Sunday, 16 October 2016

Abbey hour (or two)…

I don’t remember ever being inside Pershore Abbey before: probably because, my parents tell me, I was only a few years old, the first – and last – time I was there. I therefore spent the first fifteen minutes – before the concert began – with my jaw on the floor, and my head in the clouds. Reminiscent, in many ways, of Cartmel Priory, or even the much larger Cirencester Parish Church, this is an incredibly beautiful building – drenched in history and atmosphere – and therefore one I must return to, soon.

I did wonder, though, staring upwards – because of the abbey’s truncated proportions; and after spending half a lifetime performing in such high-roofed sacred spaces – how the rare ploughshare vaulting [pdf] would ‘contribute’ to the acoustic. It certainly seemed more suited to the archetypical chanting of plainsong by cowled monks….

And, perhaps, the opener did generate ‘too much sound’ for such a space? But this does not mean either its overall effect, or its subtleties, were lost – David Curtis and the Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra obviously having spent the afternoon’s rehearsal acclimatizing themselves to the echoes and baffles such complex architecture presents.

Reliving more of my youth, Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was one of the first pieces I recollect playing the timpani for – hidden away at the back of the huge amassed forces that this composer always seems to require… – although I was a little older than when I first visited Pershore! As if competing with the storm raging outside, as it built towards its close, this delivered cascades of ever-expanding lush, swelling avalanches of sound: generating overwhelming waves of emotion that were the perfect accompaniment to such ravishing music. And yet the woodwind – on astonishing form – sang through clearly (my player of the night being oboist Tessa Pemberton); as did one of the best triangle parts ever written.

I recall, so vividly, wanting to be the percussionist, rather than the timpanist, for this! It’s not often that such few notes command such attention: and therefore full credit to Andrew Pemberton for playing them with such aplomb. The moment he stood, shivers ran up and down my spine. This is when those “avalanches” are unleashed – each one incomprehensibly more powerful than the last: David’s left hand held flat, palm downwards: signalling restraint. Not too long, though, before a swish of the tails, a clenched fist, and the Mastersingers’ march launched into the night with impressive precision and almighty ‘oomph’!

It’s difficult remembering the details of a concert that you basically cried your way through – but I think it’s good for the soul to experience such catharsis (frequently, if possible, please). And there are some nights when immersing yourself in the music and its emotive affect, without concentrating on the minutiae, is just what you need. This was such.

I had known that the last work of the evening would hollow out my soul – a great symphony by one of the very greatest (and one of my favourite) symphonic composers – but had not expected the Wagner, or Bruch’s first violin concerto, which followed, to work their magic, too, quite so thoroughly. But I am glad they did. Musically, and spiritually, this was thus the perfect programme. Three stunning – but contrasting – examples of gritty late nineteenth-century Romanticism. What more can you ask for? And in such aesthetically-moving surroundings, too? Gosh.

The Bruch was, simply put, tremendous. And much of the credit for this must be given to Lisa Ueda (above) – her technique and tone so mesmerizingly sensitive and enthralling. After having the scales removed from my eyes during Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, earlier in the year, again, here was a familiar work rendered fresh and utterly enticing. There was exceptional communication between soloist, conductor and orchestra. And the acoustic furnished the violin’s sound with a perfect richness – suited both to the music and the venue. And yet Lisa always cut clearly through: the balance with the orchestra exemplary.

One of the greatest slow movements ever written (I now realize…), the Adagio was courageously, impeccably paced; and both violinist and orchestra sang their hearts (as I cried mine) out to perfection. Stunning stuff. Balm for the soul. (And one can only dream of the heights Lisa would reach with the Andante of the Elgar concerto….) And that ‘gypsyesque’ finale? Captivating. Never has it sounded quite so invigorating. The extended applause, and the delight on all the performers’ faces, were so well-deserved.

Time, therefore, for the traditional Bardic deep breath of fresh air; and the discovery that the radiance of the music had caused the clouds to part: revealing a similarly vibrant full moon, creeping over the roof of the abbey.

There could never be enough Brahms in the world – and certainly not performed to this gilt-edged standard. All sections of the orchestra – particularly the woodwind and horns – seemed to understand perfectly the various levels of subtlety and sovereignty needed to demonstrate just what an amazingly cohesive work the man’s first symphony is. Long in gestation it may have been, but I struggle to think of another example from that era that has such a perfect narrative arc from startling (indeed gobsmacking) pained opening to its tumultuous, final, joyous chorale. (That pounding launch still has the power to amaze – and I wonder how the first audiences reacted to its startling, imploding intimation of heart-break.)

Here, the genius of Brahms’ orchestration pushed easily through the slightly echoey, treble-muffling ambience: and some of the greatest melodies ever written sang through the building – particularly the long violin solo in the second movement (leader Caroline Broekman on beautifully lyrical form), and the trombones and bassoons in the finale. (And, yes, Brahms’ response to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is a wonderful, wonderful creation; but I always think the falling ‘alphorn theme’ – the horns echoing the opening notes of Blow the Wind Southerly… – that is intermeshed with it, is the composer at his most inspired.)

Performer of the night has to be David. His already supremely thoughtful and observant conducting appears to have shifted up yet another gear, recently – and, although I get the feeling that he is more at home with smaller forces, it does not show one jot. He invites – nay, challenges – each member of every section to be at their very best, throughout; and there is a level of communication, of mutual trust, that ensures that this happens – and consistently. He may claim that the instrumentalists do “all the hard work” – and, my goodness, they played their socks off, several times over, last night…! – and that all he does is “smile, and wave my arms around”: but he has developed a strong, lasting connection with this orchestra; as well as a great deal of respect and admiration – and it shows. What a fabulous season this is going to be!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Bookended by brilliance…

Having just experienced the most fabulous ending to a most (well, mostly) fabulous evening, how to describe the equally astonishing opening? Well, I’m going to cheat, and recycle the programme notes:

The title of this work, from 1775, refers to the the composer’s ‘name day’ – when people in many religious countries commemorate the day of the year that is associated with their given name (often a saint’s feast day): as we might our birthday. And Salieri celebrates in style!
     The first bars set the mood perfectly: a cascading Haydnesque fanfare from oboes through horns and trumpets to full orchestra. I can honestly think of no more exciting way to begin a concert of late 18th century music! Admittedly, this first movement feels more like an overture than a traditional symphonic opener – opera was Salieri’s real forte – but the orchestration alone demonstrates that here we have a composer who is extremely underrated, and yet possessed real, sparkling finesse.

Salieri? Oh, you mean the guy who poisoned Mozart? Well: yes… and no! He is the composer you’re thinking of; but it is extremely unlikely that he did such a dirty deed. “Indeed,” as it says in the introduction to the programme, “in later life, these two great musicians were, if not friends, peers who worked together, and had a great deal of respect for each other.”

Anyway, the work I’m rabbiting on about is the older composer’s extremely entertaining Sinfonia in D major ‘Il giorno onomastico’, written when he was in his mid-twenties. It may be more “traditional” than an equivalent work by Mozart (or, say, Haydn… natch); but it bursts with just as much joy and inventiveness. There are seductive touches – especially as rendered by the Orchestra of the Swan, last night – with opportunities for every section to shine: particularly, in the opening Allegro, the wind and brass.

But it is the richness and variation of instrumental texture which is most impressive – hinting, occasionally, at the future masterpieces of two of his most famous pupils: Beethoven and Schubert. Haydn and Mozart may, sometimes, have been limited by the courtly resources available to them – but, for whatever reason, Salieri manages, here, to escape those confines: and the results are enchanting!

The beautiful, pastoral, almost balletic Larghetto – an aria commencing with muted violins soaring over pizzicato double-basses; followed by a transcendent woodwind trio – shows just how adroit (and ravishing) Salieri’s instrumentation could be. As does (however differently) the bombastic, yet courtly Minuetto – a short movement of great contrasts: with a thoughtful, strings-only [almost Elgarian, here, with its bassoon reinforcement] Trio section.

But it is the finale in which the composer really goes to town. And, even if the concert’s ending was unbeatable (which it truly was), Salieri at least did his – indeed anybody’s – utmost to produce something just as memorable. And it was obvious that the orchestra were having the time of their lives proving it!

And yet the precision on display was exemplary. In some ways this could be regarded as music that is ‘easy’ to listen to (“extremely entertaining”, I said). But, pay attention; prick up your ears – whilst keeping your eyes fixed on the performers – and you would, nay should, imagine that such apparent simplicity would simply evaporate in a cloud of effort. This is complex stuff indeed – on the page… – but OOTS’ command is such that you would, could, never know.

At one point, their incredibly subtle touch transformed – and instantly… – into even more of the boisterousness that had so marked the first movement. And the last few bars were just as thrilling as the first. Are we there yet? Well, yes: several times. And all utterly spot on. An orchestra at the very top of its game… – yet, somehow, getting better all the time….

What followed was, possibly, my least favourite Mozart piano concerto – never quite fulfilling its scintillating opening promise… – no.13 in C major, K415. (Lucky for some, perchance?) Despite yet more wonderful playing from OOTS (and my veneration of said composer), it simply would not engage me, last night. (Sometimes, these things just blummin’ well happen. The planets just won’t align. The moon remains behind its cloud.) I will therefore – thoughtful soul that I am – let my review stand for a week: until having attended a repeat of the concert, in Cheltenham Town Hall.

I have two things to say, though, before I move on. Firstly, I prefer my Mozart concertos (like my artistic directors’ pates) sparse. And I think – indeed, I know – I would have preferred the music as delineated by David in his pre-concert talk: with minimal strings; and nothing else (well, oboes and horns, maybe). The richness – so magically deployed in the opening Salieri (as well as the Haydn symphony which completed the evening) seemed ill-suited, here. To me, anyway.

Secondly… I like my white wine chilled to a crisp: with crystalline layers of depth; and (tasting) notes you can drive a bus between. Sideways.

Confused? Well, let’s just say that I have been spoiled, in recent times, by the almost-unmatchable pairing of Donohoe and Roscoe: both of whom make Mozart’s piano parts sing with the same apparent ease that OOTS apply so readily to their accompaniments. And that, maybe, just maybe, there was a little too much right pedal? Or perhaps I really was just having a bad half-hour? Perhaps you really do – as Donohoe himself once proclaimed – have to be sixty-five (which he isn’t…). We shall see.

And then there was the matter of “the compulsory encore” – an opuscule, should you so wish. (I really, really don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes, here… – and it’s always nice to see soloists return, Donohoe‑style, to sit in the audience after the interval. But I suppose I am concerned that my lack of engagement has implications for performances and premières, next season. And that troubles me deeply….)

In their programme note, the composers (who were also the soloists) described this as “a trip through the ages and fashions of musical history” – but it was not a leisurely journey: rather a fervid, accelerating, high-powered steam-train through the most lush and imposing mountain ranges of Europe. (Picture postcards to the usual address, please.) There was no denying the cumulative energy: generated not just through the repetition and variation of an already-familiar theme, but also in the orchestral forces amassed; the passion of the performers; and the contrasts between the translucent texture of the guitar; the more sonorous piano; and all the subtleties and forcefulness – and every micro-step inbetween – that David and OOTS always bring to the stage.

One could therefore not fault the performance, per se. But there seemed, integral to the score, to be an overt reliance on almost identical harmonies, as well as on the motif itself – “the original ‘La Folia’ theme – an ancient ground bass of eight notes that dates from at least the early Renaissance, but is probably much older: D‑A-D-C-F-C-D-A.” Its overall effect, therefore – for this jaded critic – was of a high-class movie theme. And, to put it bluntly, there was not enough variation in the variations.

Neither do I think – surrounded by giants of the late eighteenth century – that it slotted easily into the programme. As a late-Romantic exhibition piece, perhaps – and nestled amongst such – it may have felt more at home. But it felt like an interloper, here. This is not to say that conductor and orchestra treated it any differently to any other piece they perform. They gave their all….

And, for all my cynicism, it went down well in the hall. But those I trust expressed similar reservations – implicitly, explicitly, or just through their body language….

So, one final comment: which is to say that Rachmaninov demonstrated vividly and imaginatively what could be done with a simple theme – how much variety and pizzazz can be achieved. This simply didn’t. (And I truly am concerned….)

Fortunately, we had an interval. So I sat outside the ArtsHouse, letting the cold autumn air inflate my lungs and invade my weary bones; and the sounds of the Mop Fair cleanse my soul. (It was almost like wrapping myself in the kindness of strange, random samples of Charles Ives; or Steve Reich’s intriguing phasing.) And that escape from the supposedly-sublime was just the tonic….

As they proved in their previous concert, David and OOTS’ utter belief in Haydn – in his obvious charismatic genius – is audible in every single note and phrase; each change of dynamic and tempo. It is as if the man’s unique combination of technique, invention, emotion and humour – as well as his many years writing for (and commanding) such forces – has somehow permeated every cell of their bodies; or, more likely, corresponds perfectly with their own ultra-communicative ethos. Haydn would have loved the Orchestra of the Swan as much as they obviously do him. (And David’s supposition that he would be the perfect composer-in-residence may be unprovable. But, of course, he is right. Who else would do such a fine job; and then be such a laugh in the pub, afterwards?)

Yes, these transcendent players are the masters and mistresses of repertoire from Telemann to Tabakova – but there is an indefinable, additional sparkle to their playing (perhaps encouraged by this anniversary season’s concentration on earlier repertoire; on works written for the chamber orchestras that were then de rigueur in princely courts across the continent…). Never ever out of their element, they just seem, somehow, more in it, at the moment! And nothing illustrates this more keenly than their rendition of last night’s Haydn symphony – no.92, nicknamed the ‘Oxford’ (because it wasn’t composed there…).

From out of the opening, misty Adagio introduction, through to the joyous, life-affirming last chord, this was a performance of dewy-eyed, tingly-spined, bumped-goose perfection: passion and precision flowing forth equally from every single instrument (including – and how to say this without recourse to what could easily pass for euphemism…? – Maestro Curtis’ magic wand…)!

The delicacy of the Adagio cantabile was astounding (yup, even for OOTS): subtle gradations of colour; almost imperceptible shades of rubato, and those stunning, proprietary you-could-hear-a-feather-drop lacunae as the movement drew to a close behind the most delicate of gauze veils. (Special mention must be made, here, of player-of-the-night Nick Bhattacharjee’s transcendent flute-playing – especially those magical first, soaring notes… – supported by Francesca Moore-Bridger and Paul Cott’s superb-yet-subtle horn calls; Victoria Brawn and Louise Braithwaite’s as-always spiritous oboes; and the beauteous tones of Philip Brookes and Rebecca Eldridge’s bassoons. Of course, such is the orchestra’s transcendence that one could name each and every single member, here – and deservedly so….)

Something of this “delicacy” carried on into the Menuetto – although, here, of course, there is Haydn’s wit to contend with, as well: especially in the wondrous syncopations of the central Trio (which I am humming as I write). Never too heavy; never too stressed; always tempered with lightness; and giving this audience member not one single chance to remove the tear-stains amassed earlier. If the ‘Mercury’ symphony (which certainly wasn’t composed there…) left we the audience “with one big smile spread all over our faces”, then this draped an even larger one over every single ounce of our beings.

(Of course, much of this responsibility is the composer’s – his maturity, his expertise and years of continual development appearing to have reached the summit of his personal Mount Olympus when this symphony was produced…. And you can argue all day with me that the final dozen ‘London’ symphonies are superior… – but I believe this is at least their equal!)

That “delicacy” appeared to have also infused the finale… – and yet the whole (perfectly-paced) Presto seemed to just build and build, even as it ebbed and flowed. The timpani and trumpets’ first entries were so marvellously subdued – yet sharp as a pin – luring us into believing that this was how it must continue; that this was as exciting (and stunningly so) as it could get. Pauses, and whispers from the strings (oozing impeccability from every pore), also deceiving.

But – remember – this is Haydn: always out to surprise (even in his most profound, tear-jerking moments). And the “build” – no matter how quiet the playing – is always there: bubbling gently beneath the surface, waiting, waiting, waiting… for the composer’s permission finally to be given to unleash the hounds of contagious happiness. We may feel as if we’re dancing, whirling with characters from the commedia dell’arte – and with more than enough momentum to get us all the way home… – but this is so, so much, so much more sublime.

And David controlled it all to perfection! (Of course.) Just as you think one thing is going to happen, something else does. (Of course.) Including the ending. Oh, Papa Joseph: what a wonderful tease you are! (Not only does he know every trick in the book; he invented most of them!) Magnificence defined! (But always with that wry sideways gaze.)

Let’s have all one-hundred-and-six played back-to-back, please! I know there wouldn’t be one dull moment. Not a single jottette of boredom. Haydn may not have invented the symphony – nor are OOTS the first orchestra to play what he created… – but he stamped his authority on the form like no-one else before or since. And so do they.

As the maestro said in his introduction to the previous concert – having reversed its printed order (note to self: never write programme notes for the man…) – any Haydn symphony deserves to end any evening of music (or words to that effect). No-one does it better… – well, not on this gob-smacking evidence, anyway! “Finis Laus Deo”, indeed.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

When; and the art of existential transience…

For a relatively short time, I sobbed my heart out. But then, being the undoubtedly strange creature that I am – and, yet residing on its periphery, probably reasonably representative of my species… – I do seem to devote rather a lot of effort – as well as lend a disproportionate amount of significance to – mayfly moments such as this. It is as if – recognizing (whilst simultaneously attempting to avoid discussion of) our brittle mortality – we treasure the ephemeral above all else; venerate the transitory beyond rational measure. We see, reflected in such twinklings, I suppose, the entropy that must always prevail (until the only thing remaining is entropy itself); and therefore lend them as much love as we can, until they crumble to the sand by which, when captured in entwined glass globes, we would once (long ago) have measured their brief incidence; before mourning their finiteness. As I did.

All we can do, really, faced with such, is remember. Or, at the very least try to – however imperfectly filtered through our emotions and subjectivity. Surely, otherwise, these junctures lose the import that produced them; and – for a paltry while – that sustained them (and us). And, should our memories – the golden threads which fabricate the texture of our lives; the microscopic building blocks of the richness of our realities: ones we hand down, inadvertently, along with our atoms… – be fortunate, then perhaps they will survive, beyond our crumpled existence, as poor proxies. Thus, many lifetimes hence, those that follow (should they choose) can discern their value, gasp at their truths (again) – rather than simply, reflexively marvel at their endurance, the longevity of the poor surrogates themselves.

I cannot – even were I freakishly nominated as literary ambassador for all humankind – speak, speak to… others’ thoughts (unless similarly committed to posterity: stochastic samples of the privileged and able, perhaps; and, yet, I would hope, as contradictory and wide-ranging as those who selected me… but especially those who did not). All I know is that, pick any part of this blog, and – whether of a walk; a play; a concert; an encounter with the weather, or another soul… – the evidence before you would go a long way to demonstrating that my sole purpose here is in making inefficient attempts at tanning the hide of time, pickling the ineffable, pressing the fading petals of awe between my ever-mounting pages. No better than those proud, possessive Victorians displaying pinned moths by the caseload.

Yes, there are strong hints of their quick beauty; but, once slowed by my dull hand, am I in fact merely robbing the life, the mystery, the essential ‘beingness’ from that which I witnessed? Or should I continue to believe that – in pleasing (only) myself; and providing enough clues with my monochrome words to reconjure the original technicolour majesty, momentarily in (only) my head (should I dare to; care to…) – this is all I should be expected to be able to achieve?

Stumble upon the tens of thousands of still images, archived with a similar objective, and you might begin to suspect that, surreptitiously, I was either stashing them with the aim of posthumous fame; or, more likely, concerned that my raddled brain will increasingly require such prompts. (It would be nothing but vanity to imagine that they hold value to anyone but their creator… – words or pictures.)

And yet I persevere. And always will. Both in cherishing and recording. I feel I have no other option. If I only aim to do so to distract myself, though, then I fail. If all I achieve is to say “I was here”: then, again, there is no purpose. If, however, I write to proclaim my bewilderment at miracles frequently flashing by me – and that I managed to grasp a few of them, momentarily – then perhaps I am on to something. It may not be my “responsibility”, as such. But if I convey just to one other person just one fraction of that I experienced – so that the miracle is extended in time and space – then, maybe, maybe, I have a little justification.

For a short time, I sobbed my heart out. Not, this time, because of what I had seen or heard. But, for the third time in the same number of weeks, because the anticipation of such would lie unfulfilled. Yes, I can watch the DVD of the RSC’s production when it is eventually released; and I can also – as I did, over and over, on Monday evening – listen to the mesmerizing CD of the same performers playing one of the most intimately radiant pieces of music ever composed – instead of hearing it live. But, of course – some of it being down to that adoration of the temporal; most of it due to the ‘happeningness’ I seem to spend half my life waving a tattered butterfly net at… – it’s not the same. (It’s not that the digital domain is sterile – the passions are still utterly crystalline… – just that presence overloads every single one of your senses.)

All those months of drooling expectation; the prolonged crescendo of excitement; the knowledge that something so utterly exhilarating lurks over the horizon… – all dashed. Perhaps it is the anticipation – rather than the event – which renders it so special?

I am convinced that it is a combination of both. I am also convinced that not being able to realize the three-dimensional possibility so readily accrued distresses at least as much as the actualization would have comforted… – and carries with it all the poignancy (if not the force, the tragedy) of a life cut short. At this moment, it certainly feels as momentous – however inordinate I know that to be.

After all, it was just another point in time, a potentiality. And there have been many such that I have chosen simply to pass by. But I selected the ones that would eventually pass me by because they possessed something significant. They were fleeting, rare, coveted creatures that I will now never hold, even temporarily; therefore never stumblingly attempt to memorialize for others (and, in doing so, secure for myself). Scattered amongst the infinite possibilities of my life, they will haunt me: carving yet another notch into the wall of the cell that holds and punishes me (one that is, in my case, simply labelled ‘disability’) – one whose volume seems to decrease, almost imperceptibly (were it not for those sad markers), trapping me tighter with each vanquished wish…. (I could, though, treat them as ‘friendly’ ghosts: letting them help me rationalize, and gain proportion and balance. More straightforward to write than to execute, though…?)

So, I wonder – having tapped single-fingered at my iPhone for the best part of two hours – why do we cherish the transient so greedily? And then why do we – some of us – try to describe it; or at least cement its effects into our emotions? Surely the experience alone should be enough?

And, of course, for most, it is. And yet… we still purchase the CDs; replay the concerts on iPlayer; peruse the reviews; watch the DVDs until we know each line of dialogue, weep and laugh in the same places…. But then, I wonder – an epiphany prompted by an insomniac stroll… – if, “for most”, this is actually what suffices, even excites… – if only a minority of us genuinely crave the imperfections, the risks, the exponentially unwinding possibilities of failure – the spills – that are, of course, driven to insignificance by the thrills. Do the majority actually relish the reproducibility, the repetition, the safeness…?


During the hours of darkness – especially two hours after midnight – the village is mine. And, usually, only mine. But it is never the same. And that is as much an enticement as is the pretence of dominion. But, I suspect, many people would find the rich, velvety void of blackness quite scary – never mind lying back on a damp church bench for an hour, surrounded by graves and the rustle of tiny critters.

Very early Tuesday morning, I left home under a trillion pin-pricks of flickering, bright, distant suns: constellations spelled out with clarity and precision; and – beyond the blinding sodium – interspersed with clumps of dust: each speckle an individual. Given long enough, head resting on the arm of one of those benches, the Milky Way also emerges.

As I dragged myself away from the treacle-tenebrosity of Sandpits Road, I saw a canine hind leg skulk around the corner into Main Street. Too large for a fox; and no place for a fox, neither… – there is enough for them in the verdant nature and nurture that surrounds us. But my eyes were temporarily blinded. However, intrigued, I followed: expecting a distant ginger lolloping blur. But, it seems, my depression had momentarily become flesh: for there, a few footsteps away, was a timid black labrador (a shy old friend): dark as the shadows itself. Head hung low, it stood stock-still as I headed for the church; but was gone – home, I hope – when I later returned.

Yet with it came – or so it felt – a change. (And it was then that I remembered that such is our species’ bête noire – not the unpredictable delight I personally revel in.) And when I lowered myself into my customary seat (I can be a creature of habit sometimes…) I realized that my perfect sky had been replaced with an encroaching, enclosing mustard-coloured blur – as if the condensation which had earlier veiled the cars was now obscuring all of Tysoe.

Like the pain that had curtailed my day’s enjoyment, it seemed unlikely to disperse: and so I slouched home, again disappointed. There was nothing new to be discovered tonight; and even the owls had been quieted by this descending, dank wool.

Buddhists believe that “It is only by accepting the truth of impermanence that we can be free.” And the Japanese even have a word for that “impermanence” – wabi‑sabi – although this may be interpreted in many different ways: authenticity; simplicity; naturalness; intimacy; especially an acceptance of imperfection, whether that be of one’s life, an object, or the art we surround ourselves with [pdf]. (It’s probably why I love contemporary jazz so much; or struggle to remember the rare mistakes in a classical performance when there are so many moments of bliss.)

And, so, perhaps I should not really have sobbed my heart out? At the time – so swiftly passed, if not yet forgotten – it felt justified: a cathartic reaction to a spiritual cruelty piled atop never-waning physical ones (which it could, of course, have eased – temporarily). I have learned, over the years, though, to absorb those corporeal pains – they have become part of my material concept of self. Perhaps it is time to start learning, though… – accepting that sometimes the excitement I crave has a necessary bleaker dimension… – how to assimilate the incorporeal ones, too…? Not all unpredictability leads to happiness – although some of it may lead to release.

Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.