iPad Mini Photo of the Hudson taken from the New Jersey Shore on February 28, 2015
Yesterday the New York Time’s third editorial bemoaned this winter’s onslaught with the heading “This Winter Has Gotten Old.” How old, indeed!
Consider that the Greek Lyric Poet Alcaeus, who flourished in the late 7th – early 6th Century BC, wrote a descriptive poem which I transliterated with the title “Wine in Winter” and which I’ve given below for you to savor. Of course, we nowadays have different ways of combating our winters, but the Hudson River has still frozen over to remind us that Nature is still calling the shots.
Upon us Zeus rains,
And out the wintry heaven
A mighty storm descends,
And rivulets are frozen…….
Combat the winter, lay
the log upon the ingle,
And (don’t be niggardly!)
The honeysweet wine commingle,
Placing about your brow
A soft and fleecy pillow.
Two decades ago in her essay “Performing Art Is Always Theater” Margo Jefferson translated the *Wolof word “degga”—which was used as the title for the collaborative piece by Toni Morrison, Max Roach and Bill T. Jones—as “to understand.” It brings to my mind, especially during Black History Month, several Americanisms that may once have been Africanisms, but that the current generation both black and white is not privy to.
For example, “jive” had the original meaning among African-Americans of “misleading talk;” it can be compared to the Wolof “jev,” meaning “to talk disparagingly.” The slang words “hep,” “hip” and “hippie” have a basic sense of “aware” or “alert to what is going on.” In Wolof, the verb “hipi” means “to open one’s eyes.” The use of “cat” to mean “person,” as in “hep-cat” or “cool cat,” can be likened to the Wolof “kat,” used as an agent-suffix after verbs. “Hipi-kat” in Wolof means “a person who has opened his eyes.”
It would be rash to suggest that all such Americanisms can be attributed with certainty to Wolof, but the frequency of correlations is unlikely to be the result of mere chance.
*Wolof is a language spoken in West African Senegal: its capital is Dakar, which I visited in 1957 en route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from New Delhi, India.
In keeping with the times, and at the urging of friends and musicians – here in the US and abroad – I spent time this weekend creating a 15-minute movie to include the entire sonata, so that a visitor to my blog wouldn’t, in future, have to wade through each of the movements separately, as in my earlier blog.
Of course, the flip side may be the distraction of my photos on view while the music is playing. Unfortunately, I’m no longer able to perform the work myself, due to an accident on September 13, 2014 that caused a fracture of my right thumb. My orthopedist made it clear that it would take at least six months to mend – where after I could, indeed, even think of tackling Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto!
Enough of that, and let’s cut to the chase. Here’s the hotlink for you to access the video: http://youtu.be/5vCRMIkGy08 – and do let me know if it cuts the mustard!
Before you tackle the recordings below, the printed cover of my completed piano sonata may be viewed right here: sonatacover. The four movements are listed below in order from I to IV, with III (the ‘theme and variations’ movement) cast in two concurrent files (IIIA & IIIB) for purely technical – not musical – reasons.
It’s taken awhile to complete this piano sonata, considering that the early germs of it I had sketched back in 1963 when I was still working in Calcutta, India, as a senior corporate executive in the coal and gases industries – both private and public sectors!
Years later, I came across the original draft manuscript at the bottom of a sea-trunk, which I’d brought over along with many other household effects when my family and I moved lock, stock and barrel to Rochester, NY, in 1975. There I had occasion, as Assistant Manager of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, to hear many classical and modern works performed admirably under the inspiring music directorship of David Zinman as well as the varied interpretations of visiting guest conductors from Europe.
Imperceptibly, my aural perspectives changed from the 18th and 19th century body of Western Music compositions to that of the late 20th century. As a result, I have – in the work embedded above for your pleasure – found myself transmogrified not to ape, but to pursue, a trend toward a meld of old and new, without intending to impersonate one or the other. I hope you will not be too disconcerted to find something of my restive self – between East and West – reflected in the four movements, which are:
Maestoso – Allegro Largo Theme and Variations
[presented above in two separate concurrent audio files] Finale: Allegro giocoso
My English “Transcreation” of his Tanka Verse is reproduced below:
Spurred on by longing
For my love I cast around
All that winter’s night:
When up blew the river wind,
So cold that the plovers whined.
Note: “Metapoeia” or “transcreation” is the concept I define as “A creative turning of verse from one language to another, where the style and/or form may be rendered afresh to conform to the dictates of voice and movement.” In Tanka Verse, for example, I have retained the 5-7-5 7-7 syllabic form.
Examples of COSMAL – an Interlingual Construct – in action – Opening Page of the Presentation to the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, in 1975 –
[Readers who know the answers to the examples below are welcome to type them in the response box. You may click on the “Leave a comment” hotlink above that will take you directly to the reply section.]
Popular Nursery Rhyme
Bae, bae, melan’ov,
Tu has o lan qe?
Ve, dor, ve, dor,
Tri sac ple’:
Uns pro me domor,
Uns pro me dona,
Uns pro o mi juvor
Su asub o via doma!
“Eu diu, Dor Smith! Como tu bia?”
“Salu, James! Como id y?”
“Fort’eu, grati. Plus tu dona gyna?”
“Fe sano, grati ad Deu!”
O vota tu o forto glyco syn pluto Neo Annu!
The Four Seasons
Sochron spir, dochron sper
Bi e brev, art e long
Voy ab dem, voy ab Deu
In this day and age, there is a bountiful number of great languages, each with its own rich history and tradition. Included among them are the so-called ‘dead languages’ – a nomenclature I dispute, because at least two of them are considered to be ‘classical’ right until now and can only be ignored at our peril.
Consider then the following poetic paean that I – as an ardent Anglophile, who is committed to philology and linguistics – wrote as part of a collection of “Original Poems and Verses” 50 years ago.
THE GREAT LANGUAGES Latin with Law and Empire
one can identify; Greek with Knowledge entire,
and Sanskrit, Philosophy: Hebrew and Arabic
rhyme with Religion, Persian with Poetry
and Chinese, Wisdom.
French goes with Logic
and with Reason, Russian knows Economic
Collectivism! Spanish led par excellence
with Exploration, Italian with the Renaissance
and German, the Reformation.
But English in most people’s opinion
Is the language of Freedom and Union.