Monday, 24 December 2018

Lezione di geografia / Geography Lesson by Pietro Longhi.

Lezione di geografia
Pietro Longhi

Notice the skeleton atlas on the floor, the gentleman seated in the easy chair leafing through a ramshackle volume, and the delightful lady, equipped with a compass, measuring the distance on a world map on a small table, while two serving ladies bring coffee.

Guarda l'atlante per terra, il gentiluomo in poltrone che sfoglia uno squinternato volume, e la graziosa dama, munita di compasso, che mesura le distanze su una mappamondo da tavolino mentre due cameriere portano il caffe. 

Acknowledgement: L'amante senza fissa dimora by Carlo Fruttero & Franco Lucentini.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Harmonie sculpture by Antoniucci Volti.

Harmonie sculpture by Antoniucci Volti.

In the 3rd Arrondissment of Paris, at Place Theodor-Herzi, at the intersection of Rue de Turbigo and Rue Reaumur, is the charming sculpture of a sleeping woman entitled Harmonie.

It is the work of French sculpture Antoniucci Volti (1915-1989) and has had pride of place in the square since 1992.

If you happen to be passing through the square one day why not pause to say Hello. But Sssh! silently, so as not to wake her.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Gambit International Theatre Review 25 - Playscript Issue

Published in 1974, Gambit International Theatre Review 25 contains two plays: The Speakers by Heathcote Williams, freely adapted for the stage by William Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark; and Tripe by Lexie Micalef.

The Speakers is about the lives of authentic speakers at London's Speakers' Corner encountered by Heathcote Williams in the early 1960s and described in his book. The principal characters are William MacGuinness, an Irish speaker high on dope and meths; Jacobus Van Dyn and his tattoos; Axel Ney Hoch, on the run from his own passions; and Lomas, who has not spoken in years.

The Speakers stage adaptation was the inaugural production by Joint Stock Theatre Company.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Pablo Picasso: The play's the thing.... Desire Caught By the Tail.....

Brassai photo 

On 14th January 1941, Pablo Picasso began work on his latest creation, a surrealist six-act play which was to prefigure the theatre of the absurd, and to which he gave the title: Le Desir attrapé par la queue (Desire Caught By the Tail). Working rapidly, as was his custom, he completed the play on 16th January 1941.

The scene is set at a Paris hotel in the evening of Tuesday 14th January 1941 with a stage direction indicating that the action takes places in total darkness. The characters are preoccupied with three things: hunger, food and love.

The play was given its first airing on Sunday 19th March 1944 with a reading in the apartment of Picasso's friend Michel Leiris, at 53 bis quai des Grands-Augustin. The all-star cast included Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Queneau, and the director was Albert Camus.

Several months later on 16th June, all those that had participated in the event were invited by Picasso to his apartment, where the celebrated photographer Brassai was also on hand immortalise the gathering.

As for the play itself, its English translator, Bernard Frechtman, wrote in his foreword to his translation:

'It says nothing of human destiny or of the human condition.... It is gratifying to advise the reader that Picasso has nothing to say of man, nor of the universe. This in itself is a considerable achievement.'

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Steely Dan...... better late than never......

I bought my first Steely Dan album in 1975. A friend at the time, whose musical taste I trusted, told me about it, said it was being released two days later, and unreservedly recommended it. So based on his recommendation, having never even heard of Steely Dan, I bought the album two days later (a Saturday as I recall), went home, and gave it a spin, as we said in those days.

The album was Katy Lied, and the opening track, Black Friday, a rocker, didn't exactly bowl me over. The second track, however, entitled  Bad Sneakers, with its jazz flavour and unusual lyric, was quite unlike anything I had ever heard before in a pop song. I had absolutely no idea what the song was about, and I still don't, which didn't bother me one little bit. But it struck a cord with me, as did the next track, Rose Darling, with a more accessible lyric about sexual infidelity, or at least the intention of such.

The high point of the album, however, was the track Doctor Wu, with an alto sax solo by Phil Woods. Woods' was a highly accomplished jazz musician, and among his many achievements was a sublime solo on Spoonful, featured on the Gil Evans album of 1964: The Individualism of Gil Evans.

I bought every previous and subsequent album by Steely Dan. Of particular mention is the 1980 release Gaucho, with vocalist Donald Fagen in fine voice, especially on the opening track Babylon Sisters.  

Also on Gaucho is the track Time out of Mind. 'Time out o' mind' is a colloqual expression referring to a time immemorial, and dates from around the middle of the sixteenth century. It was even used by Shakespeare in two of his plays:

Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by a joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies coachmakers...
- Romeo and Juliet

Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind....
- Measure for Measure

Finally, this blog has been on the road for over 6 years, and in all that time it has sadly been lacking a post on Steely Dan, an oversight which we are now correcting. Better late than never.....

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Le pont Mirabeau, Paris - the bridge of Guillaume Apollinaire

Pont Mirabeau by Paul Signac
The Pont Mirabeau across the Seine on the west side of Paris, has been the inspiration of many artists, among them the painter Paul Signac, and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. 

Apollinaire's poem, Le Pont Mirabeau, was first published in February 1912, and was inspired by the departure of his muse Marie Laurencin, and is 'the sad song of that long, broken affair'. 

The poetic fusion of the images, together with the idea of the fluid movement of the verses, make the poem perfectly harmonious by its simplicity and its purity. 

[First verse below]

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
          Et nos amours
     Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

          Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
          Les jours s'en vont je demeure

The Muse inspiring the Poet
(Marie Laurencin and Apollinaire)
Painting by Douanier Rousseau (1909)

The bridge was constructed between 1893 and 1896 and is now designated a monument of historic interest.