A Poem for the New Year

I have a poem and a picture I want to share with you to usher in 2013.

Maybe it’s an odd choice (the poem) because it has nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions and everything to do with a new way of seeing, yet isn’t that what a new year is for? I, like many others, have external things in my life I want to see change, but I think equally important is all the internal stuff — the place I look out from when I look at and respond to the world. I don’t want this place to be static.

I love this poem because it shows movement — internally. You can tell this from reading the title. How the speaker saw light at 32 is not how he saw it at 25 or 18, and not how he will see it at 40, 57, 86. We could all write our own versions of this poem at our various stages. This is his.

Light, At Thirty-Two by Michael Blumenthal

It is the first thing God speaks of
when we meet Him, in the good book
of Genesis. And now, I think
I see it all in terms of light:

How, the other day at dusk
on Ossabaw Island, the marsh grass
was the color of the most beautiful hair
I had ever seen, or how—years ago
in the early-dawn light of Montrose Park—
I saw the most ravishing woman
in the world, only to find, hours later
over drinks in a dark bar, that it
wasn’t she who was ravishing,
but the light: how it filtered
through the leaves of the magnolia
onto her cheeks, how it turned
her cotton dress to silk, her walk
to a tour-jeté.

And I understood, finally,
what my friend John meant,
twenty years ago, when he said: Love
is keeping the lights on. And I understood
why Matisse and Bonnard and Gauguin
and Cézanne all followed the light:
Because they knew all lovers are equal
in the dark, that light defines beauty
the way longing defines desire, that
everything depends on how light falls
on a seashell, a mouth … a broken bottle.

And now, I’d like to learn
to follow light wherever it leads me,
never again to say to a woman, YOU
are beautiful, but rather to whisper:
Darling, the way light fell on your hair
this morning when we woke—God,
it was beautiful. Because, if the light is right,
then the day and the body and the faint pleasures
waiting at the window … they too are right.
All things lovely there. As that first poet wrote,
in his first book of poems: Let there be light.

Inspired by the poem, I took this photograph the other day, fascinated how light plays images like hands play sounds                                                                                     these are the faint pleasures waiting at my window                                                          the space I play, write, wonder                                                                                        this picture is my poem to light                                                                                          an entrance to the new year

keys to my world

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Frozen Music, Frozen Space

Since the overwhelming search engine term that leads readers to my blog is Piet Mondrian, I feel somewhat obligated to feature more posts about this painter and his influence. I’ve previously discussed Mondrian’s inspiration in the architectural world here as well as in the interior design and fashion world here.

Did you know he’s also had an influence in the musical world? Since I play piano and enjoy music, I was happy to come across this unique piano designed by Alexander Gorlin when leafing through an old Architectural Digest magazine from 2003.

Doesn’t it resemble this Mondrian painting with its primary colours and rectangular shapes?

Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow

I particularly like the quotation that inspired Alexander Gorlin’s piano he created for an international design competition: “Architecture is frozen music.” Gorlin plays with this idea by designing a piece of musical furniture with sharp lines and bold colours. The piano’s geometrical, rectangular shapes arrest the eye with its deconstructed simplicity. It’s as if this piano is a musical piece in itself that has been temporarily stopped – or frozen – in time and space, like musical notes that are stagnant on paper but come alive when played in the context of a larger song.

Musical notes on a wall in Liverpool, England

Good architecture, like music, is dynamic, pulsating, and moving. You leave a space changed from how you entered it, whether slightly or significantly. You leave a piece of music altered from who you were before you entered its melody. Gorlin’s piano arranges different elements of a song such as rhythm, notes, melody and measures —  represented by the various colours, shapes, and sizes of the piano’s architecture — into one piece. Breaking a musical and architectural piece into its constituent parts, Gorlin paradoxically constructs a deconstructed piano. You can see all the parts that make up the whole; you can see the harmony of form and function.

Speaking of deconstruction of form in architecture, I recall one of my favourite poems about a piano that instigates deconstruction of a different kind. The speaker’s emotional deconstruction or breakdown demonstrates how the effect of a musical text and piece of furniture is anything but frozen.

The Piano

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

By D.H. Lawrence