From the Reading Journal, #27

“I’ve just shown you that your fingers can do more than what you physically feel them doing.” He made a little arc in the air with his hand. “The other side of the wall.”
Claude thought about it. “Yes, but how? How do you do it?”
Fredericks got up from the desk and stood directly in front of the boy. “You must imagine the music in your head. Imagine it shaped and balanced the way you want it. Get it in your head and then believe in it. Concentrate, believe, and your fingers will do it.”
“My God,” Claude whispered.
“Anything you can imagine clearly, you can play. That’s the great secret.”
“So, it goes beyond the body,” Claude said.

– from Frank Conroy’s novel Body and Soul. Claude is the piano student of Fredericks. “So, it goes beyond the body” is something to remember when just being at the piano.

From the Reading Journal, #24

“When my son was an infant in Paris, we woke together in the light the French call l’heure bleue, between darkness and day, between the night of a soul and its redemption, an hour associated with pure hovering. In Kabbalah, blue is hokhmah, the color of the second sefirah. In Tibetan Buddhism, the hour before dawn is associated with the ground luminosity, or “clear light”, arising at the moment of death. It is not a light apprehended through the senses, but is said to be the radiance of mind’s true nature.”

– an endnote in the volume Blue Hour by Carolyn Forché

I tried for this post to select a portion of the long and remarkable abecedarian poem “On Earth” from this volume, but I couldn’t find a way to excerpt just a few lines from the stream of haunting images that make up this powerful work. It’s partly that the images are striking and it’s hard to choose just a few; but it’s partly that the poem’s strength springs from that ongoing flow itself, impossible to suggest in a brief quotation.

From the Reading Journal, #8

     ‘…and then,’ she was saying, ‘this first husband of hers used to come back at four o’clock in the morning and turn on the gramophone. As a regular thing. She told me herself.’
‘Some women think one has nothing better to do than to lie awake listening to anecdotes about their first husband,’ said Stringham. ‘Milly Andriadis was like that – no doubt still is – and I must say, if one were prepared to forgo one’s beauty sleep, one used to hear some remarkable things from her. Playing the gramophone is another matter. Your friend had a right to complain.’
‘That was what the judge thought,’ said Mrs Maclintick.
‘What used he to play?’ asked Priscilla.
‘Military marches,’ said Mrs Maclintick, ‘night after night. Not surprising the poor woman had to go into a home after getting her divorce.’
‘My mother would have liked that,’ said Stringham. ‘She adores watching troops march past. She always says going to reviews was the best part of being married to Piers Warrington.’
‘Not in the middle of the night,’ said Priscilla. ‘He might have chosen something quieter. Tales from Hoffman or Handel’s Cradle Song.’
‘Nonsense,’ said Moreland. ‘Aut Sousa aut Nihil has always been my motto in cases of that sort. Think if the man had played Hindemith. At least he wasn’t a highbrow.’
‘He was just another musical husband,’ said Mrs Maclintick fiercely.

-from Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, the fifth of twelve novels that make up Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.

From the Reading Journal, #7 (Auden Edition)

All the others translate: the painter sketches
A visible world to love or reject;
Rummaging into his living, the poet fetches
The images out that hurt and connect.

From Life to Art by painstaking adaption
Relying on us to cover the rift;
Only your notes are pure contraption,
Only your song is an absolute gift.

Pour out your presence, O delight, cascading
The falls of the knee and the weirs of the spine,
Our climate of silence and doubt invading;

You, alone, alone, O imaginary song,
Are unable to say an existence is wrong,
And pour out your forgiveness like a wine.


-“The Composer”, W. H. Auden