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  • Writer's picturerhapsodydmb


Updated: Dec 29, 2022

I'm not sure that "glitter effects" are passe. Glitter is ineluctable to me! Tom Stoddard, playwright and now 85, thinks differently, as discussed during his interview in "Talk" by David Marchese, New York Times Magazine, 12.4.22. The comment was about the direction toward which people move as they add years to their lives. "I've lost interest in glitter effects," Stoddard says, commenting on the subject of "late style" writing in the "elderly." (The latter word was chosen by Marchese, but without definition--which nearly always infuriates me because it's the perfect example of vagueness and does nothing at all to clarify matters or meaning).

I do agree that "late style" in art and self-expression, and perhaps the direction in life that most of us take, is one that leads to an "aesthetic paring away." But I've always been subject to competing urges as it were, a paring down to the essentials in art and relationship, and also it's opposite: the piling on of "glitter" and glee and fun and adventuring into new experiences and taking chances.

At age 50 I decided I needed to up my self-confidence and fearlessness in business, and so took parachute jumps at 10,000 feet from "perfectly good planes." The first, as required, was in tandem with my instructor and thus, entailed very little risk to life and limb, but the second jump was by myself, after the instructor let go of my arm once he insured that I had opened my chute. I got myself safely down--and it was exhilerating and liberating! Not exactly a "paring down"....

I can't say that my crafting and painting involve a "pairing down" over time. I still prefer realistic painting in watercolor or pastels; the more details and "fussing" the better I like the results. Here are two of my favorites produced in or after art classes taken in 2019 before the pandemic. The top photograph is of my first-ever detailed formal pastel portrait, "Yola." She's an exquisite, dignified woman in a reflective pose, perhaps incorporating thoughts about her status as a sex slave in Africa after she was liberated from being kidnapped by the Boca Haram in Nigeria (photographer Adam Ferguson, 12.23.18 in the New York Times). I was immediately capitvated by her great beauty and pathos. The second is the portrait of "Rosalie," the cutest kitty I ever met at our local Animal Control shelter where I volunteered before the pandemic.

I also love to glue Austrian rhinestones on most anything. I've been deemed to be a "wanna be drag queen" by some of my friends! In early 2020, I got my first discrete and provocatively-placed, meaningful tattoo. Shortly after that and for the first time in my life, I added temporary color to my hair.

Since I couldn't at the same time have a rhinestone permanently added to the tattoo (I still want a tiny one for the side of my nose), I'm about to install a rhinestone in a discrete location on the plate of my beloved piano, The Duchess, on whose lid support at her christening party, I tied with a gold string, her diamond engagement ring!

In terms of my recently-restored love of the piano and pianists, I also exhibit contradictory preferences! I am drawn in my soul to music from the Romantic era: passionate, full of frills and embellishments, huge dynamic ranges, and gorgeous melodies. Mostly I love compositions in minor keys perhaps reflecting my nature: wistful, sometimes fantastical, and searching and yearning to push my boundaries forward into more glorious feelings of great passionate joy and sadness.

Yet in terms of what I play these days in the early stages of learning technique to help me externally express what I hear inside (my "musicality" my teacher calls it), I prefer very simple pieces with strong melody lines. Three of the simpler pieces in Mendelssohn's "Leid Ohne Worte," an arrangement by Gail Smith of Teresa von Paradis' "Sicilienne," and Schumann's "Mignon" from one of his two children's albums, come to mind. I'm presently working on Amy Beach's sweet Waltz Opus 36. No. 3, which reminds me of the little dancing ballerina found atop a miniature jeweled music box in Victorian times. I also love the lilting waltz Etude by French composer Louise Farrenc, which in a similar fashion reminds me of a little girl in a pink dress, holding her dolly and observing herself in a mirror, dancing around, or a small group of children dancing together. Most probably I'll next take on Tchaikovsky's "Morning" and "Sick Doll" from his Children's Album, or Satie's "Gymnopaedie No. 3."

Then there is my delight in watching and listening to Lang Lang: the very definition of showmanship combined with technique and feeling. I so look forward to seeing him on February 20, 2023 at our SF Symphony! Yet he's quite the opposite of my favorite pianist of all time living or dead: Horowitz. No one comes close to Horowitz, who epitomized stripped-down simplicity, exquisite interpretation, and straight-forwardness in pianism.

So am I -- or anyone -- truly moving toward an "aesthetic paring away" as I age gracefully in music and life? Perhaps after all, it is a matter of individual preference and character?

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