Summer Reruns–Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Bach supposedly wrote these 30 variations on a simple theme for the insomniacal Count Keyserlingk, Russian ambassador to the kingdom of Saxony. Musical scholars agree they represent the pinnacle of baroque keyboard technique. Their name became associated with the count’s harpsichordist, Johann Goldberg, who was only 14 when they were written. Keyserlingk was so pleased with the work that he gave Bach a goblet filled with 100 Louis D’Or.

I will leave it to others to analyze the music, for example this page is devoted to the nine canons in the variations. In addition to canons, Bach also took the melody and turned it into fugues, arias, French overtures and a quodlibet. These variations are known for being killers–one for example requires the pianist to play with both hands crossed all the way through. They are intricate and meticulously crafted, and though Bach wrote few variations on themes, these are considered the text book examples of how to do so.

A couple of years ago, I was in the lobby of a Holiday Inn in Accra, Ghana, when someone started playing the Goldberg Variations baby grand piano in the small lobby next to the bar.  It blew me away, of course, to hear it in such an unexpected place, but even more of a treat was being able to sit almost beside the pianist and watch him play.   It turns out he was just the accompaniast for an American soprano who was performing that night.

I first heard the piece, when I was living in the French House of Indiana University, in 1975.

There was an irony to living at the French House–few people living there actually made a point of speaking French. It took too much effort and no one really policed us. A native French resident assistant (RA) did live there both of my years there, but he didn’t have the time to go snooping in on every conversation. During the first year, when the RA, Olivier, did try to get the other members of my clique to speak French, they would do so with the most hideously American accent, and that would shut him up.

Once a week, the French Department would encourage other native speakers and students to come to our cafeteria and sit at the French table, and that was more rigorous. Or they would organize lectures and slide shows in the lounge of our dorm. It was still intimidating to me, who’d never been abroad, and who’d only been lectured to in a kind of academic French, which as different from spoken French as Dickens is to American rap vernacular.

There was a guy in my dorm who was nearly bi-lingual, and I once witnessed Olivier correct him when he made an almost imperceptible pronunciation mistake. It wasn’t like it prevented him from understanding the message, it was sheer one-upsmanship and linguistic (and even cultural) chauvinism. You see, no French person can bear to hear anyone butcher his language.

If you want to learn to speak a langauge, one of the worst ways to go about it is to study it in college. The best way is to have a love affair with a native speaker. The second best way is to go to the country. In university, they usually start with grammar, which is unfortunate, since language changes more rapidly than compilers of grammar books and dictionaries can keep up with. Psycholinguists have shown that learning a language requires mastering a complex blend of psycho-motor, cognitive, and conceptual skills some of which atrophy by the time we get into our late teens. We can learn a second language as an adult, but rarely well enough to be taken as a native speaker, and it takes a long time.

The reason I bring this up is that–despite this psychological fact–years ago when I was learning French, native speakers would not cut you any slack at all when trying to learn their language. To the credit of the French educational system, school children in France are taught to revere their language and use it effectively and efficiently both orally and in writing. Every year, the French newspaper,  Le Monde, publishes what is considered to be the best final essay which every high school student must pass in order to matriculate to college. Some of these read like philosophical tracts.

Being shy, that pretty much sucked all the enthusiasm out of my trying to speak French, and I didn’t learn to do so until after graduate school, when I went to Algeria to teach English. Algeria, being a former French colony, had a bilingual population, and being Muslims, prided themselves on being good hosts. They would never correct you, and so there I became comfortable enough to loosen my tongue and made more progress there in 6 months than I had in four years of university study.

This might make it sound like I have something against the French. One thing everybody has to learn is to rely on themselves–their inherent worth–despite how other people react. That was something that I learned only 20 years later and forget from time to time. Other people were much thicker skinned than I was back in the 1970s and learned to speak French.

The French Resident Assistant, who moved into the French House in the fall of 1975, ended up becoming one of my better friends and I still keep in touch, looking him up whenever I am in Paris, where he now lives. His name is Jean-Marc Fernandez, and perhaps we became friends because he actually grew up in Algeria, coming to France after his father was killed there during the revolution in 1962.

Like so many French, Jean-Marc had a lust for all facets of life–the intellectual as well as the artistic. He had come to Indiana University to work on a PHd in political science and business. He spoke Spanish and could hold his own in German and Russian. JM had done his masters degree in American literature and was better-read than I was in the authors of my own country. He also loved film and classical music, preferring, of course, French composers.

The first day he moved into the French, he was surprised to see that an old friend of his, Rosemary Bourgault had moved into a room on the girl’s floor. They immediately became an item and eventually married. But again, he had eclectic tastes and I believe I heard today’s piece, Bach’s Goldberg Variations in his room. It was around that time period that someone had made a film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse Five which used some of the pieces from the Variations in the sound track. Jean-Marc liked the movie and I think had a copy of the recording.

Glenn Gould seems to be the foremost interpreter of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and I recently heard this 1959 recording he made.

It’s in mono, but I like the youthful interpretation.  Compare it to the earlier version and tell me if you prefer one to the other.

Summer Reruns–Camille Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals

In my past few posts, I’ve been describing my first experiences living in Paris in 1977. (See longer post below.) Since my first weeks in Paris seemed like a chaotic carnival, I’ve chosen the Saint-Saens piece today, simply for the title. The work really has nothing to do with chaos, and in fact, Saint-Saens was clearly a traditional composer who at the end of his life was horrified by the impressionism of Debussy and dissonance of Stravinsky. In fact, because he did not embrace the new composers, he became a bit reviled, but he actually was one of the greatest French composers of the 19th century. Because he had been a prodigy and then composed rapidly and prolifically, he has been dubbed the “French Mendelssohn.”

It is ironic that Saint-Saëns is best known for Carnival of the Animals and especially the movement for cello entitled “The Swan.” Saint-Saëns himself was worried that it would not be taken seriously by the critics of his day so he forbade its publication. It did not see the light of day until after his death and it instantly entered into the repertory. His fear was justified—most people don’t regard him as a “heavy-weight.” That is too bad. I know it kept me from approaching his work seriously and I was blown away a couple of weeks ago when I heard a movement from one of his violin concertos, which I would rank among the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard.

Saint-Saens Biography

My Carnival in Paris
My last few entries have focused on my arrival in Paris in January of 1977. Looking back over my journal entries from those first days there has proven difficult for me. When writing this post, I discovered a cache of letters that I had written at the time to my friend, Thom Klem, who remained in Bloomington, Indiana and shared an apartment with another acquaintance, David T**. At one point in our friendship, he thought it important to sent me back all my letters, for which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise, my memories of that time period might have metamorphosed into more rosy ones. Truth be told, it’s interesting to see the patterns of the depression that eventually overtook me. It also makes me marvel at how my friends remained friends despite all my wild mood swings.

During those first weeks in Paris, I went from elation and fascination to abject misery. As I mentioned, I fell right into a ready-made community of Americans who were on their junior year abroad. They were nice enough—they gave me leads on places to stay, escorted me around Paris, invited me to dinners, went to movies with me, and over all acted quite civilly toward me. Unfortunately, I had little in common with them. The all went to a private university, which meant they came from fairly well to do families. Their careers were charted for them—doctors, lawyers, MBAs. Coming from a working class background and wanting to be an artist, I felt somewhat out of place among them.

Everyone seemed paired up as well, which fed into my depression and made me feel profoundly lonely. There was a rather raw-boned, opinionated girl in the clique who took a fancy to me, but I could not find it in me to reciprocate and ended up hurting her feelings. There was one guy, who I became closer to, a Vietnamese immigrant who had been adopted by a car dealer and his wife in somewhere like Kentucky. His name was Thai H**, and I think we hit it off because we both felt like outsiders.

Thai’s mother and father had been active in the government in South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Fearing for their children, they pulled some diplomatic strings and managed to send their child off to the US to some nice Christian couple. Thai quickly mastered English and was something of a mathematical and engineering whiz kid and was enrolled at Rice College in Texas. After Vietnam fell in 1975, his mother and father were captured by the communists and rehabilitated. When I met him in Paris, he was anguished—his mother had gotten in touch with him and was putting pressure on him to return to Vietnam and give up his posh, bourgeois life-style in the States. He had started tapping into the sizeable Vietnamese community in Paris and had even started reading some Marxist literature.

On my good days, he and I would go exploring Paris—visiting St. Etienne Du Mont church in the Latin Quarter behind the Pantheon and Sorbonne, or Sacre Coeur, Saint Chapelle, or other little gems in Paris. On bad days, I would find myself riding around on the subway for hours, as I went investigating pitiful rooms for rent at exorbitant prices. Any time things didn’t go the way I wanted, I took it personally and used it as an excuse for vilifying the city or its inhabitants. I had come with the intention of learning to speak French, but when I opened my mouth Parisians would instantly detect my accent and start speaking to me in English—sometimes English that was worse than my French. What else did I find to hate—oh yes: the weather in Paris. It seemed to rain every day and I ended up caching a horrible cold.

Originally I had intended to study French, but it that fell through. The crowd suggested going to the Alliance Francaise, but then others counseled against it. I might get stuck in a class of people from non-Indo-European language families, they warned. After become a language teacher years later, I realized that might not have been such a bad thing. We would have only been able to use French as our lingua franca, and we might have become friends. (And I might have gotten invited to some neat parties with interesting food.)

The last straw came when I thought I had finally found a room only to have it fall through. A friend of a friend had shared a flat and his roommate had moved out. I was a shoe-in. But then for some reason, he changed his mind. I figured hanging out with this group of ex-pats wasn’t doing anything for my French, so I decided to leave Paris. My plan was to head to points south—Marseilles, Cannes, or Nice—find a small cheap hotel and spend my time writing and hanging out with the locals. My grandmother had given me the address of distant cousins who reportedly lived in Grenoble. Another fallback plan was to go visit them if things didn’t work out in the south.

After that, I started feeling better emotionally. My cold, however, worsened and as I boarded the train headed for Marseilles, I began to worry about my cold. I had developed an intense sore throat and hacking cough. What if I got sick and died in a squalid little hovel on the côte d’azur?

As you’ve guessed by now, that didn’t happen and though I pity the poor tortured soul I was back then, that trip to the south of France turned out to be just what I needed.

Oh morning beauty – Offenbach!! Reblog of Leapingtracks. Incredible morning music.

I always thought this was Tchaikowsky and never knew it had voice parts.

Oh morning beauty.

Summer Reruns–Gioacchino Rossini: Mi par d’esser con la testa from The Barber of Seville

This, aria from the Barber of Seville never ceases to amaze me. It did so when I first heard it about 40 years ago in high school, and did today when I gave listened to it on Youtube. It makes me think of a line from the movie, Amadeus. Mozart, speaking about his opera Le Nozze di Figaro says that opera is the only art form in which you can have four different people speaking at the same time, each presenting a different point of view or even having an argument. What’s wonderful though is that what in real life would appear pandemonium, in opera sounds heavenly.

The piece in which Rossini illustrates this fact, Mi par d’essere con la testa is a quintet for Rosina, Almaviva, Figaro, Basilio and Bartolo. Almaviva has succeeded in infiltrating Don Bartolo’s house by pretending he is a drunken soldier who has been billeted there. Don Bartolo won’t have any of it: he says he has a letter that exempts him receiving billets. As he goes to produce it, Almaviva slips Rosina a love note. Bartolo catches sight of it. Almaviva makes Bartolo drop his letter and Rosina drops hers. He then manages to mix them up handing back to Bartolo nothing more than a laundry list.

Rosina’s presence inflames Almaviva which makes Bartolo suspicious. Now angry, the doctor again tries to get the count to leave. Almaviva starts to threaten him with a sword, telling him he will kill him when Figaro arrives. The barber and Rosina try to calm the two suitors down, but they all become so loud that the local police come knocking at the door. They enter and demand to know what is going on as the din has attracted a crowd in front of the house.

Bartolo explains that he is affronted in his own house by a drunken soldier. The police chief is about to cart Almaviva away, when the count secretly shows him a letter that reveal his true identity–Count Almaviva, a nobleman. At this, the police chief is thunderstruck. Back then, nobles were inviolate. The others sing in wonderment at how something suddenly struck dumb the police chief. When he comes to his senses, he tells them to stop arguing. When Bartolo tries to get him to arrest Almaviva, the chief implies that if he doesn’t drop it, he might have to arrest him. That would have been within his powers.

This confuses everyone even more and they begin to sing:

Mi par d’esser con la testa
in un orrida fucina.
alternando questo e quello
pesantissimo martello
fa con un barbara armonia
mure e volte rimbombar, si
I feel as if I’ve stuck my head
into some dreadful smithy
Alternating one with the other
The heavy hammer blows
Make a barbarous harmony
That shakes the walls and rafters

To me this piece demonstrates once and for all Rossini’s mastery of matching his music to the words. Again, like La Calunnia it starts out soft. In the background the violins play quick triplets, punctuated by a triangle which imitates the sound of the crashing hammers. It is funny, clever, upbeat, and incredible as each voice surfaces for an instant and then is drowned out by another.

You know how the opera ends: After more intrigue and humorous scenes in which he and Figaro dupe Bartolo, Almaviva gets the girl. Not because his is any better a person, but because he could pay more than Bartolo. Maybe it’s more fitting that he is younger than Bartolo, but that’s not the main theme. The theme is that Figaro–a common barber–is clearly more clever than any of them, and idea that was revolutionary for Rossini’s day.

When you think about all the people in positions of power–US generals involved in sex scandals, corporate executives like those in Enron whose greed brought the company down, politicians who line their pockets while shafting the polity–have become our new nobility, maybe it’s time once again for some revolutionary action.

Here’s another protest song, that I’ve always liked, too.

[http://youtube=”https://youtu.be/64nCCjonKW0″%5D

Summer Reruns–Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

(This is the one of my posts that has gotten the most hits.)

Johann Sebastian Bach is another one of those great composers whose music can serve as a starting point for someone interested in learning about classical music. I use the term generic term “classical” here to refer to all “serious” music, because as most of you know, Bach falls into the baroque period. Confused yet? I think I can be forgiven, because The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music lists among its definition for “classical”, “music of permanent value, not ephemeral.” The technical definition is to describe music that is concerned with form and proportion rather than emotion, and usually refers to the 18th and early 19th century. The Oxford manages to get a dig in at us hoi polloi: “Amongst less educated people, music with no ‘tune’ in it.” Those whacky Brits. How can you not love a country that gave us Shakespeare and baked beans on toast?


Baroque refers to the period of music immediately preceding classical, that is the 17th and early 18th century, usually from Germany and Austria. Baroque, from the French meaning “bizarre,” was applied to the fanciful wrought-gold and cherub adorned architecture of that time period. Bach was probably the most prolific composers (in more ways than one) of this period: he produced countless works for the organ, chorus, instruments and orchestra—-plus 23 sons. That doesn’t sound too impressive, except for the sons, but consider this, he wrote a cantata (in this case a sung mass) for every day of the year!

I usually think of music from this time period as being either stately—like Handel’s Water Music and Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos—or meticulous like Bach’s works for solo instruments such as the harpsichord, violin, viola and of course the organ. Bach wrote a lot of organ music, having been a church organist and director of the school of the church of Saint Thomas in Leipzig.

The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is probably one of Bach’s most famous and accessible pieces. It gets played a lot around Halloween in the U.S., because some idiot used it the soundtrack for some horror movie years ago. The opening part, the toccata, for that reason now sounds ominous and full of sturm und drang. The fugue is a form of composition that has several “voices” or melodies that start in succession, almost like a round, but then which interweave with one another according to strict rules of harmony. This is why the music to me sounds meticulous or mathematical. The modern philosopher, Douglas Hofstader, wrote a huge tome called Godell, Escher, and Bach in which he analyzes the structure of the fugue, almost ad nauseum.

Another place where the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor turns up is in Walt Disney’s film Fantasia. Leopold Stokowski orchestrated the piece and the Disney cartoonist used the technique of aurora borealis to represent the different voices of the fugue. It’s sort of boring really, and to my mind, kind of emasculates this piece.

Of course, as an adolescent, I was drawn to the toccata, but eventually I came to love the fugue as well, which is actually quite beautiful and sweet compared to the strong emotions in the toccata. In my high school French class, I met a fellow student, named John Claeys, who was a gifted artist and could play the organ by ear. One of his hobbies was collecting decorative molding from abandoned Victorian houses in our county. His basement bedroom looked like something out of a horror film itself, with its dark paneling. John had even found an old upright pump organs on one of his forays and installed this in his lair. He was able to figure out the fingering for part of the toccata and took great pleasure wheezing it out on that old organ.

John and I made a horror movie for our French class with his dad’s super eight camera. I played a crazed madman, who at one point runs out of control in my mothers black 1968 Volkwagen beetle and dirves it over a cliff. John sacrificed one of his plastic car models for the actual crash and burning of the bug. The only thing it had to do with French class were the hand-written dialog cards, which said things like sacre bleu! Of course, we used the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for the soundtrack.

In 1972 or thereabouts, an organist named Virgil Fox, decided to adapt techniques from The Grateful Dead and give concerts with psychedelic light shows. He came to a small private college in my home town and I dragged John along to the concert with me. It was absolutely captivating.

Fox must have thought he was the reincarnation of Franz Lizst: he strode onstage wearing a black cape, which he whirled off as he sat down at his instrument. He played a huge five-manual (keyboard) organ and between pieces he would explain to the audience exactly how each piece was constructed and how complex it was. One piece, I think it was the Gigue Fugue, required him to play four melodies, one with each appendage simultaneously. The crowd—and I—went wild and after he finished he played a number of encores. After each set of applause would die down, I would stand up and scream “Play Toccata and Fugue in D Minor!”. After his fourth encore, and dripping with sweat, he yelled back “OK!” Needless to say, I was transported when he played it, and though somewhat embarrassed by my behavior after all these years, I still enjoy this piece.

Summer 2015 Rerun–Alan Hovhannes: Mysterious Mountain

I wonder whether I would have gotten through high school without having had classical music as a refuge. Why did I need consolation back then? Oh, I was always falling in love with some pretty face or other and usually made hash of it. The real knockout girls were all taken by the boys on the basketball and football teams. For the most part, they ignored us puny mesomorphs.

The Hippie girls wore army fatigues and smoked which was a turn off. The average girls whom I’d known since second grade were friendly, but they were almost like sisters and you couldn’t date them because of that. (They’d seen me throw up in seventh grade during math class!) That left the smart pretty girls, who seemed mature beyond their years and therefore tended to act aloof.

The smart girls, I imagine, were probably at war with their own raging hormones. Numerous studies have shown that girls in all-girls schools do better academically than those in mixed-sex schools. When they’re in co-ed schools, peer pressure and competition with boys (who are often rewarded by teachers-consciously or unconsciously-for being aggressive) they tend to dumb themselves down. The two times I tried dating smart girls in high school, I took one to a symphony concert and the other to an “intellectual” movie. Both dates went well, I thought, but I botched it on the goodnight kiss, and the girls ignored me after that.

What an inefficient way to continue a species!

We were all just fumbling around, and when you’re being jerked around by peer pressure and  hormones, it’s so easy to get hurt or hurt the very person who, ten years later, probably would turn out to the be the perfect match for you, after you’d both matured a bit.

One day in high school, for example, on a visit to the local public library to get a refill of classical music, I bumped into a classmate of mine, Jeff E**. Jeff had a perfect grade point average and was in the top ten per cent of the class academically (he’s now a doctor). I think his brother had been the valedictorian the year before. At the library that day, his kid sister was with him. I didn’t know her that well, but she seemed pleasant enough. I noticed that she carried a few classical albums under her arm.

Wow, I thought, we both like classical music. I bet we’d have a lot to talk about.  So for the first time, and one of the last times in my life, I used a line on a girl.

“Hey,” I said, “Do you like classical music, too?” I asked.

She fixed me with a cold eye and said: “I like serious music, classical time period. Then she turned on her heel and walked away. I imagine she still bemoans her cutting me to the quick twenty-five years ago. Not.

One album I used to console myself with after such rejections was Alan Hovhaness’ Mysterious Mountain. The library had a copy, which I used to check out quite often. Though composed in 1955, it sounds wonderfully unlike the “dissonant” atonal and anti-tonal music that was created during the middle part of the 20th century by mainstream “serious” composers. It is wonderfully orchestrated and though sounding somewhat oriental and using interesting chordal structures; it is very accessible indeed.

It is in three movements, the first of which always galvanized me when I heard it. It has a floating, airy feel to it, sounding a bit like a climb up a mountain. The strings accompany a solo horn then oboe which plays a kind of ethereal melody. To add to the mystery, a glockenspiel tinkles away at various points. The second movement starts out with a nice fugue which rolls along under its own steam as fugues do. Suddenly the orchestra resolves the feeling of that section and then launches into an incredibly fast, driving outpouring of notes lead by the strings. A rainstorm on the mountain, perhaps. The last movement starts out slowly with an eastern sounding melody played by the strings with a kind of Wagnerian chordal drone played by the horns in underneath. That drone is also heard in the first and second movements as well and that must symbolize the massiveness and solidity of the mountain. The piece ends up with a beautiful, spiritual sounding hymn, and then brings back the tinkling and solo horn from the first movement.

Oddly enough, though it has an oriental feel to it–which I think might be a result of Hovhaness’ Scotch-Armenian background or his love of 15th and 16th century polyphony–I do not find this piece sad. Maybe it’s the spiritual dimension. Hovhaness said, commenting on the piece, that “mountains are symbolic meeting places between the mundane and the spiritual worlds.” Some people are soothed by things spiritual, some galvanized, but all are energized. And that is why I think it qualifies for today’s piece.

Melancholia and Depression with Ellington, Brahms, Chopin and Baudelaire

I’ve been writing a lot about depression this month. After all, I’m on vacation, and what could be a more refreshing topic? Surprisingly enough, I came on the vacation–in the Hudson Valley north of New York City–for the month of June with my wife to do nothing but write.

So first I need to apologize to my fellow bloggers and commentators who follow the Musical Almanac. After April’s A-Z challenges and posting twice a week for several years I needed a break. Then I need to explain why I’m choosing to write about depression.

In 2012, my best friend of 35 years, died of a brain tumor. My dad died in the Fall of 2011 following mom who passed in 2008. They were 96 and 92 respectively, and though it was a big loss, we knew it was coming so it wasn’t a shock. David’s death, on the other hand, came completely out of the blue. My wife and I had spent a week with him in Rome in August of 2010 for our honeymoon. His partner of some 30 years, Gianfraco, hailed from Ischia off the coast of Naples, Italy, and as a present, he let us stay in his apartment in his villa on the island in his mountainside home town of Buonapane overlooking the Mediterranean.

We saw David through the fall of 2010 and had dinner at him apartment in DC, in February. About a month later, one of our mutual friends who worked with David, called to say David was in the hospital and had just undergone a brainscan which revealed an egg-sized tumor deep in his brain. It was inoperable, chemo was brutal and ineffective, and he died 8 months later.

In grad school where we met, we became fast friends, sharing a love of languages, food, classical and world music. He graduated in 1979 and got a job at the university of Algiers teaching English. He sent word that he could get me a job in Algeria, too. So I joined him. From there I moved to Naples, Italy and was able to find him a position at the university there. He met Gianfranco in Naples and I met Judy, and we all returned to the States in the early 1980 to go back to college. I left with another masters and moved to the DC area first and got him a job at the University of Maryland. We were close for years and he was a good uncle to my two daughters. A gourmet cook and avid pickler, we alway loved going to his house for dinner, drinking wonderful wine, and listening to some new piece of music he had discovered. His musical tastes were eclectic and he introduced me to Bruckner, Ives, Ute Lemper, Neapolitan music, and West African Grillo music.

When he died, I was lost. He was my best and oldest male friend. At work, people commiserated but not in the way one does when a parent dies. But David was as close as any sibling or parent, and he left a hole in me. That started on down the path to another depressive episode, which lasted for almost two years.

So I’ve come on this writer’s vacation to begin writing a book about how I made it through those two years and what finally brought me out.

So today, I’m posting some pieces that bring up melancholic thoughts, or ones which I used to listen to when I was depressed. Please let me know what you think. I don’t really want to bum anyone out, but I want to share with people my struggle with depression to show that it can strike anyone and there are quite effective methods to fight it. There is so much stigma about depression, that I know many people don’t seek help when it strikes. Men are especially susceptible to those thoughts as we think that talking about our emotions is a sign of weakness. Well, I’m ready to talk and I hope it helps some people get the help they need to conquer what the french poet Charles Baudelaire called “Le Cafard,” (The Cockroach) as you can hear in this poem, “La Destruction”:

(Speaking about a Demon)
« Parfois il prend, sachant mon grand amour de l’Art,
La forme de la plus séduisante des femmes,
Et, sous de spécieux prétextes de cafard,
Accoutume ma lèvre à des philtres infâmes. »

Finally, I have to play the second movement of Brahm’s Violin Concerto. I discovered it in high school, when, a face full of acne, voice cracking, and awkward romantically around girls, I used to get the blues quite a bit. I would drown my sorrow listening to this piece repeatedly while knocking back shots of tequila and calling random numbers on the phone in the hopes I could find a sympathetic soul to talk to.

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