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Raw Unadulterated Talent

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A little something from dictionary.com: Powerfully impressive, stark, raw talent, Not mingled or diluted with extraneous matter, pure.

These words have been begging me to blog for about a week now. It's unfortunate that I tell this story weeks past its unfolding. It was in fact 2 weeks ago that when I have experienced these words in their truest sense. Yet, even to this day the meaning of the words above ring still in my ears.

I was in UP Diliman then to take part in a simple poetry reading together with my poet friends. Poet Noel del Prado is there to help us out with criticism (Balat ng Dagat, 1997 National Book Award Nominee). He's that college prof of mine way back from the Ateneo years that I fondly call compañero, after his famous ritual of the breaking of the bread (pan - bread, technically one who you break bread with). While the poetry critiquing session is intellectually stimulating in itself and undoubtably enjoyable, the main attraction of the day for me was to meet him again, after several years past my last proud A in his Filipino Class. (Applause! Applause!)

Now what made this day more perfect than what it already is an unexpected sidestep. Somehow our good friend and poet Claire wants to attend her violin teacher's recital. We didn't plan to see a recital. Mayric's (yes, the bar), was what we had in mind, not this. But "violin". Now that got me. "Interesting" was the word I hummed to myself. Hours later after Mozart, Dvorak, and Schumann, the old school but apt "wow" was to be uttered instead. I would later that night have my hand shaking pure unadulterated talent.

Allow me to backtrack a little to that third movement in Antonin Dvorak's String Quartet in F, Op.96, more popularly known as the "American". His name is Joshua. 1st Violinist. Quite young at that. Early twenties.

If you are familiar with the third movement of the American, it will strike you right now. Otherwise let me help a little: the third movement is molto vivace, or very lively - and to a non-music scholar like me, perhaps a preparation for the very intensely moving vivace ma non troppo (mood: lively, but not too much) of the fourth movement which moves but then slowly "concludes". The American is like a movie. It begins lively and joyful (Allegro), slows to a very serene "scene" (lento) and then progresses to the climax (3rd Movement), and towards the fitting conclusion of the fourth.

The interesting character of the American is that it withholds and surprises... Building up as if to tease you that the ending is coming, but slows unexpectedly like the mind would jump from one memory to another memory. There is some predictable bars that will mesmerize you but suddenly you will be caught in awe by a series of "pluck, pluck, rest, pluck, pluck, rest"... that will seemingly suspend you in midair anticipating the next bar. Such is called pizzicato, strings being plucked instead of being played by the bow.

Now I can talk so much about the American because the piece reminded me of my own preoccupation with memory in poetry. The music's behavior is so similar to cognition that it inspired me research Dvorak a little bit more. Somehow there was an entry in his name that says symphonic poem. I'm not certain if this particular work is related to Dvorak's technique, but it does remind me about poetry. Besides that I have noticed a pattern in the notes that suggest something ancient in tone - I thought perhaps to be Asian, or Folk music. Fully enthralled by the quartets performance, I had to search if my hunch was right. This is what I found:

Dvorák wrote this quartet in three days while vacationing in a small Bohemian colony in Iowa. He was surrounded by pleasant farmers, friendly priests, and generous housewives; this would be a good explanation for the simple character of the piece. Perhaps being away from home helped him forget about the conflicts between the predominant Austro-German tradition and the new Nationalistic Bohemian tradition that he was trying to create. Now we hear music that does not belong to any school, but is purely Dvorak's own style.

There is a common misconception that Dvorak based the quartet's themes on African spirituals that he encountered while in America. However, according to one expert, "Dvorák merely adopted the idioms of slave song, and embodied them in melodies of his own creation for the purpose of showing American composers that they had a body of true folk-song in their own country which might be utilized in building up a national school." So Dvorak, the great Czech nationalist, was here trying to inspire nationalistic thought in american composers.

It is easy to hear why some think that the quartet is based on American folk melodies: the main theme of each movement is in the distinctive mode of F-G-A-C-D. This is a popular mode, and can be heard not only in African plantation songs and American Indian music, but all over the world (including Dvorak's native Bohemia). This interest in modal writing was not just a fancy of Dvorak's, either - in the same year, Claude Debussy wrote his famous String Quartet in g, which is also based on pentatonic modes.

Source


So that was it. His influences and his own assertions of his nationalistic pride from his own folk music tradition. Additionally, the pattern I hear is the "pentatonic". One that any blues guitar player like me will be able to relate to.

Now what is the whole point of all these detail? Thing is, if I have been able to be affected so much by Dvorak, it is a testament not just to Dvorak's talent but to the musicians that re-created such a marvelous piece as well. I can talk of the Piano Trio in C Major, K 548 of Mozart, Schumann's Piano Quintet in Eb Minor, Op. 44 ... I talk about those... Which incidentally was performed as well.

"But that's that it all. That's not it at all," to quote T.S. Elliot's' Alfred Frufrock. The point is one sidestep before Mayrics, one road almost never taken, one gimmick almost dismissed for apparent lack of significance or weight versus say, booze, more booze and rock and roll, and one mere "recital" turned out to be the best poem of the day.

I'm writing this post to thank these yet-unheard of musicians for such a wonderful performance. I'm writing it to many others who were dismissed in favor of more popular forms of music, for those who are still struggling in their arts, for those painters whose works remains unrecognized, for the bloggers who remain unpaid in their endeavors but continue to blog on, for all the artists within everyone that is yet to reveal their master pieces...

Please utter these names well, when you read them. They are Powerfully impressive, Stark, Raw talent, Not mingled nor diluted with extraneous matter, Pure. Remember other artists in their names:

Joshua B. Legaspi, 1st violinist.
Ralph Waldo S. Taylan, 2nd violinist.
Karlos Gilyermo M. David, violinist.
Antoni Josef R. Inacay, cellist.
Ferdinand M. Bambico, pianist.

And yes we still did had a great time at Mayric's after to support indie alternative bands. All in all, it was a perfect day for artists.

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posted by Jdavies @ 3/15/2005,

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The Author

J.Davies

Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.


About This Blog

This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.

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