Robert Dick (flutes, composition) with Resonant Refractions, Concerto for Flute, Bass Flute, Strings and Percussion, live, New York, 4/2/22
I have just had a long early-morning visit from Faustina who is still carrying on selling her “ticketys” (lottery tickets) bravely and walking miles every day with them, at the age of eighty-two. First she has to have a small drink of cognac, then she advises me about what number to buy this week—it’s 2—then she tells me lots of gossip, except that I can’t understand much of it; she speaks a sort of elementary gibberish of her own, part Spanish, part English. She is carrying all her tickets and money these days in a cardboard suit-case, brown wood-grained, with a red cross on one side, and “The Little Doctor” in large print. She was also carrying a large mirror, very tarnished, in a silver frame, that someone had given her. She is going to take out the mirror and use the frame for a photograph of, first—she said—her daughter, second thought, an improvement, the “Virgin Maria . . .”
—Elizabeth Bishop (Key West, Florida), letter to Robert Lowell, November 18, 1947 (Words in Air:The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell)
Alexei Lubimov (1944-, piano), live (4/13/22, Moscow), playing, after pieces by Ukrainian composer Valentyn (aka Valentin) Silvestrov (1937-), Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) Impromptus (1827), until being interrupted by the police
“Two months ago, we announced the program, of Valentyn Silvestrov’s vocal cycle ‘Steps’ with Yana Ivanilova and the Schubert Impromptus and some lieder. It was a planned event, and was publicized normally. There was nothing dangerous about it. But, on the morning of the day of the concert, the director of the hall [Alexei Munipov] got a call—I don’t know from which authorities—and they asked him to cancel the concert. He replied that he couldn’t cancel it because it was sold out, and that there was nothing problematic or dangerous about the program.
Before the concert, [Munipov] asked me and Yana Ivanilova to speak carefully during our introductions to the pieces, without references to politics or the war. And we did so. We just explained who Silvestrov is—a very well-known composer, of course a Ukrainian composer, a famous member of the avant-garde from the 1970s and ’80s—[and talked] about ‘Steps’ and so on.
We performed ‘Steps’ with great success. Then we began the second part, with the Schubert Impromptus, which were supposed to be followed by Schubert songs. But during the end of the first Impromptu, the policeman came into the hall, and announced loudly, ‘You have to leave the hall, because we have to check for a bomb. There’s been a bomb threat.’
I immediately understood that this was a provocation and that it was fake. So I continued to play, going into the second Impromptu. And the police were waiting at the entrance of the hall. But after four minutes, they came up to me at the piano. I was worried that they would close the piano, but they didn’t. When I finished, there was great applause, and cries of ‘Bravo!’ and so on.
They said we had to stop. I asked why. They explained again that there was probably a bomb, and that they were waiting for the bomb-sniffing dogs to arrive. I asked how long it would take. They said 15 minutes. So I told the audience, ‘Please, let’s follow the procedure. We’ll stop for 15 minutes.’ Everybody understood immediately: There were no protests, no political statements. It was absolutely quiet and polite.
We left the hall, but we couldn’t go back inside. The bomb-sniffing dogs didn’t come until two hours later. The police said they were just following orders, and they obviously didn’t know the music or why they had these orders. But it was immediately obvious to us that they wanted to stop the concert because Silvestrov had spoken clearly about the war and Putin’s dictatorship in interviews. [Silvestrov is currently in Berlin.—Ed.] The authorities probably recognized the name: ‘Silvestrov means you’re against Putin and against the war.’ They probably thought his name was a dangerous anti-war symbol.
[The concert was interrupted] although Silvestrov’s pieces have been performed in this hall—just counting this hall—four times since December. He’s a famous composer, and despite his Ukrainian heritage his works are played often in [Russian] concerts of contemporary music. Even in these dangerous times.”
Every moment of life is an attempt to come to life.
—Robert Duncan (1919-1988, The New American Poetry, ed. Donald M. Allen, 1960)
Progressive Church of God in Christ Radio Choir (Maywood, Ill.), live (TV show [Jubilee Showcase]), 1975
other day, Oak Park, Ill.
Spring and All by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines—
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches—
They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind—
Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined— It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of entrance—Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken
“Until I Die,” Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2001
other day, Oak Park, Ill.
On the first day, we hid in the Mins’ka metro station with our dog, Zlata. The entire platform was covered with people. We found a little gap next to a large family with lots of children and a sick grandad who was getting sicker and sicker. Their cat kept peeing from fear and the smell was everywhere. Some people were better prepared than others: they had brought fold-up chairs, blankets, flasks of hot tea. We came with nothing, though I had started packing a bag as soon as the sound of explosions woke me up. I couldn’t solve the puzzle of what exactly you’re supposed to take with you if you might never go back to your home, or if you might die at any moment. I tried to pack my things several times, but in the end we left with our hands almost empty.