Saturday, 25 February 2012

Qi Gong Eight-Piece Brocade, accompanied by an Excerpt from Dante's Paradiso

A beautiful demonstration of the eight-piece brocade in qi gong, accompanied by music of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: "Mary's Song", and "The Water Song", the latter forming the background to a reading of "Journey to the Moon", an excerpt from Dante's Paradiso, starting at 02:55 in. (from Danto's "Paradiso, Canto II", trans. based on Cotter)

O you who are seated in your little boats,

Eager to listen, following in the wake

Behind my ship that singing plows her way,

Turn back to look again on your own shores:

Don't put out on the high seas, for, perhaps,

In losing me you may run far adrift!

The waters I take were never crossed before.

Minerva blows and Apollo pilots me,

While the nine Muses point me out the Bears.

You other few who stretched your necks on high
In time to taste the bread of angels which
People here feed on, but never have their fill,

You well may put your boat out on the deep
By staying in the furrow of my wake
Before the waters flow back smooth again.

Those glorious men who sailed the sea to Colchis,
When they saw Jason turned into a plowman,
Were not as thunderstruck as you shall be.

The inborn, boundless thirst for that kingdom
Created in God's image swept us onward
Almost as swiftly as the skies you see.

Beatrice gazed upward and I gazed on her;
And in the time perhaps it takes an arrow
To strike the bull's-eye, fly, and leave the bow,

I saw myself arrived at a thing of wonder
Which drew my sight to it, and therefore she
From whom my close concerns could not be hidden

Turned towards me, as glad as she was lovely,
And said, "Direct your mind with thanks to God
Who here has made us one with the first star."

I thought we were enveloped in a cloud,
Shining, solid, dense, and highly polished
As a diamond struck by the sun would be.

The timeless pearl took us inside itself
In the same way that water can receive
A ray of light while it remains intact.

If I were body (and here we can't conceive
How one dimension could contain another,
Which has to be when body enters body),

All the more should longing then inflame us
To see that Essence in which we may see
How our own nature and God join in one.

There shall be revealed what we now hold by faith:
Not proven to us, but known on its own,
Like the first truths believed by human beings.

Monday, 20 February 2012

For the Love of Books & Movies

There is only one situation I can think of in which men and women surpass themselves in the effort to read better than they usually do, that is when they are in love. They read for all they are worth, they read every word three ways, they read between the lines and in the margins, they read the whole in terms of the parts, and the parts in terms of the whole, they grow sensitive to context and ambiguity, to insinuation and implication, they perceive the colour of words, the odour of phrases, and the weight of sentences. They may even take the punctuation into account. Then, if never before or after, they read. 
[Mortimer Adler (1940), How to Read a Book]
With the proliferation of information, we have shorter attention spans than ever. There's a paradox in that knowledge is wider than ever, and yet the discourse upon that breadth of knowledge is almost non-existent. Except for dedicated professionalism in specialized fields, or perhaps for love in Adler's romantic depiction, we are not prepared to work at cultivating our sense of appreciation. We either get it or we don't. With beauty so freely available, why work for it? And ah, what beauty. Let us at least remain sensitive to it.

Credits: The painting is by Vladimir Volego, and the video by Rossica59. I didn't know the origins of the music when I first posted this, and was a little embarrassed to find out, mainly because it was unknowing. ;)

Credits: Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953) to the tune of Meglio Stasera.

Finally, an amazing sync of Nouvelle Vague's "Dance with Me" with Godard's 1964 film "Bande à Part" (Band of Outsiders), which I'm now dying to see... has unfortunately been taken down from YouTube, so instead I share with you this:

Original clip from the film may be seen here:

mysticmaze wrote on Feb 21 What an interesting quote from Adler! What is it do you think that triggers this love of a woman, Okei - in the general sense like Dante's Beatrice... I've always assumed it is the missing feminine archetype within...
jamintoo wrote on Feb 21 Had you heard of him? I was just starting to read his book yesterday from which I took that quote. I'm not familiar with Dante. About your question, I'm not sure, something to do with the feminine archetype within must influence our relationship with beauty without; is it missing? There are so many wonderful films which are essentially the director's homage to the grace and beauty of the lead actress. The beauty holds the film together, because it creates an interest, a curiosity for a story which perhaps is not really interesting, not really important either. Is there an element of voyeurism? I'm thinking Liv Tyler in Stealing Beauty, any film with Isabelle Adjani, or Emanuelle Béart, or... even Barbarella. I don't think it's a beauty than inspires desire necessarily (in the way that adverts and music videos and tabloid trash try to do). It is almost the opposite in some ways. It is more an aspect to beauty of an engaging presence. It probably does mirror some inner archetype in some way which is why we find it so engaging – why we don't need to "work" at appreciating it... but we do need to be sensitive to it! The video above might seem so slow and boring, the first time I came across it on a youtube recommendation I hardy paid it any notice, our attention spans for such things are so short because time is short and the amount of stuff online is so vast, but when I stopped to listen, it really is such a beautiful work of art, reminiscent of the film-homages to beauty that I was referring to earlier. I guess the last such film I saw was the teenage Sophie Marceau in "La Boum", where she acted so well the part of a sulky self-obsessed teenager, and all the actors were great, but she really made that film. Let's put that in reverse, and say, I really didn't like the film American Beauty despite popular acclaim because the lead actor was so hard to empathize and engage with. Since the story is told from his point of view, and the audience can't possibly like anything about him, I found it difficult viewing. Even if the lead actor/actress is a rogue, there must be something about him or her that charms us... or do you have a counterexample to that?
wistfuleden wrote on Feb 21 Nice post Okei. I can understand your reverence for some of those films. Even as a woman I can be enchanted by another woman's beauty. Whether it's her face, or the way she moves, etc. I can't stand films that objectify women, but I don't see the types of films you are mentioning as doing that. Watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with young Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor really is satisfying in that way. I'm surprised you didn't like Kevin Spacey's character in American Beauty, I thought he was likeable, I could relate to it.

mysticmaze wrote on Feb 22 This is interesting reading... trying to appreciate beauty from your pov and sensibilities, Okei. This stretches me because it is so foreign.... like listening to another language that my brain can't translate. That's why I asked about the archetypal aspect. Catherine is clearly able to see what you see. The uniqueness of each human perspective must surely be infinite. I'm trying to remember my response to American Beauty and can't... I'll have to watch it again. But, I don't have a counterexample.... I don't seem to have that gene for being charmed by an actor. It is the story and the meaning it communicates that registers the strongest... if the actor is good "I buy into the performance," and am carried along without any appreciation of them personally... their presence or looks or whatever. I'm absorbed into the drama to the point that I rarely remember the story narrative. It takes a second viewing to register.
jamintoo wrote on Feb 22 I'm not sure if we really do have such different perspectives? I don't notice the acting either so long as it's reasonably good, I'm carried along by the story like you say Nancy. But there are some films where the story revolves around character, and so we identify with the character to some extent. As Catherine said, it could be either gender. I don't think I've seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but maybe I just caught bits of it once. Now in these homages to beauty, the director is like the guardian angel of the lead actress slightly in love with and always watching over her. The acting must be excellent, because the interest is not so much in the story as in the impact on our character, who by projection might well be a light shining on our own female archetype? She is angelic, but perhaps fragile, subject to dark forces, often fighting for freedom...or love. She might even die a tragic death. Without realizing whilst we're watching of course, the director is projecting love for her onto us. We identify both with her and with those who love her, so in effect we are perhaps loving ourselves? I'm just speculating here, but in any case the experience of beauty is satisfying as opposed to frustrating... Does this make any sense? Another great example is Charade with Audrey Hepburn. The Cary Grant character keeps changing identity. Is there a psychological interpretation? Like he could be us. :) The story is projected by the actor, is projected by the director in filming it, is projected onto us by our watching it, Freud would definitely have something to say about this...the incapacity of the artist spirit to love the beauty for real, or something, hence endless projection. I'm not sure how I'd respond to that, lol. Maybe it's a different kind of love though? And it identifies ourselves with the object of love in some way, not wholly outside of it?
I just discovered that the music was a soundtrack to a 1974 movie called Emmanuelle which was the beginning of a softcore series in France. This is not the kind of thing I meant at all! Feeling naive and embarrassed now, lol. All the movies and actresses I mentioned above are top quality in my view. When I said the story didn't matter, I didn't mean it like that. Rather, the story doesn't need to have substantiality. It can be pure style. I love all the movies I've seen by Eric Rohmer for example. I liked least his most famous, Claire's Knee. Nothing much happens but conversation, and the mundane is made beautiful. Beauty might involve nudity, but absolutely not in a sensually frustrating objectification. There I would agree with Freud.
mysticmaze wrote on Feb 22 "When I said the story didn't matter, I didn't mean it like that. Rather, the story doesn't need to have substantiality. It can be pure style." You're not naive, but rather eloquent, Okei! But, these two sentences above express the difference between our perspectives... I can appreciate style - for the artistry, but films without substance actually register as viscerally "painful." But, this is not the case in purely visual art, to which my reaction is the opposite. I recognized the music and thought that it was purposeful to the point you were making, but maybe it was only "Freudian???!" lol Music sticks with me and it was played a lot back then. Using music as an example of my difficulty with style... Mozart was a major part of my education and my music history professor was obsessed with Don Giovanni so I received huge doses. The content/narrative was very compelling to me, BUT the style of music was painful in a way I still can't describe. There is very little Mozart that I can bear to hear. However, there was one piece that I couldn't get enough of... the Lacrimosa from his final Requiem. But, of course I discovered that he didn't write it... he died and only left a sketch that someone else finished. :-) Here's a version:
As an example of style vs. substance/content
jamintoo wrote on Feb 22 I'll be back once I have audio. I've always found Mozart off-putting for a different reason, that he's just too perfect! Something he might have grown out of if he'd lived longer. Now, what was the point I was making, I've almost forgotten now, lol. Ah, reading and short attention spans, lol...
mysticmaze wrote on Feb 22 Yes, to his perfection, but the style inhibited the depth - to my ears. It is interesting that he received his "downloads" from the All, in totality and scored them without corrections.... amazing gift!

wistfuleden wrote on Feb 22, edited on Feb 22 Lacrimosa is one of the few pieces from Mozart I do like. I love it, the fact that it's a requiem probably doesn't hurt. He only wrote the first 8 bars (or something like that) and then he died and another guy finished it. But those bars clearly set it up. It's achingly beautiful. Haha, you've already said about someone else finishing it Nancy. Note to self: Read comments BEFORE commenting. ;) Lol, I just jumped right in there!

mysticmaze wrote on Feb 22 Interesting that we have the same response to it! :-))))
jamintoo wrote on Feb 22, edited on Feb 22 Ah, this! Apparently, this is in the Tree of Life, and the same version of it as I've heard before... by the Polish Zbigniew Preisner who did most of the soundtracks for Kieslowski's films, and composed this version when Kieslowski died. I love Preisner's music... from La Double Vie de Veronique I will be back to ponder and respond to the rest of the comment.

mysticmaze wrote on Feb 22 The Preisner Lacrimosa is STUNNING. Here is the translation from the Latin.
Lacrimosa dies illa Qua resurget ex favilla Judicandus homo reus. Huic ergo parce, Deus: Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem. Amen. [edit] English translation Mournful that day. When from the ashes shall rise a guilty man to be judged. Lord, have mercy on him. Gentle Lord Jesus, grant them eternal rest. Amen.

Interesting that the Lacrimosa is being discussed on Ash Wednesday!

wistfuleden wrote on Feb 22 "Yes, to his perfection, but the style inhibited the depth - to my ears. It is interesting that he received his "downloads" from the All, in totality and scored them without corrections.... amazing gift!" His stuff just came to him eh? Yes, that's cool. He's too tinkly for me though, usually. Like the king said in Amadeus "too many notes" lol.
Excellent! I waited and watched all the credits and wrote down all the music in TOL because what he used was incredible. Thanks for those videos!
Yes, love the translation. So goth.
Wow that second video was amazing! New to me, thanks!
jamintoo wrote on Feb 23, edited on Feb 23 So cool, Catherine and Nancy that you should have had identical responses to Mozart (even with your exception for Lacrimosa!). I think once we're enlightened, then because Mozart is music from the heavens, it will become heavenly to our ears. Until then we want beauty and energy, not heaven. We want Beethoven! :^) I know Catherine does. ;^) Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent, "remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shallt return". And Lacrimosa is looking forward to the day of resurrection? I didn't realize that, but now it's reminding me of the Double Life of Veronique (second link I posted) where the girl dies and is re-born in her double. Let me look up the lyrics of that! :) The lyrics of Van den Budenmayer's Concerto in e minor They are contained in the French version of the "Double Life of Veronique" CD. Dante II'eme chant -
Verso il cielo O voi che siete in piccioletta barca, desiderosi d'ascoltar, sguiti dietro al mio legno che cantando varca,
Non vi mettete in pelago, che' forse, perdento me, rimarreste smarriti. L'acque ch'io prendo gia mai non si corse; Minerva spira e conducemi Appollo, e nove Muse mi dimostran l'Orse.
Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore fecemi la divina podestate la somma sapienza e'l primo amore.
It's Dante! I really should read him sometime. As for what it means, I need to go hunting... :) It's Canto II of the Paradiso, and the verse after she passes out according to the lyrics above, Canto III of the Inferno though I don't actually recognize them being sung... Rough translation: All you who in your little boat Desiring to listen Have followed after my ship that sails onwards singing, Do not put out on the deep sea, For losing me, you might be lost. The waters that I take have never before been crossed. Minerva inspires and Apollo leads, And nine Muses point out to me the Bear constellations. (she faints, and in death re-born?) Justice inspired my high Maker: The divine power made me The utmost wisdom and the original love.
By the way, what's TOL? (Is it some way of writing notes - I don't know how to read music or play music myself... except with speakers, lol)
wistfuleden wrote on Feb 23 TOL=Tree of Life :)

While we're on to Dante, here is the opera piece that was composed by Patrick Cassidy for the movie Hannibal. The lyrics are based on his Vita Nuova.

jamintoo wrote on Feb 23 :) I'm so tired! I think I should stick with the sweet sleep overcoming me of the first line... off home and to bed! Ciao! And thanks to you and Nancy for enlightening conversations.
mysticmaze wrote on Feb 23, edited on Feb 23 Glorious music by Cassidy! Thanks, Catherine. I love the imagery - back and forth between Florence and Venice. Heaven to me would be wandering around those streets and canals for eternity... it would take at least that long to absorb all they have to offer... I enjoyed the book but hated the film - despite the scenery!
jamintoo wrote on Feb 24 Beautiful indeed, music and architecture! Never been to Italy, would love to go one day... soon.
More cheesy French music :) put together by another skilful video-maker on YouTube.
If there's any deep meaning to the lyrics, I'm missing it, but I wrote a translation in the comments at 
Light up for me my last cigarette
Write your number on my napkin
Have you room under your umbrella
Good morning, my name is Valerie
Excuse me, my name is Valerie
One, two, three, and you smile at me

I'm walking on the roofs tonight
And I make my choice
that is to be with you

I'm bored constantly despite the speed
What will happen when I cross the line
Just for a tiny little yes
I betray drunkenness with delicacy
Believe me, I don't like stress

I'm walking on the roofs tonight
And I make my choice
that is to be with you

Am I a princess without joy
Who is forsaken for a little pleasure?
Feet in the ocean
I never had a plan
For so long, you were the obvious one

I'm walking on the roofs tonight
And I make my choice
that is to be with you
Back on the subject of reading, I heard about the Greeks studying three disciplines: grammar, rhetoric & logic, none of which are studied today, but which are essential in order to understand the art of reading, and not being taken in... (as so many are by the most base level of political discourse).