A Musical Offering

Reading Note Convention

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KOReader/Exported Kindle Meaning
Lighten/Normal Yellow Quotables, concepts, and general ideas.
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Highlighted/Bold Blue Something strikingly novel/Deeply moving/Highly thought-provoking.
Strikeout Pink In discord with this opinion.

A Musical Offering

Luis Sagasti

Lullaby

Page: 7 @ 19 May 2021

The pauses between each variation are no small matter – no pause is – and Glenn Gould knows this better than anyone. He has understood, and perhaps as the nights go by Goldberg perceives it too, that in reality there is no interruption between the movements: herein dwells the music that can only be found by the sense of touch. When Gould ends each of the variations, his body keeps moving, as videos clearly show; his left hand trembles blindly and his arm shifts: a dragonfly sensing the still-nascent music. He plays without a score.

Thought Provoking

Page 8: @ 19 May 2021

Should we see Goldberg as a reflection of Scheherazade? Each night, she staves off death with an unfinished story. This is no mean feat: to leave the Caliph with his mouth watering yet his stomach sated at the same time. Goldberg, on the other side of the looking glass, tells the same stories time and again, delivering the Count his little death every night.

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Page: 11 (11.96%) @ 31 May 2024 10:33:10 PM

There is a more or less widely held view that music and sleep share certain convolutions. In truth, they inhabit the present moment in very different ways. Music promises the pleasure of the future: anticipating a melody that flutters a few steps ahead is the dessert we savour even as we raise another steaming forkful to our lips. The present of sleep is pure mother’s milk; there is nothing beyond it.

Thought Provoking

Page: 13 @ 19 May 2021

When a child first learns to hum a melody, the child stops being music and instead becomes a receptacle for remembering it.

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Page: 18 (19.57%) @ 05 Jun 2024 12:40:44 PM

In music, melody is like light: it occupies all our attention – higher, higher still.
For the baby to fall asleep quickly, the mother’s singing should use as few notes as possible; the ideal is just two, otherwise the child continues to chase the light that languishes on its mother’s eyelids.

Thought Provoking

Page: 19 (20.65%) @ 05 Jun 2024 12:43:05 PM

Brahms wrote a peculiar letter to the father of the child: ‘You will realise that I wrote “Wiegenlied” for Bertha’s son. You will have the impression that while she sings it to young Hans, someone is singing her a love song in turn.’

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Page: 25 (27.17%) @ 05 Jun 2024 01:52:30 PM

For forty-five minutes in 2007, the renowned violinist Joshua Bell performed, incognito, a series of Bach partitas at a Washington subway station during rush hour. The idea was to observe more or less scientifically the relationship between beauty, perception and our surroundings. The acoustics were excellent, and Bell had brought his 1713 Stradivarius. There is a video that shows how no one – apart from a woman with her child and a man who stops for a second as if returning – pays him the least attention, although a few toss him coins. Despite the dictates of common sense, Bell was taken aback. The background noise comes through loud and clear, like a half-painted canvas by Jackson Pollock.

Thought Provoking

Page: 28 (30.43%) @ 05 Jun 2024 02:04:08 PM

The rhythm of a lullaby is one that a mother naturally discovers when she rocks her baby in her arms. It’s the rhythm of a ship on a calm, dark sea. Every mother carries a Noah’s Ark in her womb (after all, there are forty weeks of gestation and forty days of flood). We’ve all been the animals in the Ark before descending to the earth.

Striking/Intense

Silences

Page: 38 (41.30%) @ 05 Jun 2024 02:50:05 PM

Objects torn from their present; shouldn’t we gather the sand before its grains become merchandise?
Treating something as merchandise means to inscribe it in time: to see it as future profit, as an investment, as a cost to be recovered. Seeing it as itself means removing it from the flow of time, returning it to the mute fire from which it came. Navajo sand.

Striking/Intense

Page: 45 (48.91%) @ 06 Jun 2024 12:28:09 PM

But it was for this very reason – because his music carried people to the heavens – that Estrella soon went to hell in a Uruguayan prison. It was 1977. He’d escaped from Argentina by a whisker. The colonel in charge of the interrogation said to him: ‘You’re no guerrilla fighter, you’re worse than that: with your piano and your smile you have the whole rabble in your pocket, giving the riff-raff the idea they can listen to Beethoven.’
And so the torture is focused on his hands. Simulations of amputations with an electric saw.
Torture with no practical objective. No possible confession.

Striking/Intense

Page: 51 (55.43%) @ 06 Jun 2024 01:47:53 PM

What’s for sure is that there’s no music in paradise.

Striking/Intense

Wars

Page: 66 @ 21 May 2021

More hunger will come, and more cold and more death. But there are red flowers. This is food for the eyes. Knowing this, every morning will be a child from now on. And every night a womb. With such knowledge, no one can lose a war.

Striking/Intense

Sky Ants

Page: 67 (72.83%) @ 07 Jun 2024 12:37:12 PM

The distance between the planets is proportional to the distance between musical notes, Pythagoras reasoned. And since the sounds they emit as they move never stop, we can never truly hear the music of the spheres. Their constancy leaves us deaf to them, like the sound of the sea to a fisherman. The cosmic order is a musical order. Kepler also understood it this way, as asserted in his 1619 treatise Harmonices Mundi: ‘The heavenly motions are nothing but a continuous song for several voices, to be perceived by the intellect, not by the ear; a music which, through discordant tensions, through syncopations and cadenzas as it were, progresses toward certain predesigned six-voiced cadences, and thereby sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time.’ The faster the movement, he added, and the closer to the sun a heavenly body travelled, the higher the note. And so he wrote six melodies, one for each planet.

Striking/Intense

Page: 68 @ 21 May 2021

Music is continuous, it is only attention that falters, wrote Thoreau.

Striking/Intense

Page: 70 (76.09%) @ 07 Jun 2024 12:48:47 PM

The stars are the neurons of the galaxies.
And the galaxies, brains roaming the cosmos, singing songs we cannot hear.

Thought Provoking

Page: 70 (76.09%) @ 07 Jun 2024 12:48:39 PM

The stars are the neurons of the galaxies.
And the galaxies, brains roaming the cosmos, singing songs we cannot hear.

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Exotic Birds

Page: 74 (80.43%) @ 07 Jun 2024 01:59:36 PM

Two days before New Year, Landowska and her husband are travelling by horse-drawn sleigh to the writer’s residence. The harpsichord is strapped to the back. It’s bitterly cold. Compelled by one of those reasons only the body understands, the driver comes to a halt; something’s not right with the sleigh, or at least not the same as it was a moment ago. He checks and, yes, the harpsichord has disappeared. It’s getting late, and the snow has been falling steadily for a while now. Landowska tries to keep calm, but her husband has the bright idea of telling her what he should have mentioned much earlier: he thought he’d heard the sound of something falling, but it never occurred to him it could be the instrument. It really never crossed my mind, he’ll tell Tolstoy later that night. Meanwhile, anger and tears from his wife. The sleigh driver makes an about-turn and they head back in search of the harpsichord. They have to hurry; their tracks are quickly being filled in. After longer than seems wise, the sled halts again. The best thing would be for the two men to search the area. It can’t be far. Landowska doesn’t comply with the suggestion to remain with the sleigh and follows in her husband’s steps, or at least in the direction she thinks he’s gone. She advances through the snow, her tears propelling her onwards. The cold turns the air to mist and the sky draws nearer, the colours merge, the sounds separate out. She is lost. She shouts, but fear breaks her voice. She walks on a little further and suddenly there it is, the harpsichord, in a little hollow. She runs towards it as if it were a lost child. She rights it and checks it over for damage. She tries to shout again but all that comes out is a low moan. Instead, she opens the lid of the harpsichord and bangs on the keys to call the men’s attention. But such a sound could be confused with a flock of birds taking flight. She calms herself, takes off her gloves and begins to play. The same tune over and over. The first to hear the melody is the sleigh driver; he struggles through the snow to the harpsichord. He comes to a halt before he reaches it, on the brink of the abyss. He can’t interrupt her because he’s six years old again and doesn’t know if he even feels the cold any longer. Perhaps he does, but it doesn’t matter: it’s always good to feel a bit cold when your parents are nearby. And so he remains until the husband’s cry wraps itself around Landowska; more than fifty years pass in an instant. Let’s go, come on, he says when he reaches them, it’s dangerous for us to stay here. Tolstoy wants to know what she was playing, but his guest can’t really remember. Bach, she thinks, or perhaps Scarlatti, repeating it over and over to form a great circle.

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Page: 78 (84.78%) @ 07 Jun 2024 11:13:59 PM

Messiaen: Birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs. Each bird, each instrument has its own tempo, and by overlaying them we achieve a confused and joyous harmony.

Thought Provoking

Page: 79 (85.87%) @ 07 Jun 2024 11:16:22 PM

Then, when he was commissioned by the New York Chamber Music Society to compose a piece for the bicentenary of US independence, it didn’t cross Messiaen’s mind to go to the Big Apple to see the lights that had inspired the most musical of Mondrian’s paintings. Instead he asked to travel to the Bryce Canyon in Utah, in order to contemplate a veritable aurora borealis in stone, which is also a kind of spirited Rothko, deep red and yellow in disordered, vivid strips. From this experience he composed From the Canyons to the Stars, another work made of pure present.
The sixth movement consists of a trumpet solo and a lot of silence.
It is titled ‘Interstellar Call’.
Messiaen: The calls gradually become hoarser and more poignant: there is no answer! The calls are met by silence. In this silence there may be a response, which is worship.

Quotable/Concept/General Idea

Page: 85 (92.39%) @ 08 Jun 2024 04:46:44 PM

Like fairy tales, symphonies always have a happy ending.
Perhaps all the songs in the world have a happy ending.
A story with no baddies, that’s what music sometimes seems like. Like the thought process of a galaxy.
And they lived happily ever after.
There’s no sequel, the monster never returns.
Does a symphony, does any composition end because there’s nothing more to tell? Because the tale is exhausted and anything else would be redundant?

Thought Provoking

Page: 86 (93.48%) @ 08 Jun 2024 04:50:00 PM

The Who consummated their concert by destroying their instruments with genuine fury.
To end like this.
To end like this.
And to distinguish in this deafening noise not an end but the restless pulsing of a world that is being born.
And to remember forever that everything is possible when you stand on the shore, looking out to sea.

Striking/Intense