Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Notes

When you discover a new word and take the time to look up its meaning in the dictionary, you often unleash a chain reaction of frequent encounters.   The word appears in the next newspaper article you read, and then in an interview on CBC radio, and then in a monologue in a play and you wonder how you lived so long without knowing that marvelous, expressive word.   

So it was when I found a CD of baroque lute music while browsing through second hand cast-offs at a thrift store in Shediac.  The recording was one I was totally unfamiliar with:  Volume 2 of the London Manuscripts composed by Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), performed by Michel Cardin.  It turned out to be the best buy of the summer, a delightful soundtrack for August chores that tend to be repetitive and go on forever.  The soothing lute music was played over and over again while stripping dried lavender from the stalks, filling sachets with the buds and hand sewing the seams with rows of tiny, invisible stitches.  It took me back a few centuries, to the days when ladies' primary work was embroidery.

Cds by Michel Cardin

Lavender sachets

I read the liner notes and learned that Cardin is a music professor at Universite de Moncton who made it his mission over ten years to record the extensive works (28 solo sonatas) by Weiss contained in a folio in the British Museum. The works were never published during the composer's lifetime, and were not presented to the general public until Cardin engaged in the 12 CD recording project.  He writes about the multi-faceted layers of sound that add density to lute music and heighten its capacity to convey a range of moods, from melancholy to exuberant.

"Even upon superficially listening to the lute one can be fascinated.  The listener is seduced by the constant movement between a coherent musical discourse - some singing lines - and a mosaic of interior nuances fleetingly tasted due to the fact that they are too complex to be explicitly perceived."

"The analogy of the mosaic, or a stained glass window, is appropriate.  The rational mind perceives a general image, simple as a sketch.  Simultaneously, however, the intuition perceives hundreds of elementary components, meaningless in themselves but which merge into a coherent image."

To my amazement, I found two more of Cardin's recordings at a local garage sale,  just a week after first becoming acquainted with the London Manuscript suites and the baroque lute.  I may be inclined to call that summoning of attention "divine guidance" but the more popular term is Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon .

For more detailed information about the London Manuscripts, read notes by Michel Cardin here.


  1. Nice music. However, the reference to the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon caught my attention more. I thought "That's familiar, what is it?" I followed the link and was reminded of the group (I'm old enough to remember). But I found the explanation of the term to be quite bizarre.Has it really caught on? I'll be watching and will probably hear it everywhere now!

    1. The connection between the frequency illusion and the Red Army Faction - an anti-imperialist urban guerrilla group - was not immediately clear to me, either. I found a explanation on Wikipedia:

      World War II was only twenty years earlier. Those in charge of the police, the schools, the government — they were the same people who'd been in charge under Nazism. The chancellor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, had been a Nazi. People started discussing this only in the 60's. We were the first generation since the war, and we were asking our parents questions. Due to the Nazi past, everything bad was compared to the Third Reich. If you heard about police brutality, that was said to be just like the SS. The moment you see your own country as the continuation of a fascist state, you give yourself permission to do almost anything against it. You see your action as the resistance that your parents did not put up.
      —Stefan Aust, author of Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

  2. I find it amazing to realize that when I was a child and young teenager,World War II was only 20 years over. Now I realize that 20 years is nothing! Twenty years ago was 1995!