Archive for the Life the Universe and Other Things Category

Monday 6th August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 6, 2018 by bishshat

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Teenage Heart

Barclay James Harvest

It’s the truth, or so they say
Who holds her hand, holds her heart
She’s old enough to play fast and loose
In a schoolgirl kind of way
But this teenage heart’s driving me insane
The moment that we touch will ease my pain
Who holds her hand, holds her heart
So they say
Finding words, finding the nerve
But never finding her alone
My heart’s like sand she holds in her hands
One look, one smile, and I’d be there
But this teenage heart’s driving me insane
The moment that we touch will ease my pain
Who holds her hand, holds her heart
So they say
Say what she said, “Is she going out?
Or is it me she’ll see tonight?
Tell me the truth, I’m man enough
Well, in a schoolboy kind of way
But this teenage heart’s driving me insane
The moment that we touch will ease my pain
Who holds her hand, holds her heart
So they say

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Sunday 5th August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 6, 2018 by bishshat

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Saturday 4th August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 4, 2018 by bishshat

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Like Father

The Commuter

Friday 3rd August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 3, 2018 by bishshat

Carmina Burana

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing,
ever waning,
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
poverty
and power
it melts them like ice
fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy
fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
so at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

Tunes for Tyrants

Carmina Burana scholars have several different ideas about the manuscript’s place of origin. It is agreed that the manuscript must be from the region of central Europe where the Bavarian dialect of German is spoken due to the Middle High German phrases in the text—a region that includes parts of southern Germany, western Austria, and northern Italy. It must also be from the southern part of that region because of the Italian peculiarities of the text. The two possible locations of its origin are the bishop’s seat of Seckau in Styria and Kloster Neustift near Brixen in South Tyrol.

A bishop named Heinrich was provost in Seckau from 1232 to 1243, and he is mentioned as provost of Maria Saal in Carinthia in CB 6* of the added folio. This would support Seckau as the possible point of origin, and it is possible that Heinrich funded the creation of the Carmina Burana. The marchiones (people from Steiermark) were mentioned in CB 219,3 before the Bavarians, Saxons, or Austrians, presumably indicating that Steiermark was the location closest to the writers. Many of the hymns were dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who was venerated in Seckau, such as CB 12* and 19*–22*.

In support of Kloster Neustift, the text’s open-mindedness is characteristic of the reform-minded Augustine Canons Regular of the time, as is the spoken quality of the writing. Also, Brixen is mentioned in CB 95, and the beginning to a story appears in CB 203a which is unique to Tirol called the Eckenlied about the mythic hero Dietrich von Bern.

It is less clear how the Carmina Burana traveled to Benediktbeuern.
Fritz Peter Knapp suggested that the manuscript could have traveled in 1350 by way of the Wittelsbacher family who were Vögte of both Tirol and Bavaria, if it was written in Neustift.

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Martin Kettle

The name Carl Orff generally means one of two things. The first is that Orff was the composer of the insistently earthy Carmina Burana, the ever-popular choral celebration of sex, drinking and youthful excess made famous at Premier League football grounds and in television ads for aftershave and lager. The second is that he was the foremost German composer to achieve international eminence during the Nazi years.

To a few people, Orff is also known for a small number of other works – especially those in which he attempted to repeat the success of Carmina Burana – and as the author of one of the 20th century’s most influential programmes of music education for children, a system still widely in use in many parts of the world. But these other achievements have inevitably been overshadowed by Carmina Burana and the career in Hitler’s Germany. The cantata stands at the centre of Orff’s output, while the Nazi connection affects every judgment about him.

It was the first performance of Carmina Burana in Frankfurt in 1937 that established the Bavarian, then 41, as a major musical figure. Orff was so clear about the work’s pivotal importance in his output that he later disowned almost everything he had written before it. But Carmina Burana also made Orff’s name in Nazi cultural circles. After some initial official discomfort about the work’s frank sexual innuendos, Orff’s cantata was elevated to the status of a signature piece in Nazi circles, where it was treated as an emblem of Third Reich “youth culture”. The Nazi newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, once pointed to Orff’s cantata as “the kind of clear, stormy, and yet always disciplined music that our time requires”.

But, as Tony Palmer’s new film about Orff, O Fortuna, establishes, there is another thing we ought to know about the composer as well. The film, which takes its title from the opening phrase of Carmina Burana, makes it clear that Orff had the psychology of a permanent adolescent. He thought first and mainly about himself. He could not sustain adult relationships – including with a daughter whom he rejected. “He had his life and that was that,” she tells Palmer. The composer sought to avoid personal and moral responsibility in most things, and then wished to be forgiven for his failure to accept these responsibilities.

Mid-20th-century Germany was unusually full of adults who wanted to forget their own and their society’s failings during the Nazi years. Watching clips of Orff in Palmer’s film, it is tempting to see him as a recognisable type of postwar German, a man carrying his part of a shared trauma about which he preferred to remain silent. Orff himself was never a paid-up Nazi. But he prospered under National Socialist rule and he had a particular ugly secret of his own from the Nazi period, which Palmer’s research has brought into the light.

In his home town of Munich, Orff had long been a close friend of the Swiss-born academic Kurt Huber, who had helped him with his librettos for Carmina Burana and other works. Huber, however, was an anti-Nazi oppositionist, unlike Orff. Indeed, Huber was a founder of the White Rose resistance movement. This led to his arrest by the Gestapo in February 1943, after which he was tortured, given a show trial and executed.

Orff called at Huber’s house the day after the arrest, unaware of what had happened, and was informed about Huber’s fate. His first reaction was to bewail the danger that he himself would now be ruined. Huber’s wife pleaded with Orff to make representation or a statement on Huber’s behalf. But Orff said nothing. “He only thought about himself,” recalls Huber’s widow, Clara, in the film. She and the composer never met again.

Orff’s self-protective reflex can certainly be understood. Which of us can be confident we would have reacted more bravely in such circumstances? But Orff’s moral slipperiness did not end there. Indeed, as Palmer shows, it gave way to a much less understandable hypocrisy. In 1946, the composer was interrogated by the denazification authorities. Eager to put himself on the right side of the Americans, Orff lied to his interrogators, claiming that he himself had been a co-founder of the White Rose group along with Huber.

Orff was given the all-clear; he returned to public life and eminence in the new West Germany, where he worked and lived until his death in 1982. Unsurprisingly, however, he was secretly ashamed of his guilty secret. Shortly after receiving his denazification all-clear, Orff wrote out his feelings of guilt in an apologetic letter to the dead Huber – which was, of course, never made public.

All this tells us a lot about Orff the man. But what, if anything, does it tell us about Orff the musician? On the face of it, nothing very much at all. And yet, as the two facts that most people know about Orff remind us, Orff’s music has always been fated to be judged in the light of his severely compromised public life and of the deeply damaged personality Palmer’s film so graphically depicts. It is hard to believe that either the enduring critical iciness towards Orff or the lack of establishment interest in performing any of his works other than Carmina Burana – and that only with a clothes-peg clamped ostentatiously over the managerial nose – are unrelated to Orff’s chequered history.

In some ways, this is extremely unfair to Orff. He was, after all, a product of the Germany of his entire lifetime, not just of the Nazi years. For example, the lifelong concern with “music for use”, which he shared with his contemporaries Paul Hindemith and Benjamin Britten, derives more from the egalitarian aesthetic preoccupations of the social democratic era of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s than from any specifically Nazi teaching.

The idea that composers should write music that was accessible to all classes – which Orff embodied in his Schulwerk projects for the musical education of children, and in some of his compositions for adult audiences – was widely shared in socialist and non-socialist Europe throughout the interwar period, as well as in America. It is far from dead today, as the arts policies of the Labour government typify, and certainly far from discredited. As Alex Ross puts it in his lauded survey of 20th-century music, The Rest Is Noise (which skates rather quickly over Orff in other respects): “Untold millions of children would learn the basics of musical language by tapping out notes on the mallet percussion instruments that Orff had constructed to his purposes. The man himself may have been politically duplicitous, but his passion for teaching was profound, and it probably touched more lives than any music described in this book.”

More than 60 years after the collapse of the Third Reich, the continuing popularity of Carmina Burana looks like outliving the taint of association that has harmed both the work and the composer for so long. An all-guns-blazing staging of the piece, devised by Franz Abraham and involving 250 performers, is due at London’s O2 Arena later this month. The musical establishment may continue to agonise over the important question of whether a bad man can produce a great piece of work, or whether Orff’s sub-Stravinskyan ostinatos are an explicit homage to the ethnic paganism in which the Nazis wallowed. But the musical public decided long ago that it has no such inhibitions.

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Thursday 2nd August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 2, 2018 by bishshat

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Wednesday 1st August 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on August 1, 2018 by bishshat

Enid Dorothy Crystal Marx was born in London on 20th October 1902. She first went to school in Hampstead, then at the age of 12 she boarded at Roedean in West Sussex where she benefitted from an excellent art teacher. In 1921 she entered the Central School of Arts & Crafts to study drawing, pottery and printed textile design. After a year she went to the Royal College of Art (RCA), where she studied under Paul Nash, among others, with fellow students, and future RDIs, Edward Bawden and Barnett Freedman. The assessor failed her diploma piece as being too abstract but sixty years later the RCA appointed Marx an Honorary Fellow in 1982 and Senior Fellow in 1987. Gallimaufry, the College magazine, included Marx in its ‘Hall of Fame’ for 1925 because ‘among all the misses who flirt with Art, she alone woos it seriously’. Nash recognized her originality as a pattern maker and he encouraged her to become an early member of the Society of Wood Engravers and the Society of Artists.

Marx spent a year in the studio of Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher as their apprentice. She learned how to mix dyes and the craft of hand-block printing on textiles. In 1926 she set up her own studio printing her usually abstract and geometric designs on various materials. These soon became extremely fashionable and sought-after. A reviewer of the 1928 Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society’s exhibition, for the RSA Journal, said that ‘Enid Marx is an able designer; her printed linen…might be taken as a good example of a good collection’. Two years later a review of her first one-women show at the Little Gallery elicited an appreciation of her designs, ‘somehow she manages to combine forms that are essentially in the modern spirit with large harmonies that have the most agreeable traditional suavity’. Marx showed her work at many exhibitions including Zwemmer’s ‘Room and Book’ and ‘Artists of Today’ shows, as well as the 1935 Paris Expo. Christian Barman RDI of London Transport commissioned Marx to design seating fabrics for their trains and buses (1935). They formed a mutual admiration society, Barman praised her work and Marx wrote his obituary for Design magazine (1980). Other commissions included lining fabrics for luggage designed by John Waterer RDI.

Curwen Press commissioned a number of her repeat patterns on paper to bind their publications. Book covers and wood engravings were commissioned by a number of publishers, including Chatto & Windus, Hogarth Press, Faber & Faber and Penguin, as well as being featured in various publications such as Artwork, The Studio and The Woodcut Annual. She also wrote and illustrated a number of children’s books and, with her lifelong companion, the historian Margaret Lambert, she published pioneering works on folk art – a subject close to her heart. English Popular and Traditional Art, published in 1946, was Marx believed ‘the first time there had been an overall survey, and the notion that there was indeed such a thing as English popular art’. Her bequest of the Marx-Lambert collection of 19th century ephemera, to join their holdings of British folk art has ensured that Compton Verney holds the largest collection of popular art in Britain.

With Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious, Marx taught wood engraving at the Ruskin School, Oxford (1931-33) and she spent a term, as cover for an absent tutor, at Gravesend School of Art. She took her students, including the future RDI Sir Peter Blake, to see a considerable collection of ships’ figureheads. Blake hints that this might have been the start of his own enthusiasm for popular art. At the age of 63 Marx took up full-time teaching at Croydon College of Arts as Head of the Department of Dress, Textiles and Ceramics (1965-70). ‘I was rotten at admin…but the students were poppets’, she wrote. ‘I think they only wanted me for my RDI!’ She continued to help and advise students until she was well into her nineties.

During the Second World War Marx was one of the artists invited by Sir Kenneth Clark to participate in his ‘Recording Britain’ scheme to record the country’s natural beauty and architectural heritage under threat from German bombing and other destructive forces. To her surprise her children’s book, Bulgy the Barrage Balloon, was an instant success. As well as writing and illustrating several more books Marx also produced little chapbooks, printed on offcuts to amuse the young during air raids.

After the war Marx was invited to join one of the teams sent, by the British government, to Germany to report on how the Germans set about training designers. Margaret Lambert wrote up their findings in a report for the Board of Trade and its publication subsequently helped Robin Darwin form many of his ideas for reshaping the RCA when he became Principal. Marx went on a similar fact finding visit to the Scandinavian countries and reported that, in spite of the war, they had managed to achieve work of quality and innovation.

Towards the end of the war Sir Gordon Russell RDI invited Marx to join the Design Panel of the Utility Committee. Her textile designs were produced by Alastair Morton RDI at Morton Sundour and exhibited at Britain Can Make It (1946). Morton and Marx shared a close and creative relationship for the rest of their lives. These utility fabrics also featured in the RSA’s Design at Work exhibition (1948) and she wrote the section on ‘Furnishing Fabrics’ in the accompanying booklet. For the Festival of Britain (1951) Marx helped RDIs Milner Gray, Reco Capey and Keith Murray select the furniture, furnishings and equipment for the Festival’s Royal Pavilion.

The invitation to design commemorative stamps for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 provided Marx with the opportunity to work in a different medium. ‘Our stamps’, she said, ‘are, or should be regarded as, our Queen and country’s visiting card’. Marx described working on the stamps as one of her greatest pleasures. She received a further commission from the Post Office to design the Christmas stamps for 1976, her designs for these were taken from the ‘Opus Anglicanum’ embroideries

Appointed a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in 1944 in recognition of her excellence as a ‘pattern maker’, the only member of the Faculty to be given this attribute, Marx felt that she was now accepted as a professional, ‘before I was like most women artists, just considered an amateur’. She regularly attended Faculty meetings and took an active role as a jury member for the RSA’s Industrial Design Bursaries competitions. Marx urged the RSA to be more proactive and influential in design education, she regularly encouraged them to extend their archives and raise their profile and she used the correspondence section of the RSA Journal to express her concerns about the British manufacturing industry, design and craftmanship. In her appreciation of the life of the Finnish textile designer Dora Jung HonRDI, for the RSA Journal in 1981, Marx wrote that Jung’s ‘weaving forms a beautifully illuminated page in the record of Finnish art and design’.

A small, dark determined woman of considerable stamina Marx campaigned ceaselessly for the continuation of the direct, unaffected, but human design values that her generation had established before the war. Enid Marx died in London, at the age of 95, on 18th May 1998.

Drawings used in design, for items such as wallpapers or fabrics, are usually simplified or stylised. They depict a representation of an object rather than an accurate visual record. This is done through a process of observation and editing. Individual drawings will be repeated, overlapped, repositioned and altered to create pattern designs. The composition of the pattern will affect how each individual element is drawn.

Exercise 1: Understanding forms
To create an effective stylised drawing you must understand the form of the object you want to represent. Choose an object and spend time looking at it from as many angles and viewpoints as possible before beginning you drawing. Look closely at the shape, colour texture and tone of the object. When you feel familiar with the object begin to draw it. Make lots of sketches focusing on one element in each one, for example a line drawing, a tonal drawing, a silhouette, a colour drawing. Make drawings from different angles. Repeat this activity with other objects if you wish.

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Exercise 2: Editing and simplifying
Using you initial drawings for reference, try to represent your object as simply as possible, using limited lines, colours or shapes. Only include what is necessary to recognise the object. Repeat this more than once and try including and removing different details. Look at your collection of drawings and identify what is most interesting or successful. Use this to create a stylised image.
Exercise 3: Creating patterns
Use the image you’ve created to develop a pattern. Use tracing paper to make multiple versions of your image. Explore your composition by overlapping your images, rotating them, adding or changing colour. You may want to alter your image as you build your composition or add other objects. Try to create a repeat pattern or a section that could be used as a repeat.

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Fortune

Sitting on a bench can be dangerous to life
Who would have thought such a thing?
How could this be so?
But life today is full of such cruel twists
On a bus
At a concert
On a train
Walking past a department store
I don’t believe in fate
After a near fatal heart attack
I was shown a film of how to live a life
The what not to do B movie
Where’s my film I enquired
How come things have turned out so?
Just bad luck son is what my heart surgeon said to me
Is that so?
Just bad luck?
I guess something must be in or out of tune somewhere
Crossing Westminster Bridge can be dangerous to life
Like taking a ride in Soyuz 1
Living can be dangerous to life

For Joanne Rand  John Bish August 1st 2018

Old and Wise

Alan Parsons

As far as my eyes can see
There are Shadows approaching me
And to those I left behind
I wanted you to Know
You’ve always shared my deepest thoughts
You follow where I go
And oh when I’m old and wise
Bitter words mean little to me
Autumn Winds will blow right through me
And someday in the mist of time
When they asked me if I knew you
I’d smile and say you were a friend of mine
And the sadness would be Lifted from my eyes
Oh when I’m old and wise
As far as my Eyes can see
There are shadows surrounding me
And to those I leave behind
I want you all to know
You’ve always Shared my darkest hours
I’ll miss you when I go
And oh, when I’m old and wise
Heavy words that tossed and blew me
Like Autumn winds that will blow right through me
And someday in the mist of time
When they ask you if you knew me
Remember that You were a friend of mine
As the final curtain falls before my eyes
Oh when I’m Old and wise
As far as my eyes can see

Tuesday 31st July 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on July 31, 2018 by bishshat

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