Category Archives: Art

The Politics of Art: After the Debate

As I said in the previous post, I tend to dislike generic questions. With regards to this debate, as a lady in the audience pointed out, both we and speakers seemed to have confounded the verbs. Whilst the name of the debate was ‘do art and politics mix?‘, the debate itself would better go under the question ‘should art and politics mix?‘ The nuance is pivotal: although the connection between art and politics is irrefutable, the problem that often perplexes us has to do with the limits of this connection, rather than with the very fact of such.

I decided to record the debate on a rather simple digital recorder, and I’m glad that I did. The panel consisted of Ruth Mackenzie (Chair and the Festival Director), Peter Sellars, Jonathan Harris, Heather Ackroyd, and David Aaronovitch. First, Jonathan Harris attempted to illustrate that great works of art, although originating in a certain political context, nevertheless go beyond this context and may ultimately lose any connection with it. This brought to my mind a Chinese aphorism about poetry that I quoted previously in the blog: that poetry, when conveying a feeling through a “thing”, should be precise about the “thing” and reticent about the feeling, so that through the experience of the thing the feeling could be captured.

Heather Ackroyd spoke, first, about etymology and definitions of politics, and state, and art (not always convincingly, in my opinion), and then moved on to give various examples of modern art reacting to and challenging political regimes. David Aaronovitch, who came next, honestly admitted that, while listening to Jonathan and Heather, he forgot to think of what to say for himself. In the light of which he started by taking an issue with Heather and continued and ended up speaking more about politics than any kind of art. And then came Peter Sellars and, thankfully, saved the debate by getting back to where it all started: the crossroads of art and politics.

It is here that I can utter that I’m very happy to have recorded the debate because Peter’s talk is a great example of public talk. Someone may say this is no wonder that a famous theatre director should also be a good speaker, but, as we all know, talents for art and for speech don’t always complement each other.

It was Sellars who touched on the question I raised at the end of my previous post. Art and politics always mix, but to what end? A few people told me I was a dreamer, which I accept because it is true. I’ve always believed in peace, so for me the goal of both art and politics is to promote peace by the means of peace. Again, previously on this blog I quoted Picasso who said that ‘painting is the instrument of war‘. This phrase, however, shouldn’t be construed as Picasso’s advocating the war: Guernica is one of the most powerful anti-war statements in the world’s art. Rather Picasso was acknowledging the fact that art could be and was being used to wage and propagate wars. Yet he was also arguing that, since an artist is a political being, whose biggest political act consists of the ability to take interest in another human being, then painting, as art in general, was the instrument of bringing peace.

This theme of an artist’s empathy lies at the heart of Sellars’s talk. To accord a human status to a human being is a great political act, and art therefore teaches people the skill of inclusiveness, the ability to ‘get outside of your head‘ and to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It is also art, not the media, that provides a new level of information, as ‘uninformed democracy is worse than a tyranny‘. The lack of information and empathy leads to violence which is ‘the collapse of communication‘, the ultimate manifestation of the lack of knowledge and understanding. This is the theme that rises in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant: at certain point during the film you realise that the tragedy that is about to happen has to do not only with the “dangerous minds”, but with the conflict between craving for inclusion and alienation. In Sellars’s words, today’s violence originates from one’s desire to ignore and another’s desire to be acknowledged, whereby the latter plants a bomb in the former’s car.

War is the consequence of this lack of communication and violence, and the purpose of art is to teach us see both reasons and consequences of violence. There is only one way to prevent wars, and that is through deepening people’s listening and looking capacities. At the same time, art continues to be a category beyond all categories, a land that doesn’t exist, and it’s this non-existence that draws us to art. In this, art is akin to culture, and culture, in the words of J.-P. Sartre, neither saves, nor justifies anyone; but it is a man’s creation, a critical mirror in which he can see and recognise himself (The Words).

Ultimately, man always wants to possess something he doesn’t have, and that is Beauty. The myth of Pygmalion is about the fundamental craving for the Beautiful, it is about the desire to have that which is unattainable and yet so close. The pleasure of finding and experiencing the Beautiful is what we should read in the well-known ‘beauty saves the world‘. It is not Beauty as such that saves the world, it is our full and open experience of it that does. Sellars utters this at the end of his talk: ‘world is going to be transformed through pleasure, not through accusation‘.

I suppose it is easy to see, whose side I am on, which I personally acknowledged to Peter. I uploaded his speech, and I still apologise for some technical imperfections and coughing sounds – there is little you can do at the live event of this kind. But I feel that we need speakers like Peter Sellars who encourages the new generation of artists to complexify things exactly when politicians are simplifying them. He calls on the artists’ sophistication, humility and empathy, to bring deeper understanding and pleasure to people. Listen to his talk, think about it, pass it on. For my part, this was one of the occasions when I was thrilled and proud to be living in Manchester.
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Again, you can follow the link to listen to an MP3 file.

Visiting London-7 (London Book Fair)

In Visiting London-6 I mentioned and already wrote about a few seminars that I attended at the LBF. One of these was on the subject of marketing a bookshop.

Marketing Your Bookshop was presented by Peter Fisk, a respected marketer who spent years of working with and gained an invaluable experience at British Airways, Microsoft, American Express, and Coca Cola. He is also one of the most inspirational and engaging speakers I’ve seen (and heard) in my life. His style of presentation is of the kind I like to listen to and to deliver myself.

Although focused on marketing a terrestrial bookshop, the presentation has had a far wider scope, and an attentive listener would take away from a one hour talk probably as much as they would after days of intensive training and reading. Needless to say, the advice given is equally applicable to online marketing as well.

Two very basic ideas are genuinely simple: to run a successful business in the modern-day world, you need 1) to combine your logic with your creativity and 2) to cater for the needs and desires of your customer. Legion is the name to those needs, but tuning in to your customers’ voices can ultimately help you enhance and even expand your business. The necessity to expand may be inevitable even for funeral businesses (after all, you may be not the only undertaker in town). Apparently, in the States they began to recognise the fact that the funeral should be a celebration of the life of the deceased, rather than an endless mourning of their death. As a consequence, some American undertakers began to expand their business into the area of fireworks trade and to offer a choice of a firework display to perform at the scattering of the ashes.

Yet the cleverest point of the presentation is Peter’s continuous referring to the two distinct, genuine individuals who in a very powerful way challenged and shaped the 20th c. – Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. The idea of a successful marketing is in bringing together one’s creativity and one’s logical thinking. Picasso and Einstein are referred to as those who embodied creativity (Picasso) and logic (Einstein). As being shown, however, Picasso had received an in-depth academic training in painting, whereby he was eventually able to overthrow the canons of his art and to pave the road to a new artistic vision. Likewise, Einstein, as brainy as he was, had been a dreamer who dreamt up some of his groundbreaking theories while walking in the mountains. Both Picasso and Einstein were capable of such complete success at their “trade” because, in the end of the day, both used logic and knowledge AS WELL as their creative potential.

This point is not only valid, but very powerful indeed, as it shows that a successful business is not just about figures, money, and the GP. Furthermore, Fisk potently demonstrates that art and business are not completely polar, as many of us tend to believe. He doesn’t recommend to turn your business into “show business”, but he urges to try and find this elusive equilibrium of creative thinking and knowledge. Quite simply, if you’re knowledgeable, look to make a new creative use of it. If you’re an artist, don’t lose your mind to the untempered creative impulse.

I suppose the latter point must sound strange coming from somebody creative (myself on this occasion). But, even if we look no further than at the works of literature, we’ll notice that all of them that survived their time and continue to impact and inspire us to this day are not just “lovely stories” or “serious stuff”. Beautiful in form, these works often hide many powerful intellectual challenges. For example, I have noticed long ago that people tend to think that poetry, as art in general, is all about emotion. In fact, it is about concealing the emotion, distancing from it, in order to capture its essence. One of my favourite Russian poets, Konstantin Balmont, when still young, was told by one of the older writers: ‘Let your inspiration crystallise first, then write’. “To crystallise the inspiration” means exactly what Peter Fisk is talking about in his presentation: to apply strict logical thinking to a creative impulse.


Marketing Genius at

Marketing Genius Live – information about the book, seminars, launches, as well as a few free videos and extracts.

The Genius Works – more about Marketing Genius and Peter Fisk, plus more downloads. (Take a note of the website’s name.)

Peter Fisk’s presentation Business Strategy by Einstein and Picasso (video) from The Genius Works.

The Name for the King

The text that you’re about to read was written in late December 2005. It was literally inspired by a TV news report about Prince Charles considering to take on the name George when he eventually ascends the throne. The explanation was such that the name Charles was somewhat unfortunate: Charles I was beheaded, and Charles II was perhaps a bit too promiscuous.

Immediately upon hearing this, I thought about many things. Indeed, I thought about many kings and emperors and about whether or not their names ever pointed out to something bad or good in their fate. The result of my musings was posted first on, which I then moved to another site. However, the beauty of Blogger is in that I can accompany the text with pictures, also choosing the best position for them on the page. Also, following the advice from Craig McGinty, I think this will be a good use of a previously written text.

I also believe this is a good way to celebrate the 1st of April. I know that all jokes on this day are usually played before noon, but, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, “history is merely a list of anecdotes. It can only prepare us to laugh yet again”. Therefore, have fun!

The Name for the King

Shortly before Christmas, one of the TV news programmes broadcast a special report on Prince Charles. They said His Royal Highness is considering a change of the name and is thinking of using his middle name George when he eventually ascends the throne. Is the Prince being unnecessarily superstitious, or is name really a big deal for a king?

There are different opinions on a theory that personal names pretty much define people’s life. Some equal the theory to astrology and call it a “sham”; others quite honestly believe that name is highly important. Ultimately, it all depends on whether or not we believe in fate. If we do, we will probably avoid calling the child an old-fashioned or “unfortunate” name, like Marmaduke or Caesar. If we have no such hang-ups, our choice will be opulent (Queen), or health-friendly (Apple), or urban (Brooklyn).

The abovementioned report has left mixed feelings. For those who cannot give a damn about monarchy, Charles’s intentions certainly look ridiculous. Perhaps, even monarchists cannot quite understand him. Although the present Windsor monarch shares her name with Tudor Gloriana, she is neither as remarkable a politician, nor could she protect her royal house from public jeer. Of course, these things are not exactly to be blamed on her, but the truth is: as much as Elizabeth is a great and promising name, it could not and it would not allow Elizabeth II to fully match her famous namesake. Therefore, why to be so concerned about the past?

Now that the Prince’s plans are rumoured, and some historians have already expressed themselves on the subject, let us see if their fears are historically valid. Let us start with Charles. In England, Charles I was beheaded, and Charles II was raised in exile and is remembered for his promiscuity, the Plague and the Great Fire of London. Both, though, were the patrons of arts: under Charles I, van Dyke’s paintbrush flourished, under Charles II – Wren’s architectural genius. On the other hand, Charles I was sometimes unbearably idealistic. At the dawn of his youth he travelled to Spain incognito in an attempt to win over the Infanta’s heart. The quixotic heir mistook politics for windmills, wholeheartedly believing that his boldness and courage would make up for not converting to Catholicism. Of course, it did not work.

Continental rulers named Charles, Carlos, or Karl usually were not predestined to anything spectacular or disastrous. The Carolingian dynasty in France was named after Charles Martell and Charlemagne. The latter’s reign was famous for political prominence of the Frankish state, as well as for one of the fascinating periods in European culture, known as the Carolingian Renaissance. Charles VII’s astonishing victory over the English in the Hundred Years War is not outshone by his infamous abandonment of Joan of Arc. Some French Charleses were not very fortunate, however: Charles VIII died at 28, having accidentally run his head into a stone lentil; and Charles X was deposed as a result of the July Revolution, in 1830.

In Spain, Carlos IV’s reign was gloomy. First, he had to entrust his realm to Manuel Godoy, a terrible politician and the lover of his wife. When Napoleon invaded Spain, Carlos had to abdicate. Eventually, both he and his son Ferdinand were deposed, and Carlos fled the country and died in exile in Rome. Unlike Carlos IV, the present Spanish monarch Juan Carlos I will forever be remembered for his democratic reforms after he ‘inherited’ the realm, following the death of Franco. Indeed, Carlos is only a part of his name, but it did not seem to have diminished the political input of its bearer.

And in Germany the well-known Karl V Habsburg propelled the Holy Roman Empire of the German People to the unprecedented heights. His influence on politics, arts and religion cannot be underestimated. Neither should be the fact that the decline of the state that began soon after his death, later coupled with the dissolution of the Empire, had played a crucial part in creating the feeling of national humiliation. This feeling contributed decisively to both the First and the Second World wars.

Most royal names in English history never gave any definitive reason for great expectations. William I the Conqueror was an outstanding, although unwelcome, foreign monarch; William II Rufus was killed by conspirators; and in William IV’s reign the Reform Crisis had begun. The most “bearable” name was Henry in that the only English monarch to be murdered was Henry VI, while the other seven Henries normally lived long and remarkable lives.

If we look over the Channel, we will see exactly the same situation with the name Louis in France. Louis XVI was beheaded, and Louis IX died of dysentery in Tunis, but Louis XIV, The Sun-King, is never to be forgotten. True, the last three Louises on the French throne did not manage to equal their great predecessors, but it is their reigns that show: no matter what your name is, time will always have the last word.

In Russia, Alexander II well matched his grandfather, Alexander I the Liberator, who famously drove Napoleon out of the country. Grandson’s sobriquet, the Reformer, was inspired not only by abolition of slavery in 1861, but also by his gradual and cautious attempts to “democratise” Russian monarchy. However, the political climate of 1860s-70s in which the grandson had to rule was altogether different from the early 19th c. The disdain of monarchy’s rigour grew to the extent, when the attempts on Alexander II’s life were carried out repeatedly. He was eventually killed in 1881 on his way to the palace – to sign what could become the first Russian constitution.

Against all listed examples that show a relative unimportance of the name in a monarch’s life those who believe in the connection between name and fate could weigh one, and truly gruesome, counterargument. It comes from English history, where the really “unfortunate” name was Edward. Edward II was violently murdered, Edward IV was deposed and exiled, an infant Edward V was killed by his uncle, another boy-king Edward VI died before he reached 16, and Edward VIII abdicated. Edward VII was possibly as much an admirer of the fairer sex, as Charles II, and even Edward III is of dubious fame. In addition to throwing his country into the turmoil of the Hundred Years War, he also committed the least conceivable blasphemy by making a garter the symbol of his chivalric order. The only “normal” king left is Edward I, praised by the English for the Eleanor Crosses and loathed by the Scots for all good reasons.

The name George that Charles is considering to take on, according to the media report, also cannot boast blissful history. George III was repeatedly “losing his head” (figuratively speaking), while the bedroom feats of George IV have allegedly reached a stupendous number of 7000, – much like Charler I and Charles II, respectively. The reign of George V saw the outburst of the First World War, the reign of George VI – of the Second World War. For a truly superstitious person, the perspective of ruling the nation at war (even nominally) should be just as horrible as that of decapitation or sexual notoriety.

Among some of the best-known and admirable historical Georges one was a father-founder of the United States, another – a brave defeater of Napoleon at Waterloo. But they were not kings, and are not likely to be used as parallels by the public opinion. The latter might instead recall the Bush “dynasty”, whose both members seem to be very belligerent: if anything else, they show great deal of consistency in motives, as in targets.

Historically, Charles’s two other middle names, Philip and Arthur, also do not give much hope. Philip is not an altogether new name in the history of British monarchy. Queen Mary I Tudor was married to Philip II of Spain, and the present Queen’s spouse is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. But Mary’s husband, although styled “King of England”, had rather limited powers and left the country where he was disliked after a little more than a year. The Duke of Edinburgh was never granted the title of Prince-Consort and does not enjoy much popularity in the masses. Those who trust in names will certainly speculate on whether a royal contender named Philip can ever become a King in England, let alone a popular one. The Glastonbury legends claim that King Arthur shall rise one day, and centuries ago in a society more poetic and less cynical the Arthurian Cycle would provide an enviable background to royal representation. If the Prince was to adopt this name today, the public opinion would be more than happy to dismiss him as the “wrong” Arthur.

As succession is not imminent, it may be that Charles decides not to undergo the name change. What is useful to remember is that both history of mankind and history of monarchy show two things. Fame and tradition, either good or bad, can be changed; and monarchy, with all its dependence on both, is no exception. As for people, their names are only remembered for their acts – and never otherwise.

The images used (from top):

Charles I, King of England, from Three Angles (by Anthony van Dyck, 1636)

Charles II (by Sir Peter Lily, c. 1670)

Karl V Habsburg at Muhlberg (by Titian, 1548)

Alexander I of Russia (by Franz Kruger, 1812)

Alexander II of Russia (a contemporary photograph)

Nigel Hawthorne as George III (Madness of King George by Nicholas Hytner)

How King Arthur Saw a Questing Beast and thereof Had Great Marvel (by Aubrey Beardsley, 1893-4)

O Felici Occhi Miei: Arcadelt and Caravaggio

Our fascination with Renaissance Italy never ceases. This time we have unambiguous evidence of what music the contemporaries of Caravaggio preferred. One piece that was quite popular was a madrigal by Jacques Arcadelt O Felici Occhi Miei.

(As a matter of fact, last year the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted two exhibitions that were linked together thematically, as geographically, and were of immense importance to all “Italianised Englishmen”, if we are to use the 16th c. slang. One was on Leonardo da Vinci; another on Italian Renaissance household; and I wrote about both on my blog in early November).

Now, I got somewhat interested in the piece of music that I recommended in the mentioned post purely because it was composed in the 16th c., which I studied in great depth. The piece is called Divisions of Arcadelt’s O felici occhi miei, and was composed by Diego Ortiz.

The piece in question is a madrigal by Jacob Arcadelt, a Flemish composer born between 1504 and 1505, who spent a lot of his time in Rome and then in Paris, where he died in 1568. Immensely popular for his madrigals and chansons, he also composed masses and motets. The very first printed madrigals appeared in 1537, and the year 1539 saw the publication of four out of six volumes of Arcadelt’s madrigals.

The madrigal in question is called O felici occhi miei (Oh, my happy eyes), and this is the text:

O felic’ occhi miei, felici voi,
che sete car’ al mio sol
perche sembianz’ havete
de gliocchi che gli fu si dolc’e rei.

voi ben voi sete voi,
voi, voi felici et io,
io no, che per quetar vostro desio,
corr’ amirar l’onde mi struggo poi.

(My word-for-word translation:

Oh my happy eyes, happy you are
That you can dearly behold my sun,
For [this is what] the face
To the eyes, to which it was so sweet and regal.
You are beautiful, glowing,
You are happy, and I,
And I am not, for to quieten my longing desire for you,
I look up at you whereby I then suffer).

The comparisons we find in this madrigal are typical of the Renaissance poetry. The most prominent poet who comes to my mind is certainly Petrarch (Canzoniere); but similar motives we can find in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 24. Face is the Sun (the term can be extended to include God); a lover cannot stop looking at the face of his beloved, like a man cannot stop looking at the sun; but the beauty of both bedazzles the viewer, bringing him to tears (strictly, as figuratively, speaking). Such motive, I am sure, goes well back in the dawn of history of literary figures.

Caravaggio - The Musicians (1595)
In this painting by Caravaggio we see one of the boys holding a sheet music with Diego Ortiz’s work
You can follow the links below to see the score sheets for this madrigal. What is interesting, however, is that a few years ago art historians have identified the Arcadelt’s manuscripts as being included in Caravaggio’s paintings. O felici occhi miei apparently features in painting above, The Musicians (1595, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Which only proves how popular was the madrigal O Felici Occhi Miei by Arcadelt even quarter of a century after his death.
(The image is taken from Florence Symposium Program page).

Below is a video with the madrigal recorded by Ernst Stolz and Trond Bengston, featuring the piece of art by Andrea Previtali. It is followed by Pro Musica Antiqua ensemble from Milan singing O Felic’ Occhi Miei a-capella.


Biography of Jacob (Jacques) Arcadelt at Wiki.
Biography of Arcadelt at HOASM.
Music of Renaissance Italy – Florence Symposium Program.

Previously on this post there was a link to O felici occhi miei music score in a .pdf file. I discovered recently that the link was no longer working, but the file is still available on the original site. Flauto Dolce has been created by Andrea Bornstein and has already amassed a marvellous collection of music score sheets and ‘is dedicated to the publication of original music and arrangements for recorder made available in various formats‘. Students of both Renaissance and Baroque music will be pleased to find a wide selection of compositions from these periods, some available in MP3. Mr Bornstein also indicated on his website that he was interested in collaborating with musicians who would consider to ‘realise the continuo of pieces from the XVII and XVIII centuries‘. No money offered, but the work will be licensed under the Creative Commons Licence. If you are such musician reading this post, don’t hesitate to contact Flauto Dolce.

You can go to Jacob Arcadelt’s page on Flauto Dolce, where you will find not one, but five of his compositions. Please note that you will need to register on the site to access any content.

World Cinema Day

On December 28, 1895, at the Grand Cafe on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, the Lumière brothers screened their first film. Since then, cinema has entered our everyday life.

Today different directors speak differently of their art. Some say that cinema is in a rut; some assert its potential to influence the audience. There is a grain of truth in both views. A film must contain something that may influence the audience, and these days it’s hard to predict what this may be. On the other hand, whatever it may be, the audience must be prepared to receive their gospel.

I’m reading Miller’s Big Sur in Russian, so I cannot quote the passage about the real and the imaginary, but I’ll try to summarise his thought. Our life, he writes, is a dream. We move from one phase of this dream to another, from the dream of sleep to the dream of awakening, from the dream of life to the dream of death. He means, simply, that we aren’t always aware of what is happening, of the boundary between certainty and uncertainty. But the ultimate beauty of the dream is in its transforming force. Every object, animate or inanimate, the entire world, has got an aura, which becomes fluid in the dream and can transform itself.

Cinema is a dream. Moreover, it is a play, and, as everyone would agree, it aims at constructing its own space with its rules and agents. And here is where we sometimes stumble. I don’t quite like it when in Russia, for instance, some people are trying to invent a new word to describe an actor’s performance. Simply, where in English there are two words, game and play, which are used differently and sometimes strictly in a collocation, in Russian we’ve only got one word, igra. Whether you’re speaking of a sexual foreplay, or political games, or children games, or an actor’s playing, you’re using the word igra. And some people want to put in a divide between woeful life and beautiful art – as if the two can really be separated. At worst, they say that acting fools people.

It does. I read recently that a certain lady had stopped her romancing with Anthony Hopkins because in her mind he was strongly identified with Hannibal Lecter. And there are scores of women who think that a certain actor is just as sexually wild in life as he is on screen. But Hopkins is not Lecter, and a heartthrob can be a very modest man. So, the actors are playing, and, if this gives enough consolation to anyone, they fool themselves just as they fool us. In real life, they are nice and gentle parents, and on screen they kill in cold blood. Indeed, it looks like they use their talent against us. In truth, they give us an image of life that we’re craving for – like in The Purple Rose of Cairo. Or they make us see something we’d rather not look at. Or they try and show us a new dimension to life, which otherwise may have consisted of four walls of our room.

The world is a dark cinema hall, says Jean-Luc Godard in Notre Musique, and cinema is the ‘light’ that shines upon it from the screen. Cinema manipulates with the imaginary objects, but only imaginary is certain; reality is uncertain.

And so we’re living a dream. We’re living it in real time, if one agrees with Henry Miller, and we’re living it, when we watch films. Admittedly, as techniques and resources improved, the dream has become longer and brighter. The very first films shown at the Grand Cafe in Paris were only about 90 sec long. These days they can last as long as 4 hours, or even more.

The point is not that someone on both sides of the screen is constantly pulling our leg. If we think that art only reflects life, then we’re being fooled when we listen to the music, and when we read books, and when we look at the paintings. All that is a dream. But we need its transforming power to learn about ourselves, to see our aura being modified, if only slightly or very gradually.

More on the Lumière brothers films – here.

A bientot!

No, I’m not leaving anywhere, but I will be very very busy throughout the first half of November, whereby I might not have time or chance to write anything here. So, I decided I’d post some news and musings, as I may have to disappear until after the 13th.

It’s finally getting cold in Manchester. As I wrote previously, I’m not the most energy-efficient person in the world, thanks to my cold blood. At the moment I feel very very cold, despite the fact that I’m fairly well dressed. The problem, I should note, is that the room where I’m sitting is on the northern side of the building, hence there’s no sunlight. Does cold weather make me feel like I’m at home in winter? Positively so, especially because, as I’m told, it’s been snowing in Moscow already.

I’ll be working non-stop in the next two weeks, doing a lot of research and writing. I actually enjoy such hectic times, especially if a lot of information is coming my way, and I can learn new things. Then it’ll be the time for me to find a day to visit London. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to happen during the Atlantic Waves festival. It is definitely unlikely to happen on the 25th, when Thomas Koener, Victor Gama, Max Eastley, Asmus Tietchens, Z’Ev, David Maranha and Robert Rutman are performing at St Giles Cripplegate in Barbican. You can read more about this night of musical improvisation, on the festival’s website, or in November’s issue of The Wire (on sale now). I’m hoping, though, that either big channels, like the BBC, may feature it, OR it may appear on YouTube, providing the organisers and artists grant their permission. From what I know and read about the line-up for the night, it’s worth being recorded and transmitted.

However, whenever I go to London, I’ll have time to visit these two exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Both are dedicated to Renaissance Italy, one to the Italian household of the time, and another – to one the Titans of Renaissance, Leonardo il Magnifico, commonly known as Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition features an aircraft model after his drawings.

The online features of At Home in Renaissance Italy include a section on music, where you may find some delightful pieces, played on the lyra di braccio, lute, harp, and harpsicord. I cannot help recommending two pieces from the mid-16th c. in which I am a specialist, Canone by Francesco da Milano (1548) and Divisions of Arcadelt’s O felici occhi miei by Diego Ortiz (1553). I had a post on The LOOK group about Renaissance music, which you may wish to check out, it contains some interesting links and an extract from a song called Dilla da l’aqua.

Another small disappointment is that the Russian TV series of Quiet Flows the Don is now complete and the first episode will be screened on November 7. They say, you can’t have it all. I cannot have Rupert Everett and the night of musical improvisation, but I can have Leonardo at home in Renaissance Italy. Quid pro quo, eh? 😉

And, of course, November 5th is coming up this weekend. I have to say, where I live, we had a very calm Halloween, with no trick-or-treaters knocking on the door. But there were fireworks, and I expect something window-breaking on the 5th. A story goes with that. Four years ago I was coming to Manchester, and across the isle on the plane sat three people who took the same flight with me from Moscow. Because the airport authorities were afraid that some rascals might try and target the planes with the fireworks, they ordered an abrupt landing. So instead of landing gradually, the aircraft literally dropped down. Immediately as the engines had stopped, one of my compatriots was on the phone to his family. Last thing I heard him saying before I left the salon, was:

‘Oh, yes, we’re OK. Yes, we’ve just fallen. No, of course, we landed, but it was like we’ve fallen down’.

Finally, one of my favourite photos by Brassai and one of my favourtie photos, in general. I adore his plan and perspective on this nocturnal shoot. Hopefully, you’ll like it, too.

Update: thanks to another Russian aficionado of Quiet Flows the Don, we’ve now got the date of release of the film on DVD. It’s 9 November, exactly one month before my birthday. The cover apparently looks like this:

And I can’t help it, I’ve got to put up this photo from the film, which has got two of the leading actors, Andrei Rudensky and Rupert Everett.