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Posts Tagged ‘Henrik Ibsen’

It’s interesting how an artist sometimes severely views a piece of their own work. Even more interesting when that same piece of work that fell under their critical eye becomes extremely popular. In the case of the great Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, that piece became arguably his signature piece of music.

This came to my attention last night when there was a question on the current Jeopardy Greatest of All Time Tournament (big fan- been watching Jeopardy since the 1960’s when Art Fleming was the host on the daytime version) that made me laugh out loud.  It had to do with Grieg’s work that he was composing as music for Henrik Ibsen‘s epic verse drama based on a Norwegian fairy tale, Peer Gynt. His work for the play was meant to be just incidental music but turned into 26 pieces for the long five act drama, much more than he had anticipated when initially agreeing to work with Ibsen. It was obviously a very trying collaboration and Grieg was not impressed with some of his work.

He wrote the following to a colleague about one of the pieces, part of which was also the question ( or answer, as the format requires) on last night’s Jeopardy:

And I have done something for the hall of the troll king in Dovre which literally I can’t bear to hear, it reeks so of cow-turds, ultra Norwegianism, and to-one’s self-enoughness! But I am hoping that the irony will be able to make itself felt.

The answer (or question) was : What is In the Hall of the Mountain King.

That he thought that this piece which is now so associated with his name reeked of cow turds just made me laugh. Maybe it was just the idea that he used that term. Okay, maybe that’s a little sophomoric but, hey, he said it first!

You most likely know the piece in question here. It is surprisingly short and has been performed and used in many ways over the years. It always makes an impression. I am sure it was used in a Warner Brothers or Disney cartoon at some point and I liked a version from the early 70’s from the Electric Light Orchestra.

Here’s a performance of the In the Hall of the Mountain King section from the ballet Peer Gynt from the Zurich Ballet in 2008. Great visuals to go with the music.

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You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

― Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

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This is another new painting that is headed to the Kada Gallery for my show, Sensing the Unseen, that is opening there on Friday, December 1. It is titled Resist the Dark and is 8″ by 24″ on canvas.

There are a lot of possible interpretations for this piece, the most obvious being to the current state of affairs in this country and the resistance of many citizens to the actions of this administration as they seek to strip away many protections– financial, environmental and regulatory– that seem to only benefit the wealthiest of us and leave many of us vulnerable to the whims of large corporations. You may not feel this way– and if not, I both envy and pity you– but many folks feel like this country is living under a dark cloud at this point and without resistance it will only get darker.

This resistance to an impending darkness is the most obvious reading of this piece but it can also be taken to a more personal level, one where each of us has to stand our ground again the darker impulses we see being played out every day. We cannot personally fall prey to feelings and actions borne of hatred and prejudice nor can we stand idly by while others act out their own hatreds and prejudices.

Each of us is a barrier, a dam, against the baseness and incivility that is always ready to flood over us, if given the chance. There have been breaches in the dam as of late, these darker aspects getting bolder and stronger. It grows because it is allowed to do so, because many find it easier to accept the darkness rather than stand firm and shine their light into it.

Don’t let that darkness become your darkness.

If each of us stands our ground, even when it seems we are alone in doing so, the darkness will recede and return to the far corners where it has lived in anonymous shame for so long. And that is the only place where it should exist, which is still more than anything that thrives on hatred, fear and prejudice deserves.

Okay, that’s enough for this Sunday morning. Here’s a song from the 1960’s from the late, great pianist/composer Vince Guaraldi who you most likely know from his iconic music for the Charlie Brown specials. You most likely will hear a lot of his music from  A Charlie Brown Christmas this holiday season. Unlike some holiday music, I never get tired of hearing his stuff. This song is not a holiday song however. This song, Cast Your Fate to the Wind -which seems to fits this painting- was released in 1962, winning the Grammy for Best Jazz Composition, and has been recorded many, many times by other artists. It’s a nice way to kick off a Sunday morning.

Give a listen and have a great day. And resist the darkness…

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Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea…. We are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.

Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts

Another newer painting, this one on paper and measuring about 9″ high by 26″ wide.  I call this piece The Ghost in Memory, using the Red Chair here as an icon for memory, both personal and collective.   Although the Red Chair can have many differing  interpretations for many people, I often see it  as a symbol for memory personally, seeing in it people, places and events from my past . 

Stylisyically, this painting bridges the gap between some of my recent monochromatic work and my typical pieces filled with color.  The sepia pall that hangs over the scene gives it a feel of ghostly nostalgia that was unintended during the painting of it.  There is a waviness in the wash of color that creates vague amorphous shapes that seem to be making their way to the horizon as though being coaxed forward by the hazy light of the sun.  The blue of the trees in the foreground that create a frame for the scene contrast sharply as though marking the boundary between a world that we see and one which is hidden from us.  The Red Chair straddles both of these worlds here.

This is a very simply composed piece with a spare color palette yet it has, for me, a nice depth of feeling and meaning.  It wastes nothing and all of the elements contribute to the overall atmosphere in it.  Though the color is subdued, it still dictates the emotion of the piece.  The sepia gives it an eerie feel yet still has a warmth in it that makes it still inviting.

As to what the actual meaning is here, I leave that up to the viewer to decipher on their own.  Is it about ghosts?  I can’t say except to say that I believe that ghosts exist mainly in our own minds and memories.  That is where most of us are haunted.

 

 

 

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