Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why Bother With Classical Music? A Brief Q & A Defense:

Muti and the CSO: from The Chicago Reader (Jan 2013)
Classic music is too old fashioned—it’s all ballroom dancing, white gloves, and cups of tea.  Why should anyone in the 21st century listen to it?

If this were true, movie soundtracks wouldn’t be dominated by symphony orchestras.  Orchestral music is in our blood, and everything from the Jaws theme to the “shower scene” in Psycho reminds us of this.  Moments of great emotion, suspense, romance, anguish, fury, and revelation always reach to the seemingly endless resources of the modern symphony orchestra.  A great instance of this is in the conversation between the alien ships and the scientists in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: they use music to find a common language, with the humans (ironically) using synthesizers while the aliens respond with tubas and other brass.  It’s a thrilling scene and it suggests something mythic about orchestral music and its ability to evoke fantastic worlds both past and present.  When you listen to past masters such as Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, etc., the emotions are right there—as raw as the day they were written, full of beauty, despair, anger, and pathos.  Like any art, it doesn’t age, and an attentive listener can sit down and become part of the drama. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Preview of The Astrologer's Portrait

I've spent months editing and re-writing my new novel, which I actually completed 3 years ago.  I wasn't happy with it and re-tooled it considerably after writing my second novel, which became my first.  I'm relieved with the result, but am still too scared to release the new work--not that many people will notice it, either way!  Still, I posted 3 chapters on Wattpad if you want to give them a look.  I really love the cover by Charlynn Estes, who did my first book as well.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Brief Defense of Fantasy Literature

At the conclusion of Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese ghost stories, Kwaidan, he introduces the mystical land of Horai, a sort of never-never land famous in Japanese folklore. As a twentieth-century writer, he takes a suitably pragmatic view of such fables:

“But that the people who wrote down those legends ever saw Horai, even in a mirage, is not believable.  For really there are no enchanted fruits which leave the eater forever satisfied—nor any magical grass which revives the dead—nor any fountain of fairy water—nor any bowls which never lack rice—nor any cups which never lack wine.  It is not true that sorrow and death never enter Horai; neither is it true that there is not any winter” (Dover, 116). 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Universal Particular: Turgenev's Fathers and Sons

Sometimes a work is so much a product of its times that, for all its genius, it no longer translates beyond those times. I’ve read many works that are full of incredible satire, insight, and profound art, yet would be virtually meaningless to a modern reader. I think specifically of a great work like Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, which makes me laugh more than almost any book written; however, so much of the laughter comes from knowing the ideas and
culture of the early 18th century, without which all the jokes at Colley Cibber’s expense fall rather flat. These books inevitably become the property of college classrooms, where a patient teacher can tease out the references so that the work, little by little, becomes enjoyable again. This is the Scylla and Chabrydis that any author must face: too topical, and the work doesn’t last a decade; too general, and the work speaks to no one at all.