Today I offer you a rhapsody from my heart. An effusively rapturous and extravagant discourse. My expression of enthusiasm and praise for a musical piece that I absolutely madly deeply adore.
Whoever has read my blog in the past knows that I am passionate about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I have written about it in the past and I listen to it every once in a while when I am happy or when I recharge my inner batteries. Yesterday, as I read one very surprising comment on my blog, I have realised that I have never taken the time to put together all the reasons why I love this musical piece so very much.
The comment came from a BBC Radio 4 producer who is researching for a programme about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I was first of all completely surprised that my post about Gershwin even showed up in an online search. But it was even more exciting for me when I had the joy to discuss on the phone with the producer and I was asked what feelings this particular piece of music awakens in my memory and heart.
If I want to explain what I feel about it I need to rewind my whole life. My memories of it start in childhood when I heard this piece on the radio and have simply fallen in love with it. Coming from a family that loved music, I have listened to both classics and modern music as I grew up. I have fed my spirit with opera played on old magnetic cassettes, with Chopin and Beethoven, with Ravel and Vivaldi, just like I have fed my soul later on in my life with the music of the 80’s and the rock music. When I was a child music was a great joy for us, as in the communism we did not have access to all the variety of entertainment that one can experience now. It was only natural that I fell in love with this piece that infuses Jazz, Impressionism and classical elements molten in a 20th Century romantic theme offered with brittle and quirky interruptions.
This appreciation for the Rhapsody in Blue has continued throughout all my life. Every time when I was defeated and low I have sat and listened to it. Unlike other people with linear lives I have been through many changes, I have witnessed a lot of pain, loss, death, suffering, but also love, joy, sacrifice and hope. Wherever things were worst in my family I was present. Throughout this all, whenever I have listened to this piece of music I have added another pearl of feeling to what has become now a very long string. To me it is now not only music, but a masterpiece and pure beauty. And because it has been with me through it all, happy moments, sad moments and great changes, it has become a part of me and a symbol of life itself.
When I say life I don’t mean only good things. Life has many layers, ups and downs, just like the human mind and heart. There are many shades and colours, numerous moments of darkness and light that create the clear image of our multidimensional reality, a rich kaleidoscope of feelings, moments, images and sounds that create a whole.
Many people don’t know that this piece of music was a commission and that it has been written in a train. This may sound uninteresting for some, what is a train you may say. Well, for me a train means volumes. My father has passed away in a train. I have loved travelling by train all my life. Even now the train is my favourite transportation to wherever I go. It brings memories, it revives moments in my past, it is also (for those who believe that dreams have a meaning) a symbol of change, passage and novelty in one’s life. Gershwin says himself: “It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise… “. He is right, it often happens to me too to hear the tune in the noise…
Rhapsody in Blue was a challenge because it was created in a very short period of time, against the clock, by a young and ambitious Gershwin that didn’t want someone else to steal his idea. This speaks volumes for me again. Under a similar pressure I have left Romania and started a new life in a moment when I felt I must do and I can do more with my life. I was young, ambitious and a bit unaware of what life may bring. But I didn’t care, I had only one thing in my mind- I wanted to make it. I think it is out of such moments of determination that meaningful things get born.
Did you know that the original title was “American Rhapsody”? In the end the title of this piece was inspired by two famous paintings of James Whistler of which one, “Nocturne In Blue And Green of the Thames at Chelsea”, has been rejected and misunderstood in the beginning because it was too modern for the moment when it was offered to the public. There are people who, despite of being rejected for their ideas or passion, carry on and believe in their dream until one day that dream proves to be an extraordinary thing. They may not see all the staircase, but they go up step by step, they simply have faith. It is not easy to believe in your own value when maybe nobody else does, yet being consistent in your efforts brings great results in the end.
Gershwin was not conservatory trained, an awareness of which he carried with him to his grave, and something his arch critics would never allow future students of the piano to forget. Yet, no conservatory teaches talent, so nothing can stand in front of Gershwin’s unique style and genius. Pianists have consistently interpreted Gershwin somewhere between the classicism of Chopin and the 20th Century romanticism of Rachmaninoff, but when it comes to Gershwin’s strict rhythms, what is not heard is more important than what is, for it is the magic of the split-second spacing between the notes that brings Gershwin’s Rhapsody to life in a melodic thread woven itself into a masterpiece.
The Rhapsody, with its composer as soloist, was premiered in front of a packed house that included Rachmaninov, Kreisler, McCormack, Godowsky, Sousa, Heifetz and Stokowski. Even the ones that later did not like it when it was first presented to the public and said it would have been “structurally flawed” have categorised it as a “sentimental” piece. It is as melancholic as my Romanian soul and it is full of feeling and light. It is sad at some points. It is happy, rhythmic and improvised too. Through all these characteristics it is ALIVE. If you would listen to only a part of it, if you would take a bit out of it, if you would listen to it all it would be just as alive, and that is amazing. It is a series of stories put all together, a series of songs that match perfectly in a single, uninterrupted composition of continuous and extravagant enthusiasm.
I have listened to it through various moments in my life and I have understood it in different ways. It speaks to me of happy childhood years. The first clarinet trill reminds me of a new beginning, of a new day, of sunrise. I am an animation movie lover, so when I have seen it translated into image by Disney’s Fantasia 2000 I have added even more meaning to it, as I thought that the animation is a perfect illustration for the hope trapped inside this fabulous piece of music. And I will always remember how I danced on this piece with the man I love. In a moment in time, in a quiet evening, in a quiet flat, in a quiet neighbourhood in London he has taken my hand in his hand and we have danced on this wonderful rhapsody. Our souls were dancing too, we were happy, the heart was full, the world was in the right place and we were in the right feeling.
I love Rhapsody in Blue for many reasons, for the sweet sentimental parts, for the crescendos, for the vivid pace, for the epic dimension of it, for the jazz veins and the classical bursts. My interpretation of it is perfectly subjective, I see it through the lenses of my own soul, maybe different than other people. But for me it represents life itself seen through the eyes of an optimist. Unflawed and tightly woven, with its early 20th Century innocence and brilliant musical statements taken in and out of the performers and listeners souls, Rhapsody in Blue is for me a personal stairway to paradise.
Photos: “Blue”, Adela Galasiu 2013
1500 words, memyselfandela, January 2014
More about Gershwin : Gershwin plays Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue – posted in April 2012
BBC Radio 4 – Soul Music – The stories behind pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/soulmusic
Lasting happiness… Have you ever wondered what makes happiness last? This question has bloomed in my mind again these days.
Lost in a crowd of strangers I was watching them in the middle of a very nice Christmas party organized by a very generous family. Young people, old people, children, mothers, fathers, some showing off more, some less. Standing in my corner, quiet, like a cat, I have analyzed their gestures, their interests, the likeliness for some to gather and some to not to stand each other. I have listened all evening to really interesting conversations in which some have made me angry with their lack of respect and others have amazed me with their fantastic knowledge and passion.
I find it always fascinating to lose myself in a gathering of people. I don’t find it always necessary to completely open in front of people I don’t know. I cannot explain why, but I tend to join the conversation on selective bases, and it may be that I am looking for a passion and depth in the person I talk to. I know many things, maybe different things, maybe I will never fit in the profile many would expect, maybe most would not be able to even perceive the poetry I have seen in this life.
I was looking at that crowd of people and I tried with my curious mind to read beyond the appearances. One could see the couples that were happy, and opposite the couples that had problems. The care some had for each other and the indifference that thrived in others. Some were there just because they were dying of curiosity. Some had followed their partner just to avoid a scandal. Some because they had to come as neighbors. Some because they are related to the owner of the house. Some because it’s nice to take advantage of a good food or great drinks. Some were strangers with far away roots. Some were people who lived there all their life. Some faces were emotionless. Some were preoccupied with several worries at the same time. Some ready to dance. Some dead tired. Some were there only to say hello and be polite. Some came too late. Some left too early. Some invisible. Some flashy.
In all this puzzle of souls, I wondered though how many have been happy. Genuinely happy. And I think that the only happy ones there were those who didn’t come for the food or drinks or gossip or feeding their ego, but for the privilege of being alive. The happy ones were the ones with joy in their heart. The ones that have sacrificed time and effort to make others happy. The happy ones were the ones that didn’t care about how tall the Christmas tree was or how expensive was the food. The happy ones are the ones that had something to celebrate. The ones that have hope and love in their heart. The ones that have lost many battles but never the war.
When you think you would like to be happy forever the answer is very simple. Get back to your passions, to your blessings, to your hope. No two people are the same. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of being unique in the big crowd. Does it matter that you are not the Beauty Queen or the Super Man in that crowd? No, it definitely doesn’t. Deep inside even they have big sad unspoken problems, they just happen to wear beautiful masks.
True happiness is the celebration of your blessings and of who you really are. 😀
"I love your eyes, my dear Their splendid sparkling fire When suddenly you raise them so To cast a swift embracing glance Like lightning flashing in the sky But there's a charm that is greater still When my love's eyes are lowered When all is fired by passion's kiss And through the downcast lashes I see the dull flame of desire." Dull Flame Of Desire, Fyodor Tyutchev ---------------------------------------------- 600 words, memyselfandela, December 2013
Tic- tac. The clock marks the passing of another second. Tic- tac. People rush to work early in the morning. Tic- tac. The fight against the clock starts for many people. Some rushing to arrive to a certain place, but some striving to make the best out of their little space. Tic- tac. The Shard watches silent over the crowds that flood the city.
Not far away, on the narrow streets you can hear the Borough Market slowly waking up. Countless merchants begin to unpack their fresh goods. The chutney jar is neighbor to the boar sausage, the Levant lamb finds peacefully place next to the sea bass, while the simmering pot spreads around an incredible taste of cooked food. It smells like sweets, then as you go further like fish, like bread, like soup and fruits and jams. One can find a bazaar of everything and anything, from Turkish delight to Christmas chocolate, from cheese to olive oil, from veggies to fruits.
As the light pierces the darkness a tiny pub welcomes the first clients, and while they indulge in their hot coffee fruit juices await for their customers few steps further. Young students bake bread, young chefs cook the lunch, young drivers deliver food, young ladies sell candies, old ladies sell jam, old gentlemen sell game. Countless merchandises await to be taken in or carefully arranged on the stands.
It is impossible to step in this place and not feel the atmosphere. The selling atmosphere, the Christmas atmosphere but also the history. Crossing through the market I could not help but think how many generations have lived, sold, got born, died close to this market. It’s a place in the heart of London that has seen many people come and go, each one of them with another story.
Fur trees and decoration await for the holy night when everybody will be home enjoying Christmas. Fragile orchids and wrapped roses await in the cold of the morning for the warm hand that could carry them home.
I have always had a weakness for the open market, and I had to stop here today just to remember why. It’s because beyond all wrappings and fuss here one can see, smell and taste life itself. Thank you Borough Market for this new slice of life you have offered me today. There could never be a right price tag attached to it.
Photos: memyselfandela, December 2013
He was sitting on by the water in Mexico when it hit him how much he hated himself. Which kind of sucked. Because he should have been happy. He should have been ecstatic. After years of struggle and poverty and horrible physical pain (getting almost killed by a semi truck sucks too…) he finally had it. He finally had everything he ever thought he wanted. He was 30 years old, in good shape, good friends, professional success, fun toys, plenty of free time . . . Even better he was one of only three guys on a yoga retreat and was spending his days stretching and snorkeling and chugging margaritas with a bevy of beautiful, intelligent, passionate (and flexible) women.
He should have been happy. He should have been doing a victory lap around the mess that was his twenties and screaming to the moon about how he finally made it past childhood trauma and adulthood disappointment to become a “success.”
But he just couldn’t do it.
Nope. Instead of being happy, he was damn miserable. Angry. Emotionally nauseous and, worse yet, viciously angry at himself for not waking up to how good he had it.
One night he found himself sitting on the shore alone watching the waves come in. Everyone else had gone on to a bar to order large amounts of drinks in broken Spanish, but the bile in his throat and the voice in the back of his head wanted him to be alone. Alone and vulnerable.
It was pitch black but for the shine of the moon off the water and all he could feel was the pathetic bottle in his hand, the drink in his gut and the tension in his jaw threatening to break his teeth.
He wasn’t man enough to admit it, but he had tears in his eyes.
“Why?” he thought to himself in a silent whisper. “What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just enjoy this?”
It was a rhetorical question, so he was pretty shocked when he got an answer. It came in a voice as dark as tar and as toxic as venom.
“Because you don’t deserve it,” the voice in the back of his head grumbled. “Because you’re evil and dangerous and anyone foolish enough to love you deserves to be harmed.”
He closed his eyes and could finally see it: what he really thought of himself. Not a man or even a boy, but a creature with claws and teeth and a cruel, cruel grin. A creature who’s only glee came from clawing at his heart and pulling him down and reminding him to never, ever feel even one moment of happiness.
He flew home a few days later feeling like he’d gotten into a duel with Godzilla and damn it, bloody Godzilla won. The entire time on the plane home his brain stormed and he counted down the hours until he could go see his therapist.
“How are you?,” she asked as he walked in, her eyes half squinting as she searched his face.
For an hour he let the words flow out like a dying breathe, rambling at Speedy-Gonzalez-pace, desperate to get every hatred and criticism and imagined crime out of his heart and into the world. Finally, after minutes that felt like days he looked his therapist in the eyes and said:
“I’m so sick and tired of hating myself , beating myself up , punishing everyone around me … I’m wondering what would happen if I just decided to stop and actually LIKE myself for a little while instead.”
The therapist looked at him with kind eyes and a half smile and said “Well, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it?”
And so he did.
Right then and there he decided to try liking himself – maybe even loving himself – for a while.
And at first the creature in his head and his heart raged like a angry lion and dragged its claws against the inside of his skull.
But instead of arguing he did something kind of weird.
He pointed and laughed. He dressed it up in silly shoes and ugly makeup and mocked it . And suddenly a weird thing happened: he felt this glowing freedom rising in his chest and this crazy, irrational smile pulling hard at the corners of his mouth.
Suddenly he felt . . . happy. Ecstatic.
For the next two weeks he walked around on a love-high. His friends asked him what the heck had happened. His enemies got confused when he was actually nice to them. And that beast in the back of his brain shrunk and shriveled and cried.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly as easy as that, for every time he would fail or feel ashamed about something or feel like some woman was getting close he would feel that creature rise up. He would feel that bile on his tongue.
But now . . . years later . . . here he is with nothing to hide.
And years and years of anger and pain turned into . . . something simpler. Nicer. More wonderful. He’s not into the “woo woo” stuff a lot of his friends are, but he is into this one simple fact:
“Happiness is a choice. Liking yourself / loving yourself is something YOU choose to do, no one can make you miserable or happy but YOU.”
900 words, memyselfandela, November 2013
Shades… A million shades… The afternoon was made out of so many shades between the black and the white.
The sky was not perfectly blue, the heart was not perfectly light, the hope was not really a hope.
If it would have been love or no love at all, all would have been so simple, but the heart was flooded by all those shades of colors and feelings and electricity boldly lingering in their touch. It was a delirium of things and images passing before her eyes while she was processing the remains of the previous days.
“Why is life not simple like in those romantic movies where all is fine?” was the thought lingering in her mind while watching him stop in front of another little shop, with the amazement of a child that has just seen something he was hoping to discover for a lifetime.
Entering the shop she realized that it would make a beautiful present to compensate his birthday. She missed it, it’s true, but not because she didn’t care, but because she didn’t know him yet back then. But still, she would have loved to have been there with him that day, and in her heart she was.
He loved them all. It’s true, they were all beautiful ties, hand made, real, just like he loved to feel authentic and sharp and real…
With a smile in the corner of her soul she sent him to have a look in the back of the store while she took the tie he had admired in the very first moment. 69 pounds, that was the price. It was perfect. The colors were perfect, shades of color, shades of life. The price spoke volumes. To him it would have probably meant an erotic thing, but to her it was a tangible translation of the moon dust trapped inside their bones, of their breath as they were kissing and talking about the muses watching over their love, of the raise and fall of their entwined souls, or the incarnation of all the things that were present in that very second when she wished him happy birthday, now, better later than never.
In the back of her mind there was only a song lingering talking about the raise and fall of the same moon dust that was still shining in his eyes just like that night when they have met the first time, not even knowing if tomorrow will ever come or if there will be a chance for another minute together.
The day was fading, in the corridors of the city, in the tunnels covered in graffiti, as the two lovers were getting back from a city adventure that meant all and nothing, while lights were shining on the side of the road, like fireflies dancing songs known only to themselves.
And the light was dying in millions of shades of obscurity, while the moon, all alone, saw the loneliness crawling back in the souls of the eternal loners.
500 words, memyselfandela, September 2013
As long as they exist
18 words, memyselfandela, 2013