Reading Frenzy

I must be starving for words, because there’s a reading frenzy going on in my home. Books were quietly piling up and now I can Not Stop Reading. (Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s kinda hilarious to have four books going at once and a stack waiting, albeit many of the books are the kind of non-fiction that I need to stop and start to digest.)

Here is my reading list, all of which I can Highly Recommend, especially if the topic interest you.

THE REST IS NOISE, Alex Ross: I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s, hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read on music and simply one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Ross makes a somewhat difficult topic, the history of 20th century music, incredibly accessible. I hear and feel the music he is discussing.

EVERYTHING IS CINEMA, Richard Brody: Again not an easy topic, at least for me…Godard’s life and work. But this extensive look at Godard’s history is very enlightening, especially for me as I found him intellectually stimulating but kinda like homework. This book is helping me see the spectacular level of innovation and thinking behind his films.

[fyi: Both Brody and Ross write for The New Yorker, as does James Wood, whose book HOW FICTION WORKS, I recently finished and was similarly impressed by…those New Yorker dudes know how to write a book! Big thanks to Jen Lam for the recommendation and for the actual book!]

THE ZEN OF CREATIVITY, John Daido Loori: During my meditation research I came across information about the Zen Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn which is connected to the Zen Mountain     upstate. These are both headed by Loori who is also a photographer. I was curious to read something by him.

WALKING MEDITATION, Thich Nhat Hanh: Hanh is a master in this form and I wanted to learn more about it.

BACK TO BEGINNINGS, REFLECTIONS ON THE TAO, Huanchu Daoren: A lovely book of short meditations on life from the late 16th century. I found many to be quite practical and useful.

DESIGN AS ART, Bruno Munari: Munari illustrated this childrens book that I still have and probably treasure the most: CIRCUS IN THE MIST. I recently read a bit more on him and ordered a few of his educational books. This one looks great–I can’t wait to delve into it.

NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHER, Robert Bresson: I’ve been in the thrall of a Bresson love-fest for a while, with DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST at the top of my list. But I just watched both MOUCHETTE and PICKPOCKET and was blow away too. Wanting to learn more about Bresson, I found this book of his working memos.

INDIGNATION, Philip Roth: On the pile, a recommendation from Sandy. He’s one of my fav. living authors, so am looking forward to it…am going in blind, as I haven’t read about the story line.

Poetry I’ve been dipping into/wanting to read more of:

ELIZABETH BISHOP, a book of her complete works.


THE WASTELAND and other poems, T.S. Eliot

I’m also revisiting this classic that I read many many moons ago:

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, Virginia Woolf: I’m flabbergasted by the poetry, philosophy, simple magic of her vision. I have to read each page very slowly–Not Easy for Ms. Skimmer–to savour this one. I got some little post-its and I keep sticking them on pages.

For our coming two week-I can’t believe it’s happening–California trip in August:

MY ANTONIA, Willa Cather: Another reread and our next book group pick

BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Fredrick Nietzsche: My pal in life and books Drew read this for his new philosophy reading partnership. He just told me that he was surprised how readable it was….which is why I’m choosing to take it along.

And a book I always have around and dip into now and then:

THE BOOK OF DISQUIET, Fernanda Pessoa: I can never read more than a page or two of this journal-like book by one of Portugal’s most important poets. You deeply sense his life experience which is infused with melancholy.


The Most Magnificent Madrigal: Zefiro torna (Monteverdi)

Notes on Zerfiro Torna, the most stunning piece by Monteverdi

This post is dedicated to my Step-Mutterlein Sarahchen Davies, PhD-writer extraordinaire, who introduced me to Monteverdi and much more and deserves a gold star every minute.

-Here’s a beautiful version by the astounding William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants, but my favorite is by the early music ensemble Artek and is on their work “I Don’t Want to Love”. For more on Artek, click on their name.

-Zefiro Torna is based on  a sonnet that begins with “Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti l’aer fa grato” and is from a late XVI century poet, Ottavio Rinuccini, a member of the Camerata de’ Bardi. Here’s more on the madrigal from the All Music Guide:  This work is one of two madrigals composed by Monteverdi with the title Zefiro torna and is not to be confused with his five-voice a cappella setting of a sonnet by Petrarch published in his Sixth Book of Madrigals in 1614. This madrigal sets a text by Ottavio Rinuccini, the poet who authored the librettos for the first two surviving operas, Peri’s La Dafne and Euridice, as well as Monteverdi’s lost opera, Arianna. It was published in the collection Scherzi Musicali, and in the composer’s Ninth Book of Madrigals (1632). Scored for two tenors and continuo, most of the piece is in the form of a ciaccona or passacaglia, which uses a constantly recurring bass line, and it is the first known example of a vocal duet that uses a ciaccona accompaniment. Although it is sometimes performed in a “straight” manner, it is most frequently interpreted as a comic parody of madrigals as they had evolved by the early seventeenth century, particularly the mannered conventions of the seconda prattica, in which the musical setting is largely driven by the text, and dissonance is used with extreme freedom as an expressive tool.

The poem, a sonnet, is a rhapsodic pastoral ode to Zephyr, the west wind that brings Spring and its attendant opportunities for romance, or at least dalliance. Here, as in many of his madrigals, Monteverdi’s exceptionally fluid text-setting skillfully subverts the structure of the sonnet so that its poetic effusions seem spontaneously improvised rather than constructed according to strict formal standards. The catchy repeated figure of the ciaccona, the springy rhythms, and the graceful but florid vocal lines give the work an infectious exuberance. The composer’s playful tweaking of the seconda prattica is evident throughout in his exaggeratedly obvious text painting. “Mormorando,” (murmuring), for instance, is set to a wavery, murmuring figure that runs on for a little longer than is strictly necessary. Later, the first voice sings “e da monti” to a line that leaps upward to the extremes of the singer’s range, while the second voice’s “e da valli” precipitously tumbles down in the opposite direction. In the final tercet of the sonnet, the mood changes and the author gives in to despair because he has not found his beloved. The ciaccona figure halts, and these lines are set as a slow quasi-recitative. In the final line, “piango” (weep), is given a balefully pathetic treatment with a harmonic progression that droops almost irretrievably below the home key, before recovering on the final word, “canto” (sing), which brings a return of the ciaccona figure and the original mood of joy and optimism. These and many other examples give performers the opportunity to showcase the music’s humor, making Zefiro torna one of the composer’s most popular and frequently performed madrigals. ~ All Music Guide

-Sarahchen told me it was a Huge Hit in the 17th century. So this was the Brittney Spears of those times?!?

(The poem used by Claudio Monteverdi, first in Italian then translated into English.)


Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti
l’aer fa grato e’il pié discioglie a l’onde
e, mormoranda tra le verdi fronde,
fa danzar al bel suon su’l prato i fiori.

Inghirlandato il crin Fillide e Clori
note temprando lor care e gioconde;
e da monti e da valli ime e profond
raddoppian l’armonia gli antri canori.
Sorge più vaga in ciel l’aurora, e’l sole,
sparge più luci d’or; più puro argento
fregia di Teti il bel ceruleo manto.

Sol io, per selve abbandonate e sole,
l’ardor di due begli occhi e’l mio tormento,
come vuol mia ventura, hor piango hor canto.

Return O Zephyr, and with gentle motion
Make pleasant the air and scatter the grasses in waves
And murmuring among the green branches
Make the flowers in the field dance to your sweet sound;
Crown with a garland the heads of Phylla and Chloris
With notes tempered by love and joy,
From mountains and valleys high and deep
And sonorous caves that echo in harmony.
The dawn rises eagerly into the heavens and the sun
Scatters rays of gold, and of the purest silver,
Like embroidery on the cerulean mantle of Thetis.
But I, in abandoned forests, am alone.
The ardour of two beautiful eyes is my torment;
As my Fate wills it, now I weep, now I sing.

Things I Like, part 2

Craig recently turned me on to Nerdcore and I can stop listening to MC Lars. I’m listening to my fav track on This Gigantic Robot Kills (2009) right now, called 35 Laurel Drive about MC Lars’ drummer’s messy house. He’s telling his drummer to Clean Up his House. It’s hilarious and the music has great drive. I can’t stop dancing to it and singing along. I’m sure my fellow subway mates think I’m nuts at this point. But Who Cares.

MC Lars: Lyrics to MC Lars’ 35 Lauren Drive: And Hipster Girl is fab and is set in Williamsburg. He gets it so right. And I also love We Have Arrived. Listen here:

And I’m also listening to MC Frontalot: Love his Penny Arcade Theme! Listen here:

They have arrived!!

A Few Fab TV, Film, and Music Video links

Some of the best music videos and tv shows are coming my way via various sources.

-Via Facebook Deidre linked to PEEP SHOW on Hulu. It’s crazy funny, see embedded episode below in separate post.

-Steve Lawrence of Link TV-– introduced me to their amazing content.

–I’m loving LinkTV’s World Music page at the moment: And Cinemondo is mighty fine too: