Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Art Form From the Dark Side...

I will avert this time from my dealing  with music in order to relate a little-known incident in another art form; the making of a movie.
The fateful voyage in early 1912 of the Titanic has been  portrayed a number of times by way of the movie; however, the most {arguably} unusual, let alone troubling version was made in Nazi Germany in 1943, at a time when the fortunes of  this monster regime were beginning to turn against it.
The Minister of Propaganda (meaning essentially, the minister of the arts), Dr. Joseph Goebbels, decided to have a movie produced dealing with that fateful one-time voyage. He arranged to have the monies available(at a price of many millions in today's money value) and appointed a young director named Herbert Selpin to bring this epic to the screen.
The movie was indeed produced and distributed to various countries; but, strangely, not to the German audiences, who never got to know of its existence. The theory is that Goebbels, upon mulling the issue over, was fearful of the possibility that there could be a reverse reaction to the saga that could create  a form of depression, what with the German civilian undergoing a reality about the declining state of Nazi Germany as it so recently appeared to them for the first time.
The theme that Goebbels wanted to convey the movie upon was the reality that the English plutocracy  wanted this  giant vessel to reach New York in record time, no matter what safety measures might have to be sacrificed. Actors, many from the military, were hired and evidently gave Selpin a rather difficult time during the course of the production time, mostly from drunkenness and general rowdyism.
Selpin reacted vehemently to the chaotic state of the film's production, and was summarily banished from his position, ending up being jailed by the Gestapo. Soon after, this young director was found hanged in his jail cell - that was the official cause of death.
There are some historians who are looking into the possibility that Goebbels may have ordered Selpin's death, for fear that the truth, as we know it, may eventually become known.
For me perhaps a movie about the movie should be made...


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Illimitable Powers of Music - A Form of Omniprescence Unequaled?

I remember, as a child of about 8 or 9, bouncing along dusty paths and roads, whistling some of the tunes that positively ensnared me, from the legendary 1938  Carnegie Hall concert with Benny Goodman - day after day, as I  made  my way back to the cottage my family occupied each August in Old Forge in the Adirondack mountains, I most distinctly recall my whistling the same tunes, after my daily swims in Old Forge Pond intermingled with games of horseshoes with Mr. Murphy and his friends. My first piano teacher, Mr. Benjamin Falkoff, would have turned purple had he known of my choice of 'tunes to whistle', rather than the pieces, such as he had taught me that year; pieces  such as "Pomponette" and "Bonjour," let alone the lyrical exercises of Concone, Gurlitt and Streabogg.
And how the melodies of George Gershwin in his 1924 history-changing "Rhapsody in Blue" surrounded me during the following months of that same year. And even then, I was beginning to 'sort of ' comprehend the kind of impact that those two concerts had on the path of music - how those concerts had  transmogrified the traditional place of Jazz, as it had applied to "serious" music up until that period of time, even though the two concerts were spaced some fourteen years apart.
And, as I sometimes  look back at my past experiences, especially during childhood; how constant and  redolent with 'Presence' this truly arcane language was - and, of course, is-
Would it be possible to know of a day without music being part of my consciousness? Probably not, save for such traumas as the death of a family member; or having undergone surgery, or heaviness of that content.
There is almost always a tune that passes through my day, when I am not within sight of  a piano, or a radio or CD player or the like.
True; as a musician, I would expect such things to attend each and every day - but for most of us who are not in the field or are not possessed of natural musical gifts - is music not there to be surrounded by? How many of us remember the Walkman strapped to our heads as we walked down a street? How many of us whistle or hum a  tune here and there, veritably daily? How many kids have hordes of tunes downloaded in innumerable electronic devices?  Or adults? How many malls have music going on in their speakers before and after business hours, just for those who are there cleaning these places up? How many elevators give us music, even if it is  for twelve seconds? Was there a more effective way of coalescing the public than using the parade and marching bands, with songs written for particular occasions, than the ways of music Hitler utilized during his twelve years of power?  Another example  has been related by more than one historian  about the power of music that helped  bind the early Christians together during their first fragile years.
And on and on -
I find myself humming, as I walk my ten miles per week...                                


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Barenboim Piano - A Product Of Barenboim's Own Performances?

Some of you may have read my blog last spring announcing the creation of a newly designed piano by the celebrated virtuoso Daniel  Barenboim. As I stated in that blog, if this instrument is accepted by other leading pianists, it could ultimately lead to a  re-examining of the interpretive views of masterpieces of the past; especially, perhaps, the piano music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
I had, since writing that blog, been pondering the issue of  the emergence of a new direction of  thinking about the works of, say, Mozart or Schubert, by way of a correspondingly new reaction to their music because of the characteristics of this new piano.
Is this thought on my part due to my reactions to Barenboim's playing  of their music(especially Mozart's) on the present piano?
I say this because of the recordings of Barenboim's Mozart during the past few years.
For me, Barenboim is, at this point in time, the greatest living Mozart performer.  He is the first pianist to have  created  a need for me to want to  possess  an edition of nothing but the slow movements of Mozart's sonatas, and plumb these notes I have known for so many years. To my ears, Barenboim has reached an uncanny level of further discovery of Mozart's language without sullying.
Did Barenboim's ongoing journey in this period of music create the need for him to look into the piano itself?
Could this be the reason for the Barenboim Piano?
I wonder, at times...