I type this.

    So, I've been wondering what I'd do if I were her. To be honest, I'd probably commit suicide. I know your question was different but I just wanted to share this with you.

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:08 AM  

  • I also really love the movie Amadeus... and I really enjoyed the Beethoven movie as well. Have you seen that one? It's one of my husband's favorites.

    I've never been one for haiku. I guess cuz I'm not that great in it. But thanks for the explanation since I never really understood the point. I think the season word always threw me... but now I get it! ;)

    By Blogger tooners, at 4:07 PM  

  • Wendy
    I really like Amadeus, too, but you have to be careful. Many people take it as a factual account. Actually, the movie, which is based on a play, does give a lot of key glimpses into the life of Mozart, but it is highly fictionalized. It is not so much an historical account of Mozart as a view of Mozart through the eyes of a madman.

    For one thing, the movie doesn't really give a clear idea of the span of time involved. It was actually more than ten years from the time Mozart was first commissioned by the court of Vienna to write an opera till his death. The movie makes it seem like only a few years. The movie also exaggerates Mozart's abilities to superhuman proportions. He was a talented genius, to be sure, but he wasn't a god. He could be quite fallible at times.

    The relationship between Mozart and Salieri was also nothing like how it was portrayed in the film. It's true that the two composers were professional rivals, and Salieri did apparently use his influence on occasion to hinder Mozart to his own advantage (or at least Mozart and his intimate acquaintances thought so), but publicly the two got along quite well. Salieri almost always included one or two Mozart compositions in his concerts and, after Mozart started to take ill, actually revived The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna with himself as conductor (though some would say he did it to say, "Look, I did it better than you" since Figaro flopped in Venice when Mozart did it himself). On the other hand, though Mozart didn't seem to have a high regard for Salieri's work, he often went to Salieri to ask for help in various endeavors...and usually got it. Believe it or not, Mozart and Salieri also composed one tune together in honor of a famous opera singer.

    The movie's portrayal of Mozart as an obnoxious lout, which upset a lot of his devoted fans, is actually largely on the mark. After all, he was the composer who wrote a canon named "Lick My Arse" and another called "Lick My Arse Till It's Clean". (Both those tunes are included in his official catalog!) He was essentially a spoiled brat without many principles.

    Most of his music is beautiful, though.

    Yes, this is your first real post here, and welcome!

    Actually, music plays a very big role in my life (hence the "minstrel" in my handle). Right now I play clarinet with an orchestra, direct a jazz band, co-direct a youth orchestra, and play sax, keyboards and other things off and on with both a blues combo and a rock band. I also do a lot of composing and recording at home. I have been hired to perform or compose professionally, and the jazz band and youth orchestra are part of my job, but for the most part music is just a very important hobby.

    Your wife is very kind to look after that poor, neglected old woman. It's hard to think what to do in a situation like that. Perhaps the best thing would be to somehow reunite her with her family, I suppose, but that's out of the question, isn't it?

    I haven't seen the Beethoven movie yet, but it's currently on my agenda to track it down.

    You're either into haiku or you aren't. I didn't have much to do with it before, but I've become a bit enamored with it in the past five years or so since I work with classical Japanese teachers.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:29 PM  

  • Moody: firstly, now that I know why it's the Minstrel I'm curiuos as to the "Moody" part.

    I wanted you to know that I, too, love music...only our tastes differ--a bit. I prefer hip-hop and rap to classical and also enjoy listening to jazz and country. I have a hip-hop promo cd of my own. When I first came to Israel, I felt so inspired by what I saw and heard around me that I began writing lyrics for rap. Some time passed before I recorded several of my favorite songs. It was very expensive so I kinda "kicked" the "habit", if one could call it that.

    Today, I was fired from work. That's like the fifth or sixth time I've been fired in the last 4-5 months. So, I'm averaging about 1 being-fired per month.

    I was waiting for my bus when a young soldier struck up a conversation. I learned he had lost his brother who had taken part in a military raid recently. That put things in perspective for me. I realized the magnitude of my problems was nothing compared to the kind of tragedy that strikes all around me, here, in the Middle East.

    Anyway, my point is, I came home and instead of watching t.v. or sulking, wrote a lengthy rap...then I listened to some 2Pac, whom I consider an inspiration, even if not a very positive one.

    By Blogger Greg, at 1:14 AM  

  • I love Amadeus. I saw it when I was 13 and it was the first movie that made me cry. that was when I fell in love with the Requiem as an art form.

    Salieri - I have heard some on the radio and once nearly bought a CD. His music really is quite pleasing. Not as delightful or moving as WOlfie's, but certainly pleasant.

    As I have grown older, however, my preference has been for the sublime sounds of Beethoven, and I do mean sublime in the Romantic sense.
    So much of his work is in the Minor key and I have noticed over the years that music in the minor key takes my breath away!
    I could listen to the Missa Solemnis every day...

    Still, when Mozart comes on there is always that ray of sunshine, the mischief in his notes.
    Though I like the broodiness of his 40th symphony in G minor. Which is probably why I like Beethoven. And I love the film Immortal Beloved. The last scenes with him as a boy floating in the pond to the... ddooo ddaa, my brain just went to sleep. Alle Menschen binden Bruder....y'know.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 9:09 AM  

  • Greg
    What is it that you do that keeps getting your fired? Dare I ask??!?

    Actually, my musical tastes are very widely varied. My CD collection includes rock in all its various forms (including heavy metal and punk), pop, alternative, avantgarde, folk, spiritual, blues, jazz, "new age" (I prefer the term "eclectic"), classical, and all kinds of world/ethnic. I tend to get raised eyebrows from cashiers at CD shops from the combinations I buy (like Nickleback, Muddy Waters, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and a Celtic collection in one go).

    I was never really big on either rap or hip-hop. It's not that I don't like them; rather, I simply haven't gotten into them. I actually like some of the hip-hop and rap I've heard, but I have yet to check it out.

    You have your own CD out? Maybe we should arrange for a "demo swap"!

    When Beethoven started out he was clearly imitating Mozart, Gluck, and Hayden, mainly because they were "in" at the time. Once he became a bit more established he really went off on his own. Experts are divided as to when this change really took place, but many say it was when he presented both the "ordered, classical" 5th Symphony and "unorthodox, romantic" 6th Symphony ("Pastorale") in one concert.

    Good I the only one in the universe that hasn't heard that 40th Symphony in G Minor??!? Embarrassing. I'd better put away the rock CDs and get busy...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:38 PM  

  • in Falstaff (the opera)

    Amadeus was a fun movie. I'll have to get my paws on in and watch it again.

    As for "The Marriage of Figero", I am afraid I must confess that what comes first to my mind is Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in "Rabbit of Seville"! (though the cartoon focuses mostly on Rossini's Barber of Seville).

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:47 PM  

  • Oops...I guess I have heard that 40th Symphony in G Minor before. I just didn't know what it was called.

    I didn't think there was much chance of my not having heard a Mozart piece, especially if it's famous...I've just never been one to bother with titles. It's always "the tune that goes like this: 'do-do-doo do-do-doo do-do-doo-DOO...'"

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:17 AM  

  • Serioulsy, every time I want to tell someone about that symphony I have to look it up. Perhaps now I've mentioned it I will remember from now on. It's becaue they're numbers not names.

    pastorale, moonlight, emperor, pathetique, Jupiter, Haffner - easy - we just need a title to tag to the music.

    Yes, I remember learning that until the Romantics, the hands stayed close together on the keyboard, but it was Beethoven who let them go all over the place.

    When you hear some of those amazing "avant garde" (for their time) chords and phrases in Missa Solemnis, it is so weird to realise it was written nearly 200 years ago.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:02 AM  

  • Beethoven's concert in which he presented both his 5th and 6th symphonies must have turned a lot of heads.

    As famous as the 5th is, it's almost a caricature of the strict norms of the classical period. Not only did Beethoven follow the existing rules of form (i.e. four movements in a fast-slow-quicker-fast pattern with constant use of simple, transparent melodies and obvious harmony)to the letter but he even exaggerated them. All four movements are crafted around that opening "dum-dum-dum-daaam" motif, something which none of the other established composers of the era ever tried. Almost every movement repeats back, too, making it very repetitious. It's a grand piece, to be sure, but at the same time it almost seems like Beethoven is making fun of the musical conventions he was expected to follow...sort of a "We must repeat! We are hallow! We must repeat! Clas-si-cal-oh! Ha ha ha ha haaaaa!"

    Then, in the 6th Symphony (Pastorale), he tossed all the rules out the window. Five movements, all but one of which is upbeat but with lots of turns and tricks all over the place. Screw the tempo, screw the rhythm, screw the motifs, let's just describe what we're seeing and feeling in this rural countryside!!! LIBERATION!!!!

    What's really funny is that the 6th Symphony is considered Beethoven's first Romantic piece (if not THE first Romantic piece, period) even though the first presentation took place years before the Romantic period officially began! The man was ahead of his time, to be sure!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:06 PM  

  • Moody: I can't honeslty say that I know what it is that keeps getting me fired. If I had to guess, I'd say it's my personality. It's hard for me to adjust to new surroundings and I am prone to getting angry--sometimes for no good reason. I'll keep working at it.

    By Blogger Greg, at 9:35 PM  

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