Monday, April 26, 2010

Symphony No. 1 In D Major, "Titan"

I am so excited to be going for the performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major "Titan" tomorrow at the beautiful Boettcher Concert Hall. Mahler (top left) is my favorite orchestral composer. Titan Symphony was first composed between 1884 and 1888 (with heavy subsequent revisions through 1894). The initial premiere was in Budapest in 1889, where it was presented by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra as a five-movement symphonic poem under the title "Symphonische Dichtung in zwei Teilen" (symphonic poem in two parts). In subsequent performances in Hamburg (1893) and Weimar (1894), the piece was titled "Titan," eine Tondichtung in Symphonie-form (a tone poem in the form of a symphony). After further revisions, Mahler eventually dropped the title, the descriptive movement titles, and the Andante second movement, titled "Blumine". The piece "premiered" again in Berlin in 1896 as the unnumbered "Symphony in D major", with a duration of approximately 55 minutes. When the symphony first appeared in print in 1899, it received its ultimate title, "Symphony No. 1" - but it is still intimately called "Titan" in the music world. The symphony is scored for a large orchestra consisting of approximately 100 musicians. Unlike his later symphonies, Mahler does not use the entire forces in every movement. Several parts are used in the last movement only, especially in the woodwinds and brass.

The above is an excerpt of the 4th movement entitled türmisch bewegt - Energisch. The conductor is Maestro Claudio Abbado (top right) - one of the giants in the music field. The Italian Maestro Abbado had an illustrious career conducting some of the best orchestras in the world including as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and, most recently, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra from 1989 to 2002 replacing the iconic Maestro Herbert von Karajan, when he retired from the position for health reasons. In his conducting career, he had won various awards, including the Mahler Medal. He is seen here conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival in August 2009.

I will be looking forward to tomorrow's live majestic performance!

Cats: Memory

Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. It introduced the song "Memory." On 19 June 1997, Cats became the longest-running musical in Broadway history with 6,138 performances. It closed on 10 September 2000, after a total of 7,485 performances. Its Broadway record was surpassed on 9 January 2006 by The Phantom of the Opera. It remains Broadway's second longest-running show in history.

Cats premiered in the West End at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981. "Memory" was first sung by Elaine Page (video on the left). The show then made its debut on Broadway on 7 October 1982, at the Winter Garden Theatre and "Memory" was sung by Betty Buckley (video on the right).

An inspiration for Cats came with the discovery of one particular poem fragment called "Grizabella the Glamour Cat". There were only eight lines, but that was enough inspiration for the team to create the show's entire storyline.

Two weeks before the opening (May 11, 1981), Andrew Lloyd Webber was concerned that the new show lacked a big hit song. So for this one song, Lloyd Webber went back to his normal habit and wrote the melody first, before a lyric was created.

Trevor Nunn then produced a lyric, based on T.S Eliot's poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night." So the song "Memory", sung by Grizabella the Glamour Cat, came to life at the last minute.

Rhapsody On A Windy Night
-- by T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. (1917).

TWELVE o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

Half-past one,
The street-lamp sputtered,
The street-lamp muttered,
The street-lamp said, “Regard that woman
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Half-past two,
The street-lamp said,
“Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
So the hand of the child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.

Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.
The lamp hummed:
“Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smooths the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and eau de Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.”
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars.

The lamp said,
“Four o’clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair.
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”

The last twist of the knife.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


The beautiful and inspiring song "Hallelujah" written by Leonard Cohen in 1984 which has seen many cover versions, the most popular done by Jeff Buckley in 1994, is being magically resurrected by this quartet of four fabulous Norwegian singers who sings in this order:  Espen Lind (on guitar), Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilsen (World Idol).

i heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord
but you don't really care for music, do you?
well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall and the major lift
the baffled King composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

well your faith was strong but you needed proof
you saw her bathing on the roof
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
she tied you to her kitchen chair
she broke your throne and she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

well, maybe there's a god above
but all i've ever learned from love
was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
it's not a cry that you hear at night
it's not somebody who's seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

Traveling Thru'

Well I can't tell you where I'm going, I'm not sure of where I've been
But I know I must keep travelin' till my road comes to an end
I'm out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it
I'm a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit

Like a poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song
I'm just a weary pilgrim trying to find my own way home
Where that is no one can tell me, am I doomed to ever roam?
I'm just travelin', travelin', travelin', I'm just travelin' on

Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we're here to learn, the spirit burns, to know the greater truth
We've all been crucified and they nailed Jesus to the tree
And when I'm born again, you're gonna see a change in me

God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain
Oh sweet Jesus if you're out there, keep me ever close to you
As I'm stumblin', tumblin', wonderin', as I'm travelin' thru

... Jason Castro, originally sung by Dolly Parton

Friday, April 23, 2010

Never Letting Go Of Its Promise

"I guess if there's one thing I've learned recently is that nothing makes sense in this world. It's a mystery to me how anything happens, but it's what we do about it that counts. How you both met - that was fate. But that doesn't mean that it was easy, and a lot of things came between you and your love. But you showed faith in each other, and in the future. And that's what I'd like to toast: 'To trusting that the end is worth it, and never letting go of its promise.'"

... Brothers & Sisters, Season 4, Ep. 19

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Smiths

Haven't had a dream in a long time
see, the life I've had
can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
let me get what I want
Lord knows it would be the first time
Lord knows it would be the first time

Friday, April 9, 2010

Usurpation Of Islam And Syariah

Islamic law was first confronted with codification at the advent of the nineteenth century during the period of the Ottoman Empire. Then, faced with political, commercial and cultural incursions of the West, the Muslim world was inundated with the modernizing effects of Europe. Associated with such modernizing effects were extensive programs of political and administrative restructuring, of which codification was a convenient means to achieve the desired administrative and bureaucratic efficiencies within the Islamic empire.

The increasing contact between the Islamic and European civilizations saw two main forms of statutory codification. The first form of codification was the reception of virtually complete codes from Europe, evident from the Tanzimat reforms – these codes would have no traces of the Syariah. The second form of codification was statutory codification along Western patterns of various domains of the Syariah. Examples include the Majalla and the later codes on personal and family law. This development subjected Syariah to being “compared, translated and re-described” through codified statues. It is submitted that codification based on the “prototype” classification of the laws of Europe effected such fundamental changes to traditional Islamic legal doctrine and Islamic ideological infrastructure that what emerged thereafter is a mere veneer of Islamic law. This move reduced the richness and flexibility in the interpretation of Syariah and the open-system exercised prior to codification – perhaps as an act of “familiarization” in reducing the vast unknowns to smaller, digestible legal concepts that can be grasped (legislated, and hence controlled) by political agendas.

More of a doctrine and method rather than a code, the act of enactment is in itself antithetical to traditional Islamic law. The codified Syariah draws its authority from the power of the State and its value ascribed by the legislature, and not through its connection with God. Importantly, codification resulted in the unofficial adoption of a single strand of doctrine, representing a synthesis of the variant doctrines of the different schools (madhhab) especially in the field of family law. The principle underlying codification was that the political authority has the power, in the interest of uniformity as opposed to truth, to select one rule from among equally authoritative variants, and through legislative means, for the courts to apply that rule.

With codification of Syariah principles, standards of behavior that were regarded as imposing only a moral obligation upon the individual conscience have now been transformed into positive legal requirements. Codification enabled its substance to be more accessible to a judiciary that was not trained in the particular skills and expertise required to ascertain the law from the labyrinth of Arabic legal manuals. This led to an evolving system of legal education in Islamic law – enabling Syariah to conform to the standards of which the general “European” law (civil, commercial and criminal laws) was expressed in codes, in the procedures and techniques of the courts through which it was applied, and in the methods of its legal education. This resulted in Syariah becoming externally divorced from religion, not in the sense that it ceased to have any categorical religious significance, but in the sense that it lost its traditionally close and exclusive association with religious personages and institutions and became instead the province of the professional lawyer and the judiciary. The mechanism of hermeneutic interpretation, the backbone of Islamic law, ceased to operate.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is no such thing as an Islamic nation/republic within the past two centuries, despite claims by Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia. All of these "Islamic" nation-states operate under a prototypical political, religious, legal (to name but a few) model of a certain construct for a certain political aim. With codification, Islam and Syariah have been usurped to fulfill other objectives of social and political re-engineering apart from that of pursuing faith. The devastating result leads to these two significant realities: (a) Islam and Syariah, now being a matter of persuasion and not of truth, is interpreted and born out of contestation within the juridical courtrooms and political hanglings in the legislature; and (b) this dogmatic product gives birth to a counter-reactionary movement outside the institutional infrastructure of re-interpreting political Syariah, as clearly evidenced by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and/or personages such as Osama bin Laden.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is preferable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?"

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

... A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod" was composed by Edward Elgar. He is known for such works as the Enigma Variations (of which "Nimrod" is one of the fourteen variations), the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, The Dream of Gerontius, concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. He also composed oratorios, chamber music and songs. He was appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924.

This clip is a performance of Nimrod by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Maestro Daniel Barenboim opening the 1997 season at Carnegie Hall. This performance was dedicated to Sir Georg Solti who was the previous music director of the CSO for many years.

Background to Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod"
Augustus J. Jaeger was employed as music editor by the London publisher Novello & Co. For a long time he was a close friend of Elgar, giving him useful advice, but also severe criticism, something Elgar greatly appreciated. Remarkably Elgar later related on several occasions how Jaeger had encouraged him as an artist and had stimulated him to continue composing despite setbacks. The name of the variation punningly refers to Nimrod, an Old Testament patriarch described as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" - the name Jäger being German for hunter.

In 1904 Elgar told Dora Penny (“Dorabella”) that this variation is not really a portrait, but “the story of something that happened”.[3] Once, when Elgar had been very depressed and was about to give it all up and write no more music, Jaeger had visited him and encouraged him to continue composing. He pointed at Ludwig van Beethoven, who had a lot of worries, but wrote more and more beautiful music. “And-that-is-what-you-must-do”, Jaeger said and he sang the theme of the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 ' Pathétique '. Elgar disclosed to Dora that the opening bars of Nimrod were made to suggest that theme. “Can’t you hear it at the beginning? Only a hint, not a quotation”.

This variation has become popular in its own right and is sometimes used at funerals, memorial services, and other solemn occasions. It is always played at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday in November).