Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Before you begin reading this (if indeed you begin at all), please do me a favour and humour me with this small little request. Click the link below, load the video, allow the music to begin to play, and then continue reading this post. This way, you’ll be reading along to the same music that I heard when writing this, and we might be a little closer to being – as it were – on the same page. Worst case scenario, you lose 4MB of bandwidth. Best case scenario, you discover a newfound piece of beautiful music and add a new dimension of depth to your life. What’s the downside? Here you are:   (For the musos and/or Francophones amongst you, feel free to read the music and/or lyrics before the rest of this post, or just leave it on in the background. Either way, it’s an incredibly beautiful piece of music.) Listening? Great. Let’s plough on. As I write this, the only sounds I can hear are Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on” (see above) and a gentle murmur of wind rustling the leaves in the trees outside, with a low-level of distant traffic as a calming white noise in the background. I just returned from a walk outside, where the air is fresh but not yet acerbically sharp, and the last of the autumnal sunshine glows between the golden leaves still clinging to the trees. The Japanese actually have a dedicated word – komorebi, or 木漏れ日 – for this particular phenomenon of the interplay of sunlight through the leaves, and it always makes me think of the more subtle differences between different languages. It’s this almost enigmatic quality about experiencing different...
Brad Paisley gets pranked – and what you can learn from it

Brad Paisley gets pranked – and what you can learn from it

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been listening to more country than I probably ought to admit to. This morning, whilst listening to some Brad Paisley (Mud on the Tires, if you’re wondering), I remembered a great prank video involving him that I saw a couple of years ago, and decided to look it up again. I’ve embedded it below. It’s a very short video and well worth a watch: Brad arrives back home in Nashville on a jet, and upon landing, is “arrested” by the police, taken across the tarmac and put into the back of a police car. Only then, when his “crimes” are read out to him (“excessive noodling”) (“what? On the guitar?!”) does he finally cotton on that the whole thing is a prank. There were a couple of things about this that got me thinking. Firstly, my respect for the way he handled the situation is extremely high. Even though he obviously hadn’t done anything wrong, he was exceedingly polite, co-operated with everyone involved with an absolute minimum of fuss, and remained completely respectable throughout the whole thing. All this, too, at 3am. Can you imagine Kanye West reacting the same way? The second thing I noticed was that the entire time he was being marched towards the back of a police car, Brad stayed very calm, and I’m going to attribute this to something he tellingly said whilst being handcuffed: “I’ve never done anything wrong in my life.” Let’s not be too literal about this – I’m sure he’s probably done something negative at some point during his 41 years on this planet. However, it reminded...
Pianos, wolves, and absolute focus

Pianos, wolves, and absolute focus

As I was getting ready this morning, I found myself humming something which I couldn’t immediately identify. After a few minutes, I finally realised what it was: the first movement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no.2 in C minor (sometimes affectionately referred to by pianists as “Rach 2”.) I first properly took notice of this beautiful piece when I heard it performed by the extraordinary French pianist Hélène Grimaud. Here’s the link below: Hélène, in my opinion, is one of the absolute top-tier modern-day classical pianists, because of her sheer depth of expression as well as an extraordinary physical facility. Her playing reminds me of Glenn Gould in that it’s very unafraid to be idiosyncratic and individual. The first time I heard her – and seriously paid attention – was several years ago, when I heard Thomas Quasthoff’s rendition of Schumann’s “Hör Ich Das Liedchen Klingen” from his Dichterliebe song cycle. Quasthoff’s voice is on absolute top form, but in addition to a superb vocal performance, I was absolutely blown away by the sheer control and musicality of the rubato in the piano accompaniment and immediately made a note to check out more of her playing. Here’s the video below for anybody that’s curious: One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever I become seriously interested in something, I tend to absorb myself very deeply into whatever the subject matter is and read voraciously on whatever the subject might be. I’ll tear through interviews, read articles and watch YouTube documentaries on everything I can find. Having become thus entranced by her playing so far, I found myself trawling YouTube for more of...