This accosted me from the car radio on my way to the gym — not this performance, quaintly transcribed for the keyboard, but of all the ones I can surf up, this captures the feeling I have for the piece.

Is it just me, or does it seem as if in this movement, Dvorak is talking? When I hear it, I hear someone explaining something to me — with hand gestures, inflections, allusions — a speech remembered from a dream, fragmented on waking, when we understand that we’ve been told something peculiar and specific and meaningful… if we could only remember what it was.


23 thoughts on “Dvorak

  1. Yeah, that’s a good one. And I like your thoughts about explaining–I think it’s because of the way the mood and tempo change with a bit of a sense of urgency. Here’s another conversation worth listening to:

  2. I do not share you insights into these two pieces, Sled and Thomas, but that is my failing.

    You both suggest that music has the capacity to convey the whole range of meaning, and I concur. Too often we seem to be told, sometimes by the highest authorities, that music is confined to the expression of emotion. Such restriction could, if true, apply to any language, not only music but also, say, mathematics. Yet who holds it so?

    • People have been telling me all my life that something is wrong with me because math is opaque to me, and music is mathematical (true in many senses) therefore people who can enjoy and perform music must be adept at mathematics and I’m not and always hated being forced to do it in school since I was an utter frustrated failure at it, so what the hell is my problem I must be lying and I’m really good at math I’m just being perverse. (Sorry, but this collection of hectoring exhortations and the neck-wringing fury it provokes have stewed in me over the years until it all comes out in a Molly Bloom word-salad.)

      That said, I understand that the elegance of a well executed mathematical feat goes to some people’s hearts. My Engineer gets *excited* about spreadsheets. (And unlike generations of teachers and school peers, he doesn’t call me a bad person or condescend to me when just compiling my tax receipts gives me a sobbing nervous breakdown. Amazing man.)

      I don’t know what emotion math could express though, absent the sensory interface with the eyes or ears specialized to convert vibratory frequencies into subjective experience. If it’s a form of deafness on my part, can’t help it.

      • Sorry, Sled, I didn’t mean that I (or rather math) should provoke you so.

        Although, it is rather like me getting upset because I don’t “get” a time signature – or , indeed, a mathematical theorem.

        I intended to make a comment about the nature of language. To pluck meaning from the ether and give it form is a human enterprise, which never fully succeeds and sometimes fails miserably, as in this instance.

        • You caught me at a vulnerable moment alas — first thing in the morning. “OMG, I’m not even through my first cup of Yorkshire Red and somebody said math.”

          It’s upsetting to not “get” anything, I think, just extra so if not being able to understand it has been the cause of shame, scorn and literal punishment. I’ve been consoled in recent years by conversations with actual colleagues of two of my former teachers who inflicted the worst damage — in both cases they reported in similar words that “We had a party when she retired. Not for her, but to celebrate getting rid of her. She was horrible.”

          Bad luck, I guess.

          Is it a matter of plucking meaning from the ether? Or of externalizing something we experience in a form that conveys at least a part of our subjective meaning to others? In the case of unprogrammed music that always intrigues me, because I have my own program for a number of pieces, and I wonder if their general import would have seemed accurate to the composer. As I said, this piece sounds like someone telling a story — in a “first this, then that, and because of that. this happened!” kind of way. But I couldn’t tell you what the story was or the exact emotions involved in it.

          Being mildly synaesthetic, I get frequent impressions of color and texture from music too, and I always wonder what other people think.

  3. Hi. I’m going to bring this whole comment thread down to my level! I’d not ever heard the piece before, so set the video to play. I stood in the semi-dark and listened for a bit, then rather lost interest and went into the other room (I had the iPad on the living room table, playing at max volume) to finish making coffee for the morning.

    When I came back in the living room, Lokii had forsaken the cuddles of his furry brother and was hunched on the table, as close to the iPad speaker as he could get, listening (if he was only chasing the pianist’s movements, the music would have stopped with one paw-tap).

    As far as I know, the only other music he’s liked has been Aphex Twin. Maybe there’s hope for me yet with my long-time heavy metal gra.

    • Cats are top notch music critics!!!!

      (Apricat used to bite my ankle when I sang baritone roles on pitch in full chest voice. He was perfectly happy with my normal alto.)

  4. Hi Sled,

    How are you?

    What you have written made me remember “Man Carrying Thing” by Wallace Stevens, which I love, and which you probably already know. But maybe you’ve forgotten about it.

    I’m fine. More of less. 🙂

    • Oh Jesus Maria, don’t ask that question. Except you did.

      Four pilgrimages to see three “planners” at the County offices whose age added up roughly to mine. A digital detour past Commode Guy, the building inspector who likes toilet humor. Importuning of my builder, The Great God Pan (sweating Greek vividness and hypersensitive pride from every dark-haired pore), to reveal the secrets of his construction to said Commode Guy.

      I have to wait till August eighth for the Zoning Board to decide if a porch deserves to be built, or if I must eventually reach my front door by means of a ladder or a smart rebound off a small trampoline.

      • I’m going to face a similar problem, so I’m taking an active interest in this story line. For the record, as a lawyer (and as a thinking human being) I abhor zoning. And that rotten Village of Euclid vs. Ambler Realty is (tip of the hat to Tony Scalia) a bunch of legalistic argle-bargle.

        • OK, I went and looked that up, and it clearly didn’t work out that well for Euclid. in that case.

          I frankly don’t mind the gross concept of, say, my county clearly zoning some areas residential and others commercial and regulating the height of buildings or lot coverage within sensible limits — believe me there are people who would exceed all sensible limits if there weren’t an ordinance. And I’d have a Bolivian beer hall in my back yard (that’s another story, in which the Commissioner of the Revenue featured at one point). But this nitpicking about the feet and inches of structures necessary or customary on a dwelling is gratuitous — it’s a great way for the County to rake in fees. The buzz is that everyone gets their request granted, but why would they waive a rule that nets them $375 everyone someone applies for a use permit?

          • Yes, yes, of course you’re right. I’m sure you’re right. But here’s the thing: zoning an area as residential encourages the culture of driving, because the grocery store is way out there in the commercial part of town (the part with no sidewalks) and gone is happy little corner store where we used to buy penny candy–it was in the basement of turn of the century house two blocks from my childhood home. Gone is the pizza joint on the corner of my childhood block where I wasted money playing pinball. And gone is the skanky motel that we used to run past coming home from school. And that’s a damn shame. We aren’t going to agree about this, I know, because I also like pinatas and loud latin music. And I know that the complete abolition of zoning would mean chaos. But a little chaos has its charm.

          • It’s all about sanity, which is hard to legislate. I loved the fragments of my life I spent in suburban London because nothing was far from commercial zoning, and much the same is true of my burg, though the commerce that occurs in those zones now depresses me because of the prevailing uselessness — twenty years ago those bars and chotchka shops would have been bookstores and groceries and drycleaners.

            Yeah, I’ll accept anything that protects me from salsa music. But even our Commissioner of the Revenue did that (see above) and she perpetrates things like this:

            (She’s the one on the right… they’re twins.)

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