Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travel Journal: Art in Barcelona

Of the many eventful years in Picasso's life, 1957 is my current favorite. Two series of paintings marry the brilliant color of fauvism to the angular structures of cubism.

Las Meninas (The Maids) is a tricentennial response to Valezquez's great canvas that challenged notions of perspective, the viewer, and the subject of painting itself. Like most revolutionary artists, Picasso positioned himself within the tradition he stretched and extended.

The other series of paintings, though more modest in scope, are no less visually engaging. The Pigeons are landscape paintings of the French Riviera. The pictures literally look out from a window, and are thus framed by a frame. The perspective and the subject both reinforce the playful irony and humor at work.

It is liberating to simply enjoy art like this, unburdened by the weight of analysis, criticism, &/or interpretation--the prerequisites of "getting it" where "modern art" is concerned. One doesn't need a degree to simply enjoy Picasso, Stravinsky, Beckett or Barthelme.

Barthelme's observation that "one of the properties of language is its ability to generate sentences that have never been heard before" applies to all artistic media and each of the artists above. Picasso is a paradigm of this virtue in painting, and that is one of the reasons his work is so beloved.

Barcelona is a fantastic city for modern art. In addition to the Picasso museum, Barcelona was the center of the Modernisme movement in architecture, a brilliant stylistic evolution whose freshness has not dimmed over the course of the intervening century.

If you saw the Woody Allen film Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona, you saw the vividly original imagination of the central architect of the Modernista style, Antoni Gaudi. Google Gaudi and Parc Guell to see images of the coolest lizard sculpture ever.

Gaudi's first projects were apartment buildings. The most conservative of these (and the only one to win the artist a prize in his native city--insert proverb about prophets & their home towns here) is the Casa Calvet. It is also home to a new restaurant where we had one of the finest meals we can remember.

The aesthetic presentation of the multi-course repast matched the culinary imagination to make the Restaurant Casa Calvet a worthy offspring of the artist who designed its home. The grilled scallops with eggplant tagliatelle, drizzled with two pestos (olive and basil) were the best I'd ever had. Amy's duck breast with orange glaze (served atop a pear tart) was divine. Another Catalan favorite is romesco sauce--a creamy blend of tomatos, peppers, garlic and almonds--served as an accompaniment to all manner of appetizers, vegetables, and meats. I can't wait to try and replicate it in our kitchen.

One of Barcelona's most popular city blocks is home to three distinct Modernista apartment buildings, and is aptly named Manzana de la Discordia (Block--or Apple!--of Discord). I have previously written about the fascinating dissonance of styles in architecture--and music--and this creative tension comes to a vibrant explosion in the work of Gaudi. His unfinished masterpiece is the great cathedral La Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family).

Gaudi worked on the boldly eccentric plans from 1884 until his death in 1926. Spain's most-visited site will not be finished for another 40 years. This zenith of architectural ambition--surely the lodestar of originality in all of Christendom-- will eventually feature a tower for each of the 12 apostles (Gaudi originally planned 18), and three facades narrating the central stories of the faith: the Nativity (the only one completed in Gaudi's lifetime), the Passion (finished in 1976), and the Glory (underway). As much construction is ongoing inside, where brilliant stained glass illuminates a vertiginous space that will eventually house up to 13,000 pilgrims.

I finished reading one of Umberto Eco's recent novels, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana on our return flight from Barcelona. Eco's narrator describes an experience I have every time I "discover" a new work of art--whether it be a painting or facade, a symphony or poem: "this moment is the interloper penetrating the forbidden mysteries of life."

There were many more such moments in the two short days we spent in our new favorite city. I'll return to write about the works of Antoni Tapies and Joan Miro soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Travel Journal: Puccini e la sua Lucca

"Men die and governments change but the songs of La Boheme will live forever" according to Thomas Edison, in a letter the great inventor sent to Puccini in 1920.

That letter is on display in the composer's home, Villa Museo Puccini in Torre del Lago. The Puccini museum also houses two of his most cherished possessions: “After the piano, my favorite instrument is the hunting rifle."

One of said hunting rifles is over 7 feet tall, and looks more like a cannon. It is a fascinating Villa.

Puccini's granddaughter, Simonetta, hawkishly presides over Villa Puccini, and was busying about the house and grounds during our visit there. The Association of the the Friends of the Homes of Giacomo Puccini ends its application letter with a lofty (if awkwardly translated) appeal:

"The Association is a cultural enterprise of great value, the sponsorship of which infers attention to sensitivity and spirituality, to the improvement of the world, and to the importance of the quality of human life on the part of the sponsor."

I think I'm going to adapt and use that for a pitch. It also appeals to vanity: "sponsorship is an investment in one's own image."

We were hurried through the house, but were allowed to linger in the garage, which features wheels from one of Puccini's motor cars, but more importantly for the enterprise, the gift shop. I left with a Puccini pencil and eraser, and a Madama Butterfly notepad. I have felt more inspired ever since.

In all seriousness, if the Puccini house was not inspiring enough, our lunch and recital in neighboring Lucca were even more so. Puccini was a homeboy. When he left Lucca to study in Milan, he asked his mother to send him some of Lucca's signature olive oil, which is less fruity and more pungent (with a strong note of pepper) than what we expect.

In one of her engaging talks during the voyage, Frances Mays (author of Under the Tuscan Sun) reminded us that one of the keys to Italian cooking is the olive oil. In addition to the immediacy of its freshness, it is used generously. An Italian home cook runs through a large bottle in a couple of weeks, which just happens to correspond with the oil's shelf life.

After a delicious four-course lunch (bruschetta, pasta, veal & dessert), the group walked around the beautiful town, enclosed within a wall the Lucchese never needed. Robert Frost's observation that "good fences make good neighbors" could be applied to the centuries-old rivalry between Lucca and Pisa. "Mending Wall" describes a relationship that covers as many sins as it prevents.

“A sin against art” is how one critic decribed Puccini’s second opera, Edgar. We skipped the first three and started with La Boheme in our recital in the church where the composer was baptized and later played the organ, San Giovanni.

After excerpts from Tosca & La Rondine and a detour to his cousins and nephews (Mascagni, Menotti & Barber, respectively), I closed the concert with the composer's ultimate aria, "Nessun Dorma." Amy said she'd never heard me sing better. I've certainly never experienced a more rousing ovation following a performance.

I was asked by several listeners if and how it was inspiring to sing Puccini in not only his home town, but his home church (which is also an archeological museum, and another example of the fascinating stylistic tensions about which I wrote yesterday).

The singleness of the occasion was certainly part of the reason why. But it was the accompanying focus and concentration that made the difference. We always aim to serve the composer through the performance of his music, and in that regard we artists are indeed public servants. The specificity of that intent was simply more concrete singing a beloved composer's music in such a sacred (literally and figuratively) space. Home to a festival that performs Puccini "in his Lucca" (the title of this essay) 365 days a year, there were life-size posters of the composer behind the piano and at the back of the 150-or-so seats in the church. If one needed a better target to sing to, I can't imagine it.

Puccini's "sugary music" (his own words) has always had its detractors. Tosca was drubbed a "shabby little shocker." Even his peers could be derogatory. Shostakovich (somewhat of a shabby shocker himself) said Puccini “wrote marvelous operas, but dreadful music."

I wonder if the critics had simply had their fill of Puccini's desserts by the time he wrote La Fanciulla del West (which turns 100 next year). This favorite among his musician followers (like me) shows an evolution in his style. The score is even more fully integrated (which is why so few numbers are extracted from it). The influence of French impressionism and the sophisticated palette of orchestral tone poems are both present. The infectious melodies are in abundance, and their influence continues to be felt. The seamlessness with which the libretto is set reminds me of Janacek, where the inflections of speech rhythms are pitch perfect. In short, it is among its composer's most ravishing and accomplished scores. Which in the case of a great opera composer like Puccini, is no small feat.

Our day began and ended in the gorgeous Italian Riviera port of Lerici, in the aptly named "Bay of Poets." Byron lived there and Shelley died there. The romantic spirit that fed their lyrical genius inspired Puccini, and everyone within earshot on June 6.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Travel Journal: Salute per aqua

Spa derives from the Italian salute per aqua (health through water). Anyone who has traveled in the Mediterranean region knows why. Though Rome is an hour or so away from the port at Civitavecchia, the Tiber river and the plentiful fountains of the Eternal City both reinforce the association.

We spent a day in Rome before embarking on a journey which took us south to Naples & Sicily, up the Italian Riviera to Lucca (in Tuscany), across to the French Riviera in Nice, then to Marseille (with an excursion to Aix-en-Provence) and ending in Barcelona.

We performed concerts programmed around the cities we visited. We sang Neapolitan songs from the 18th and 19th centuries, and opera excerpts that originated in the famed Teatro San Carlo in Naples. In Palermo we offered a recital devoted to the Bel Canto repertoire, beginning with the Sicilian master Vincenzo Bellini and ending with Verdi. In Lucca we performed Puccini, even more inspired after a lunch featuring the pasta, vegetables and pungent olive oil he loved so much. In Nice we offered a program of French mélodies and opera, from Fauré and Gounod to Duparc and G. Charpentier. Finally, our Barcelona program, in an intimate 18th century Palau (Palazzo or Palace), ranged from Spanish-inspired opera (Carmen) to Spanish song (Rodrigo), and Picasso-influenced Poulenc to Sondheim's droll duet, "Barcelona."

With the exception of the venue in Nice (a beautiful recital hall with a huge fresco of the Mediterranean shadowing the stage we'd visited last year), each of the venues was an awe-inspiring surprise.

The Museo Deocesano in Naples is in a restored church and like many of the sites in Naples, a fascinating repository of history. The presbytery is adorned with an early Solimena fresco, and it is flanked by the last works of Giordano. "Backstage" is an artistic and archeological history of the city (Naples is next to Vesuvius and the famed ruins of Pompeii).

I just finished a year-end letter to friends of the Chorale. In it I talk about dissonance, a driving force in all art, and one I happen to love. Though the immediate associations it conjures are negative, like Schoenberg, I am obsessed with the liberation of dissonance. Unlike Schoenberg, I think music with some grounding in tonality is still the way forward. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, dissonance--discord, tension, conflict--drives drama. The TV shows, films, operas and plays we love would be flat without it. Painting would be reduced to monochromatic wall-paper and even minimalist music (from Glass to Pärt) would have to simplify its vocabulary.

In architecture, nearly every cathedral, chapel or church one visits in Europe is full of stylistic dissonances. The Deocesano in Naples was one of many. Baroque art in a Romanesque sanctuary with a classical facade housing ancient ruins. Talk about identity issues, madonna!

The churches in Rome we visited all featured these fascinating and stimulating juxtapositions. The off-the-main path Chiesa di Santi Apostoli featured a fascinating frescoed dome with disciples literally falling down into the church. The flat facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva belies the riches inside: Fra Angelico is buried there, Michelangelo's bold sculpture of "Christ Bearing the Cross" flanks the altar, all under an electric blue ceiling that looks like it was painted in the 80's. The strange boldness of Minerva (the largest or oldest Gothic church in Rome?) is reinforced by Bernini's amusing little elephant statue in the piazza outside (from which you can see the ancient coptic dome of the Pantheon, which needs no additional art to embody the thesis of architectural discord. The structure itself is an example of tension in harmony).

From the Egyptian obelisks to the Greco-Roman pillars, St Peter's (AKA: the Vatican) is the lodestar. And it is worth the trip. From the bullet-proof-glass-protected Pieta (Michelangelo's masterpiece sculpture that blurs the line between humanism and religion) to the radiant golden stained-glass dove above the altar, this is the mother of all churches. It is no surprise lapsed Catholics from around the globe renew their faith with a mere drop of its holy water. Salute per aqua comes in many forms indeed.

Crossing the legendary--if not holy--river Tiber one encounters the imposing Castel Sant'Angelo. If the name rings a bell, the ancient Papal fortress (with a secret underground passage to the Vatican) is where the final act of Puccini's Tosca takes place. It is the setting where Cavaradossi sings the elegiac "E lucevan le stelle." This favorite among tenor arias is both a heart-rending farewell to life and a foreboding introduction to one of the swiftest acts in all of opera. Tosca ends just a few minutes later when the diva hurls herself from the castle's parapets. And she thought she was headed to Civitavecchia for some spa time.

Via per mar (Away by the sea)
Liberi! (Free)
Va, Tosca (Go, Tosca).

These waters rejuvenate. Stimulate.
Sing again of a life of art and love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Travel Journal: The Symphony of Nature

La Sinfonia della Natura was the poetic name of a wonderful exhibit in Rome of landscape painting that traced the evolution of Impressionism from Corot to Monet.

It was a welcome counterweight to the Hallmark store cliches Monet's gardens and lilies have become. What would the card-makers make of the abstract "Path of the Roses" from 1920, where impressionism is obliterated on the road to abstract expressionism?

Of the many delights of the show was the discovery of Guillaumin, another impressionist whose technique approaches the pointillism of Pissarro & Seurat.

One section of the show emphasized another facet of artists' engagement with modernity and technology. "Realism and Photography: Nature as a Vital Force" was a reminder that the tension between tradition and innovation is age-old.

Another happy hour of discovery for this amateur of painting was found in the miniatures of Bonheur. The tiniest patch of blue sky illuminates the otherwise charcoal gray canvas of his "Volcano," a vivid example of the essential power of color.

The titles of Mr Goodhour's paintings appear in the lower corners of his detailed canvases. Like postage stamps on the picture side and in the wrong place they command attention on their own. Another reminder of art as representation, the work as object.

The path from Courbet and Corot to Cézanne appears to be a clear one.

The former's striking "L'onda" (Waves) from 1870, reminds one of the visionary worlds of Turner and Homer.

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz (there's a name!) rendered the "lovely, dark and deep" woods of Fontainebleu beautifully. In addition to the opening of Verdi's epic Don Carlo, the dense, chiaroscuro landscape evoked the wilderness of James Fenimoore Cooper. I would not have been surprised to meet a Mohican inside.

The pinks and lavenders of Guillaumin's "La Senna a Rouen" were representative of the brilliant hues of the show's middle section, "The New Harmony of Impressionism."

The final part of the show, "Nature as the Ideal Refuge" wed philosophy to the poetry and music the paintings joined in polyphony.

Listening to Goldschmidt's expressionist "Mediterranean Songs" later that afternoon evoked the canvasses we'd just left. Shelley's "green and purple seaweed strewn" could have inspired Monet's late series of Water Lilies (rendered even more evocative in Italian: Ninfe).

The green and purple--aqua and violet, to be more precise--accompanied the lapis lazuli in "Armonia in blu" (Harmony in Blue). I wonder if Miles Davis liked Monet? Goldschmidt? Shelley?

The symphony of nature continued throughout our Mediterranean Voyage.

One of the composers whose music played as frequently as any during this trip was my beloved Hans Werner Henze. I listened to his myth-inspired-water-music-tone-poem Barcarola several times.

It is characteristic of his work since 1980. No less dense--even more thickly scored & multi-layered--than his work from the first 30 years of his career (he is still composing into his 80's), his textures are generously varied, evocative, and often unabashedly romantic in gesture.

This barcarolle evokes Charon's journey across the river Styx to Hades. The music narrates the journey, from the stark opening (bass drum and brass) to the vanishing mist at its end (filaments of string harmonics). Henze's music is always colorfully atmospheric. A trumpet blast recalls the Venetian Baroque with the gesture of a fanfare. The twinkling whisper of a harpsichord reinforces the antiquity of this world. The episodic bursts of energy from various instrument groups resemble a concerto for orchestra and place us back firmly in the 20th century. The paired thirds of cascading wind and brass duets have a Janus-faced quality, befitting to any traveler on Charon's boat, leaving the shore of the world for the unknown beyond. It is a strange and unpredictable world, and one well-worth the 20' the dramatic musical journey takes.

Like the mediterranean which inspired its composer, this is music that engages the senses. It is alternately exciting, haunting, and beautiful. It is rarely still and never dull.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sonnets for a dark Angel (1973-2010)

I did not check my email from June 1 to June 10. When our recital tour ended in Barcelona and I began the first of two days off there I learned the tragic news via the surreal medium of Facebook that my dear friend, Angel Oramas, took his life the week before. A memorial service was held that very day at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, where he was a long-time member of the Opera Company. In his honor and memory, we lifted our first glass of Cava and savored the bittersweet herbs of Mediterranean tapas at an unassumingly chic cafe in the L'Eixample neighborhood.

Angel and I become fast friends upon my arrival at Westminster Choir College in the fall of 1993. For the ensuing three years, we built a friendship that would nurture, challenge, provoke and enrich us both. For those few years, he was one of my best friends. We knew each other's stories, shared many meals and spent many a night talking about music, poetry and art. We also engaged in quite a bit of gossip and shared a dry, cutting sense of humor edged by sarcasm and tinged with melancholy.

We gradually lost touch after we both left Princeton, and reunited virtually, as fate would have it, on Facebook. The last thread of conversation we had online was a year or so ago, when another mutual friend took his life. The messages and tributes on Angel's FB page tell you more than an obituary could, and are abundant testimony to what a dear artist, friend and man he was, and will remain.

One of the poets we loved and shared was Federico Garcia Lorca. A victim of Franco's conservative & fascist regime, Lorca was murdered in 1936 (about the same age of my friend, in fact). Lorca, in addition to being a "degenerate" gay man, was an outspoken Republican--ie: liberal--and to make matters worse, he couldn't leave well enough alone in his poetry and plays, either. Lorca's remark about theater, in the last year of his brief life could well apply to Angel:

"Poetry that rises from the book and becomes human enough to talk and shout, weep and despair."

Lorca's Sonetas del amor oscura (Sonnets of Dark Love) are among the most beautiful--and least read in the wider sense--of his poems. Here is one of our favorites:

Llagas de amor

Esta luz, esta fuego que devora,
este paisaje gris que me rodea,
este dolor por una sola idea,
esta angusta de cielo, mundo y hora,

este llanto de sangre que decora
lira sin pulso ya, lúbrica tea,
este peso del mar que me golpea,
este alacrán que por mi pecho mora,

son guirnalda de amore, cama de herido,
donde sin sueño, sueño tu presencia
entre las ruinas di mi pecho hundido.

Y aunque busco la cumbre de prudencia
me da tu corazón valle tendido
con cicuta y pasión de amarga ciencia.

(Wounds of Love)

This light, this fire that devours,
this gray landscape that surrounds me,
this pain that comes from one idea,
this anguish of the sky, the earth, the hour,

and this lament of blood that decorates
a pulseless lyre, a lascivious torch,
this burden of the sea that beats upon me,
this scorpion that dwells within my breast

are all a wreath of love, bed of one wounded,
where, sleepless, I dream of your presence
amid the ruins of my fallen breast.

And though I seek the summit of discretion,
your heart gives me a valley spread below
with hemlock and passion of bitter wisdom.

(from Selected Verse, ed. by Christopher Maurer
translated by John K. Walsh and Francisco Aragon,
publ. byFarrar, Straus, Giroux)

Angel was one of the first friends who believed in me: not just as a singer or conductor or "creative type" but as an artist. And I will never forget that or him. I will always remember my speechless surprise when he asked me to write a song cycle for his senior recital the upcoming year. The three Sonnets to Orpheus settings of Rilke I wrote expressly for Angel, are still my favorite among the two dozen works I've considered worth saving. The last of the three is as fitting a tribute as I can imagine. Here is the English version, from the classic Norton edition of the Sonnets, first published in 1942.

Silent friend of the many distances,
feel how your breath is still increasing space.
Among the beams of the dark belfries let
yourself ring out. What feeds on you

will grow strong upon this nourishment.
Be conversant with transformation.
From what experience have you suffered most?
Is drinking bitter to you, turn to wine.

Be, in this immeasurable night,
magic power at your senses' crossroad,
be the meaning of the strange encounter.

And if the earthly has forgotten you,
say to the still earth: I flow.
To the rapid water speak: I am.

(from Sonnets to Orpheus;
Rainer Maria Rilke
transl. by M.D. Herton Norton)

Rest in peace.
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Temperament: A not-quite travel guide...

I love flying. I never get tired of aerial views. Would anyone disagree that the two best ways to see the sun rise or set are by the sea and in the air? In addition to the undiminishing romanticism such vistas hold for me, I love long flights for the uninterrupted stretch of reading time they offer.

We just returned from a 13-day recital tour of the Mediterranean region, beginning in Rome and ending in Barcelona. I will write about the voyage and the experiences of singing Neapolitan songs and opera in Naples, surrounded by Giordano and Solimena frescoes, singing Puccini in the church in Lucca where he was baptized and later played the organ, and other adventures. Soon.

But first I want to write about temperament.

Stuart Isacoff's engaging little book on that subject (Temperament: The Idea that Solved Music's Greatest Riddle. Knopf, 2001), has been sitting on my shelf awaiting such an airborne reading opportunity since I acquired it in 2002.

He deftly navigates the historical worlds of music, philosophy, mathematics, religion and myth in a book devoted to the evolution of the tuning system that ultimately led to the equal-tempered scale in use for most Western music written since Bach's time.

Indeed, Bach's keyboard masterpiece, The Well-Tempered Clavier was directly influenced by the myth-inspired work from 1715 of Johann Fischer, Ariadne Musica. Like Ariadne's mythological thread which Theseus used to find his way out of the labyrinth after slaying the minotaur, Fischer's work snakes its way through the series of keys by exploiting the chromatic possibilities of the newly emergent tonal system.

(Enquiring readers are referred to earlier posts below for more cryptic connections on Ariadne, Labyrinths, myth and art. For more info on tonality and the history of tuning systems, Isacoff's book is an excellent point of departure).

One of my favorite young composers is British-bred, New York City-based Tarik O'Regan. The first series of a cappella works of his I explored were the three motets from Sequence for St Wulfstan (the Chorale performed the middle motet, O vera digna hostia last spring).

One can be forgiven for assuming that same Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, was also Wulfstan, the former Cantor of Winchester. Wulfstans are everywhere in medieval England. The former was one of at least two Wulfstan II's. So, be pleased to know the latter Wulfstan, Cantor of Winchester, was among the first to stop his ears as 70 men pumped air through the 400 pipes of the newly built organ of Winchester Cathedral, which first bellowed and resounded throughout the city of the same name near the end of the 10th century (before either Wulfstan II was allegedly born).

The development of keyboard instruments played a not uncertain (though not uncomplicated) role in the labyrinthine road of temperament that winded from Winchester across the Channel, around the Continent and across several seas in the ensuing centuries.

As late as the early 20th century, the eminent, droll conductor Sir Thomas Beecham would describe the well-tempered timbre of the harpsichord as sounding like two skeletons copulating on top of a roof. Conductors all aspire to the stand-up comedy stage or the pulpit. Or both.

Leonardo da Vinci is another important player in our multi-disciplined drama. Artist & scientist, poet & musician, the visionary discoverer was interested in "the shaping of the invisible." Let not such metaphysical rhetoric disguise his absolute commitment to discipline.

"Artists who practice without science are like sailors without a compass."

Every student of every age and trade does well to remember such advice in the lifelong quest to master (and then maintain) technique. This requires a certain temperament.

The multivalent uses of this word ("It's a verb! It's a noun! It's a gerund!") are another reason every reader of the English language should have at least the abridged ("Shorter") edition of the O.E.D. (Oxford English Dictionary).

"Temper" appears on p.3202 (6th edition of the Shorter OED). After 11 definitions of the noun and 15 of the verb (and examples via quotes from actual historical usage), the next entry is tempera ("ORIGIN Italian, in pingere a tempera paint in distemper").

Isacoff also mentions the French tempérer (to mix ingredients), the Olde English temprion (to regulate) and among many others, the original Latin's temperamentum variant meaning "to instill peace."

Josquin des Prez was among the earliest of composers to go on record against a performer's predilection for improvisation. With choleric temper, he complains to one such interpreter:

"You ass, if you wish to improve on finished compositions, make your own, but leave mine unimproved."

Isacoff's book is worth the read for such anecdotes alone. One of Whitman's quotes he cites could apply to the dance his book performs, "scooting obliquely high and low."

Galileo is one of the great Renaissance artists to challenge--and temper--the status quo allegiance to religious dogma. Such blind temperance was anathema to Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and other dissident visionaries (Ingrid Rowland's excellent Giordano Bruno: Philospher, Heretic didn't make it to the shelf until I'd read it, two days after its arrival. I first encountered Bruno in the modern-day Renaissance Mensch Hans Werner Henze's cantata Novae de Infinito Laudes. Bruno's 16th c. poetry, an ecstatic vision of unity and infinity, is the libretto for Henze's 20th c. oratorio).

The line between temperate and temperamental, as we understand it, is evident in Galileo's incisive credo:

"I do not believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use."

Galileo, Bruno, da Vinci and company forged the way forward to what we aptly call the Enlightenment. Are our own schools still teaching this history? This literature? This science? This art?

On the way to the Enlightenment, Rousseau described what everyone who's ever experienced the joy of unbridled singing knows:

"Melody imitates the accents of language but has 100 times more energy than speech itself."

Descartes proclaimed cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am).

Canto ergo sum. I sing therefore I am.

The "Renaissance Man" was so-called because his curiosity took him in apparently divergent directions. The resulting life-well-lived of adventure and discovery (via the intellectual and aesthetic challenges of making connections) is a primary conduit of those experiences we deem meaningful.

"The great merging" of these connections and the unity of knowledge common to both the Cartesian and Taoist worlds still emanate like echoing vibrations across time and space.

The inextricably bound solar systems of music, poetry and art, unlike Ariadne's spool of thread, cannot be unwound.

We may tamper with all means of temperament.
Temper our temperamental tempers with reason, rhetoric or religion.
But our temperatures are always temperable when creativity is temperative.

Vissi d'arte.
Vissi d'amore.

Et saecula saeculorum...