Monday, November 29, 2004

Music, music, music...

Wow, what a week. Tonight is the first night I have not had a rehearsal or a concert in the last 8 days. I feel like a professional musician again. Unfortunately, my translation clients haven't been very understanding: the contracts keep rolling in. I shouldn't complain; it's great to have money in the bank again. Hopefully I'll soon be able to buy the new computer I've been drooling over for the last few months.

A run down on the concerts past and future:

Last Saturday was a concert of various early Baroque masters (Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Schutz and company) with the Ottawa Bach Choir . Les Sonneurs, the group I play in, played well, but it was an odd evening...

Last night was an all Schutz concert with the McGill Baroque Orchestra and McGill Chamber Choir, directed by a wonderful young conductor named Julian Wachner. McGill is fortunate to have him on faculty. I was hired as a ringer because all McGill's trombone students were involved in some big trombone choir thing (shudder).

Wednesday night is McGill's Capella antiqua concert, directed by my good friend, Dr. Douglas Kirk. The concert is a recreation of a Festal mass by Heinrich Isaac, as it might have been celebrated at the Imperial Court of the Holy Roman Empire. The music is wonderful, and the capella is incredibly good for a student group.

And finally, in a week, I'm off to Toronto to perform with the Toronto Consort in a Praetorius Christmas Vespers, which we recorded last year (you can listen to a sample track, "Von Himmel hoch," here).

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Oh, those EVIL translators

In the course of a discussion in a poetry forum I've been posting at recently, a few people were spouting the tired creed that goes something like "translations of poetry rarely, if ever, capture the "music" of the original; really good translations are almost impossible." To which I replied:

[testy defensive soapbox mode] Honestly, I wonder what the translators of the world (I'm one of them) ever did to deserve the wrath of so many. Do we revile Ravel because he had the audacity to arrange Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" for orchestra? Of course not. Many music lovers prefer Ravel's orchestral version to the original. In fact, I would wager that not only have most people never heard the original version, they don't even realize the piece was written for piano. So much for the "originality" of art.

Why is literary translation so sneered at? Maybe because there have been a lot of mediocre efforts. Maybe also because some "erudite" readers will  disagree with a translator's version, failing to realize that it is but one person's interpretation. No translation is ever more than an interpretation, a performance, if you will. But that doesn't mean that a translation is ipso facto worse than the almighty original. The fact is, great poetry transcends language and in the hands of a skilled translator, a translation can be just as good as the original. Not quite the same, of course. but worse? Hardly, and maybe even (gasp!) better.

So lay off the translators, people, please! You're doing a great disservice to a technique that has brought a lot of poetry to people whom it would be inaccessible to otherwise.  [/testy defensive soapbox mode]

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Colour in Motion

Found the link to this fun site at Questo Mondo, through Wingtips. The movies are especially fun, and the music is great.
We are bubble buddies, you and I,
inhabiting crystal globes of free
will in a grey sea of determinism.

We have the idea of seeking other
bubbles to merge with ours until
we form a sphere so large we no longer
notice the infinity of fate all around us.

We cluster in the centre of our expanding
bright hole, sweeping the universe for specks
of awareness untill finally the cosmos is more
free will than fate, and god may finally sleep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

In the mail today...

...the latest issue of Maisonneuve , a cool magazine that I'm proud to say is published in Montreal. I'm trying to convince all my friends to subscribe, though I realize it's perhaps not the rag for everyone. It's edgy, irreverent, funny and original. In every issue, there's at least one article where you think "the author's making this up, it's just too wierd," but a quick google and lo and behold, the world rock-scissor-paper chapionships really did take place in some forgetable town in New Jersey. I'd love to send a gift subscription to my father, just to let him know what life is like here, but it sometimes publishes articles in which homosexuality is tacitly approved of, so I think I'll hold off.

Like all good "literary" mags, it publishes a few token poems, some excelent, some that leave me shaking my head. One that made me laugh but which I wonder, in honesty, how it made it to print is " If Paris Hilton Wrote Poetry". It's been among the top ten artilcles on the web site for months.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Lost in space

If, like me, you spent too many hours of your teenage years in video arcades, then you'll probably find celestia pretty darn cool. What amazes me is that this is free. I spent hours last night in orbit around Mars, chasing down the Mars Express orbiter. How geeky is that?

Friday, November 12, 2004


The notes connect me to a human
continuum that stretches back to the Awakening,
each melody dripping the blood of players past,
every one in the audience,

I feel their weight in my breath,
steady gazes challenging me
to abandon math,
abandon myself to love…

…and they take wing like mayflies
emerging from a river

condensing into movement
of lips and hands
of hips and magic wands

flutter about the room,
landing on tables, in hair,
clinging exhausted to clothes,
drunk on the euphoria of flight

fly into ears to lay eggs
larvae growing into associations,
feeding on memories of cigarette smoke,
weak beer, the colour of your eyes

spiral away
their small yellow songs, our oxygen
a flash of rapture
a nameless but beheld resurrection

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Red pajamas and red wine

S. is dancing around the kitchen in the red flannel penguin pajamas and penguin socks I bought her in Calgary to make up for the fact that I left her alone for a week. And while she was impressed and thrilled that I had dared to buy her clothes (after almost 16 years, I'm starting to take chances) she still had to go back to La Sensa to exchange them. I was sure a medium would fit her but forgot to take into account how unbelievably silly women's fashion is. Who would have thought that pajama bottoms would be low-rise? (can you see me shaking my head?) So now they're comfortable in the waist but baggy everywhere else. Oh well, they are pajamas...

What is it about November that makes me want to cook with a glass of red wine in my hand. This never happens in the summer. Alas, no red wine is on hand, and a beer will have to do. Fortification for what's to come: S. is going to teach me what I missed in last week's salsa lesson (and how I got roped into dance classes, I'll never figure out). OK, I admit it, it's kind of fun, and the music is cool. Just don't ask me to dance with anyone else.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

My apologies to FFTMC readers

I've been away helping put Gramps (that's what we call my grandfather, with great affection) in a nursing home. If ever there was a case for staying active mentally and physically, he is one. Do the crossword every day (preferably the NY Times), run, walk or ride your bike whenever you can. There's a poem here somewhere, but I'm not sure if and when I'll be able to write it.

On the up side, it was nice to see the family (six days was perfect). My nephews are getting to be at that really fun age between 6 and 12, though I have high hopes--perhaps unrealistic--that "Uncle Pete" will still be cool when they're teenagers.

Monday, November 01, 2004

In the mail today...

A book of poems called Meditations that I had ordered from an antiquarian book store in Toronto. The book is by Fred Cogswell, a fine Canadian poet and a longtime editor of this country's longest running literary journal, The Fiddlehead (BTW, on that site, scroll down and read a fantastic poem by Elise Partridge, "Chameleon Hours.") Cogswell died this past summer and latest issue of The Fiddlehead has a number of tributes to him. One of them spoke of this book, and I was so intrigued I immediately searched the web and found a used copy. It's even signed by the author himself: "For Joy, with all good wishes, Fred Cogswell." Seems like a fitting and neutral dedication, especially since one of the poems in the book is entitled "Joy." But the remarkable thing about this book is that it's a collection of 50 sestinas. It seems to me that publishing a book of sestinas 20 years ago, when Everybody and their Dogs were writing free verse, took a lot of guts. But, as he writes in the first poem "[...] the house of poesy/ Has many rooms. The one most crowded now/ Is that you name [...]" (i.e., free verse).

The other Canadian poet I've been reading of late is Anne Hébert. In a used book store on St-Denis, I picked up a collection of her work published in 1960 called Poèmes. Unlike the copy of Meditations, this book has been read many times and isn't in nearly as good shape, but it's readable, and that's all that matters to me. One of her most well-known poems is Le tombeau des rois (disclaimer: since she died in 2000, I'm pretty sure her work is not yet in the public domain, so the web page I'm linking to may be breaking copyright, though then again, it may not be). There are several translations of this poem, but I'm just itching to do one of my own.