All Hallow's Eve
J. S. Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
Today I discovered something about the power of All Hallow's Eve, a.k.a. Halloween—because today, my sudden desire to write about it broke a weeks'-long writer's block. I was, if you will, released from a curse. I had hit a wall with this blog: not the music of it, but the writing of blog posts. I continued to listen to music each day, and have kept lists and notes about what I listened to: I just took an unplanned, October-long break from writing the blog posts.
But I had long planned this post for Halloween, and I woke today to discover that my aversion to writing blog posts had vanished, much like a ghost when dawn breaks. I found I wanted nothing more than to write this post and upload it before midnight.
I listened today to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It is one of the masterpieces of humanity, and that I would write that despite Hollywood's persistent attempts to appropriate it speaks to the power of the music. Sadly, it is impossible in this age for practically anyone, including me, to hear it without imagining lightning over decrepit castles inhabited by mad scientists and their hapless assistants and creations—even then, the music still thrills.
I listened to the great concert organist E. Power Biggs play it. Here is a link to the album Great Performances: Critically Acclaimed Recordings of the Basic Repertoire—The Four Great Toccatas and Fugues: E. Power Biggs:
In the early 1990s, I flew to San Francisco to see 100 of the Terracotta Warriors from China. The warriors were part of 8,000 created in 209 B.C. to guard the First Dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huang. Each warrior is unique, each different from the others. No one knows if 8,000 different soldiers sat as models for these startling, life-size creations. It is something to see them: and a day at the De Young, the museum in Golden Gate Park that hosted the visiting warriors, is worth a trip all by itself.
I stayed with my old boyfriend Mike, and my visit happened to be over Halloween. Naturally, we went to the Castro district to see the annual costume ball. Castro Street was closed to traffic and thronged with people. I was interested to see that the gay district was crowded by families who had brought their children to see the glorious costumes.
All the stores were open up and down Castro Street. I went into a bookshop, and was surprised to see stacks of hard-bound books everywhere, all of them cheap because there were so many. I picked out book after book that I wanted—until I realized what I was holding.
Here were the treasured books of all the men who had died of AIDS.
I fled the store into the crowded street. I could not find Mike. I stopped in the middle of the street to collect myself, and looked up. Standing above me on a second-floor balcony and looking down at me was Death holding his scythe.
He blew me a kiss.
I found Mike, and we got out of there. But I went back the next day for the books I had picked out. I decided that whoever had collected them would have wanted someone like me to have them. I keep them on shelves behind my desk—a two-volume David Copperfield, the 100 Poems from the Chinese and 100 Poems from the Japanese.
Here is a link to a National Geographic article about the terracotta warriors:
And here is a link to the De Young museum:
Note to Self
Now that my curse / writer's block is lifted, write posts for all of the songs I've listened to in October:
October 31—check . . .
I created "At Noone of Night," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Robert Herrick's 1648 poem "The Hag." This poem disturbs for its matter-of-factness—the hag is astride on this dangerous night that Herrick describes, where beasts do not dare leave their lares, even for food:
The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devill and shee together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’r so foule be the weather.
A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Bryars,
O’re Ditches, and Mires,
She followes the Spirit that guides now.
No Beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood;
But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On Land and on Seas,
At noone of Night are working,
The storme will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Cal’d out by the clap of the Thunder.