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Arts and Music

     In this single page on Arts and Music I will upload from time to time a variety of short entries, cumulatively, and in this case the first one below will be the oldest (dating to when the weblog was being built, in late February). By scrolling down, you may view some quick musings from an amateur (me), on a few paintings, opera, and the like. From time to time, in the main blog space itself, there may also be a blog entry on art or music and its link to governance (click here for an illustration, related to the Pulitzer Prize, classical music, Verdi, and Bono…).

The Raft of the Medusa

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     “The Raft of the Medusa” is Géricault’s masterpiece. The painting lives at the Louvre in Paris. Theodore Géricault, who lived 200 years ago, studied with an admirer of David. But in Gericault the rigid neoclassicism of the Davidian school receded, to allow David’s use of sharp light and shade to come to the fore. Géricault also went much further in expressing dramatically contemporary events, and on huge canvases, and for him, unlike his predecessors, these events did not always demand a central hero. The influences of Michaelangelo and Rubens are also apparent. In his masterpiece, Géricault depicted the ordeal of the survivors of the French ship Medusa,with Algerian immigrants, which had foundered of the west coast of Africa in 1816. This incident was the result of tragic mismanagement and provoked a scandal in France when the survivors told their stories. Géricault’s depiction of the event’s anguish was interpreted by the government at the time as a political attack.

     The artist avoided showing the most horrific aspects of the tragedy, which actually included murder. Instead he chose to depict the dramatic moment when the frantic castaways attempted to attract the attention of a distant ship that was eventually to rescue them. All are piled onto one another in every attitude of suffering, despair, and death, arranged in a powerful X-shaped composition. It is sublime and terrible at the same time, expressing such horror, yet with a glimmer of hope. Géricault placed remarkable value on accuracy in Raft of the Medusa: he carried out prodigious research and completed numerous preliminary studies for the work, even going so far as to seek and interview survivors of the wreck.” Excerpted from “Art Through the Ages”, by De La Croix, Tansey, and Kirkpatrick, and from the Pogues webpage.

     Why do I feature this painting?  For the sake of art, first and foremost, since it is such a masterpiece. But as hinted in the above excerpts, there also are some metaphores that may be applicable today. Incidentally, only if one gets very close to the painting, and observes it for some time, it becomes apparent that in the very distant horizon there is indeed a subtle miniature depiction of a ship, the one which eventually rescued the survivors.

March 2nd, 2008

[Note: Eventually I will showcase a few other works of art, with less tragedy and angst]

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March 26th, 2008 — a Medusa follow-up…

However shipwrecked, the Raft of the Medusa appears to have taken off…

Some weeks ago, when starting to put this blog together, I was naively sharing my amateur appreciation of art in general, and of the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ in particular. Little I knew that a burst of creativity would subsequently take place, involving contributions from real pundits in the art and political worlds… The views they express are theirs of course, yet let me point to them and mention that in addition to the ‘modern day’ version of the Medusa painting offered in the Bayesian Heresy blog entry, some of the sociological and political analysis may also be of particular interest…

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March 30th, 2008

Governance does not have a monopoly on myths. Much about Opera is about mythology. Witness Wagner, and his mighty Ring of the Nibelungs, for instance. However unsavory Wagner’s personality and views on mankind were, his myth-laden Ring, running for over 16 hours, and performed over one evening and 3 nights (for which a special theater in Bayreuth had to be built to his exact specifications), is arguably the greatest piece of music drama ever composed. Corruption is another dark theme inextricably linked to his Ring — after all, the ring is made of pure gold, and bestows immense powers.

Corruption shows up in other operas as well, like in Salome by Richard Strauss, for instance. It has been a while since I saw live performances of the full Ring, or of Salome for that matter. But very recently I was fortunate to attend a riveting performance of one of Strauss’ late works, the psychologically-laden Die Frau Ohne Shatten (The Woman without a Shadow), and two of Wagner operas, Tannhäuser — in a bold staging –, and Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman).

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Above a few pictures, the first two related to Die Frau Ohne Shatten (La Femme Sans Ombre, at l’Opera Bastille in Paris), then the bust of JFK at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, and finally the curtain call after Wagner’s Der Fliegende Hollander at the Kennedy Center.

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April 5th, 2008. Just saw Verdi’s Rigoletto. See blog entry on it and on the speculation that Verdi would have been an avid blogger. 

April 9th, 2008. “Pulitzer, Music and Governance” blog entry.

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April 10th, 2008. Tonight, as well as upcoming Thursday nights until the end of April, from 10pm to midnight, EST, my nephew, who is a student at UPenn, hosts a radio program on Classical Music. The program for tonight will include Orff’s Carmina Burana and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler. 

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April 21st, 2008.  Incredible luck, happened to be there for Florez and Dessai at the Met’s gala event in the new production of Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment.  Wow!!  Unheard of encore.  Click here for a few details, and to hear and see just a bit.                      

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On Marian Anderson in Opera, Civil Liberties and the end of another Decade (here).

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