Place: At my main computer. A week ago today I was in the middle of my latest busy San Francisco trip, hence my absence last week from the Sunday Salon.
Reading: Yesterday I completed Indie Spiritualist by Chris Grosso, an impulse purchase in San Francisco. He writes very clearly and intelligently about leading a spiritual life, and I am interested in checking out the interviews and other resources at his website. I am about halfway through Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck, which is serving much the same purpose for me that Grosso’s book did. I’ve also just begun Donna Tartt’s The Secret History; while very anxious to read her latest, The Goldfinch, I wanted to start with her earlier work.
Viewing: Last night I broke a weeks-long movie-less streak with Ahmed El Maânouni’s 1981 film Trances, from the Criterion box Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project. It was a pretty spectacular musical portrait of the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane. Not only was the film itself great, but the music of Nass El Ghiwane was powerful, and their poetic lyrics politically and spiritually charged. In San Francisco I had a lot of museum time, seeing the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation at the Asian Art Museum (as well as their cool installation Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers And Mental Maps Of Himalayan Buddhism), as well as Shaping Abstraction and Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George at the de Young. A return visit to Italian Baroque: Paintings from the Haukohl Family Collection at the Nevada Museum of Art was also welcome.
Listening: Two full hours yesterday were spent listening to roughly half of Longing for the Past: The 78 rpm Era in Southeast Asia, a beautiful boxed set of four CDs discovered in San Francisco last week at the great Amoeba Records. These recordings, mostly made in the 1920s and 1930s, are rare and wonderful, ranging from traditional to popular musical forms. Informing one’s journey through this unfamiliar music is the thorough annotation in the 270+ page book (!) that comes with the set. Also purchased at Amoeba was John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary, which will no doubt hit my CD player soon. Locally, a few days ago I attended a concert by the Reno Philharmonic that included a rare and grand performance of Vaughan Williams’s “A Sea Symphony.” San Francisco also saw me attending three concerts. Two featured Gamelan Sekar Jaya. One included a premiere of a new work, Citrangada, along with other stirring music and dance. The other was a free performance at the Asian Art Museum, with music from their jegog ensemble of bamboo instruments and a meditation led via Skype from Bali itself. We in the audience also took part in a short bit of the kecak, doing the rhythmic chanting (even the simplest of the syncopated rhythmic patterns is fun to perform!) and waving our arms in the air in unison imitating the wind blowing through the trees and the ebb and flow of the battle between Hanuman’s monkey army and the soldiers of the evil King Ravana. Lastly, I went to a performance in Berkeley by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra of Antonio Vivaldi’s sole surviving oratorio, Juditha triumphans. I was taken aback by how great and colorful Vivaldi’s music was, but was not surprised by the incredible quality of the performance. At intermission I purchased the Orchestra’s new recording of highlights from Handel’s Teseo, which their conductor Nicholas McGegan was nice enough to autograph for me – this may be this morning’s listening treat.
Blogging: The main news here is the first installment of my travel journal from February’s three-week visit to southeast Asia. Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting up the rest of the journal, probably in two or three installments per week, along with many of the hundreds of photos I took. I also finally posted my review of Roger Lipsey’s The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, along with a few further associated notes.
Pondering: I don’t think my brain cells are up to pondering this morning. Maybe some more coffee will activate a few more of them.
Anticipating: The last two weeks have been relatively filled with fun. So I suppose I am anticipating, if that’s the right word, returning to comfortable tedium this week.
Gratuitous Video of the Week: One of the things that made Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans so memorable was the colorful orchestra Vivaldi employs, including, among other instruments, mandolin, theorbos, viol consort, viola d’amore, chalumeaux (the ancestor of the clarinet), and recorders. Each of the work’s arias featured a different, distinctive instrumental backing. One of my favorites was Juditha’s aria “Quanto magis generosa,” featuring the viola d’amore, in which she suggests to Holofernes that mercy, rather than violence, would be the nobler course. This video doesn’t quite evoke how transfixing this music was live, but it’s still lovely.