Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Music of Paderewski and Gorecki in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Marcin Szerle.

In early January 2018, I was honored by an invitation to present two Polish composers at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Polish American Historical Association. At the Awards Ceremony held on January 6, 2018 at the Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Piotr Wilczek, I discussed "Poland 1918-2018: Remembering Ignacy Jan Paderewski" and quoted many poems written for the great pianist composer. The full text of this speech is reproduced on my Chopin with Cherries blog, so there is no reason to reproduce the whole here.

Vintage postcard of "Improwizacya" - Paderewski playing Chopin. early 1900s.

During, the reading, I was accompanied by Paderewski himself, from a CD of piano roll recordings, played on a modern Steinway, and professionally recorded. The Minuet, Melodie, Legende, and Nocturne written by Paderewski were followed by two Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, and provided the shifting moods for the recitation of lofty and ardent poems (though a bit old-fashioned to modern ears) written by luminaries of  American culture.

To decorate the stage for my Paderewski and Poland's presentation, I unrolled two piano rolls by Paderewski, one with his portrait and a copy of his signature - and fixed them in place with a box of vintage Paderewski postcards, chocolate gold coins, and some jewels. This was to symbolize the multiple types of "gold" associated with the pianist of "gold-red" hair... and riches collected through his music and given away to charitable and patriotic causes... The piano rolls are very original stage decoration... and you can find lots of them on eBay!


Paderewski piano rolls and vintage postcards- stage setting for the poetry presentation.

 How Paderewski Plays 
by Richard Watson Gilder (1906)


I.
If words were perfume, color, wild desire;
If poet's song were fire
That burned to blood in purple-pulsing veins;
If with a bird-like trill the moments throbbed to hours;
If summer's rains
Turned drop by drop to shy, sweet, maiden flowers;
If God made flowers with light and music in them,
And saddened hearts could win them;
If loosened petals touched the ground
With a caressing sound;
If love's eyes uttered word
No listening lover e'er before had heard;
If silent thoughts spake with a bugle's voice;
If flame passed into song and cried, "Rejoice, rejoice!"
If words could picture life's hopes, heaven's eclipse
When the last kiss has fallen on dying eyes and lips;
If all of mortal woe
Struck on one heart with breathless blow by blow;
If melody were tears and tears were starry gleams
That shone in evening's amethystine dreams;
Ah, yes, if notes were stars, each star a different hue,
Trembling to earth in dew;
Or, of the boreal pulsings, rose and white,
Made majestic music in the night;
If all the orbs lost in the light of day
In the deep silent blue began their harps to play;
And when, in frightening skies the lightnings flashed
And storm-clouds crashed,
If every stroke of light and sound were excess of beauty;
If human syllables could e'er refashion
that fierce electric passion;
If ever art could image (as were the poet's duty)
The grieving, and the rapture, and the thunder
Of that keen hour of wonder, -
That light as if of heaven, that blackness as of hell, -
How Paderewski Plays than might I dare to tell.


II.
How the great master played! And was it he
Or some disembodied spirit which had rushed
From silence into singing; and had crushed
Into one startled hour a life's felicity,
And highest bliss of knowledge—that all life, grief, wrong,
Turn at the last to beauty and to song!
Paderewski's contacts with Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909) resulted from the latter's long-lasting friendship with the Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska. Gilder, the editor of the Century Magazine, published numerous volumes of poetry and that many of his poems dealt with other arts, painting, acting, and music.  The Polish pianist became a good friend of the poet, considering Gilder's house to be his "real home during those first years in America." There, Paderewski had the opportunity to meet Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie, among other members of American societyGilder was also among the first Americans creating the myth of the Archangel Paderewski, a spiritual genius.


For some reason, I have not been able to write anything about Paderewski. I think I have been angry with him for destroying his compositional talent and career to serve a political cause, of restoring Poland's sovereignty. Finally, urged by my colleagues at PAHA, I penned a short ditty:



Maja Trochimczyk recites Paderewski-themed poetry, Photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Wilczek, January 6, 2018.


Paderewski in Gold
 by Maja Trochimczyk (2018)

Gold halo of curls on his portraits
Gold crowns of Polish kings above his keyboard
Gold riches in his bank account
Gold heart beneath it all
 
The gleam of a gold ring on his finger
The gleam of brilliance in his eyes
The gleam of fame bright around him
Gold heart beneath it all

The dream of making music in his youth 
The dream of happiness at his prime
The dream of free Poland on concert stages
Gold heart beneath it all

Made of gold, making gold, pure gold
of  kindness - Paderewski  the immortal 
asks us to love music, love Poland 
and to always follow his noble path of gold
January 6, 2018
(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk


Maja Trochimczyk reciting Paderewski-themed poems, photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of Poland's Ambassador, Prof. Wilczek, Washington, D.C. January 6, 2018.


My second presentation was a paper on "The Myth of the Third Symphony: Gorecki in California" presented on January 5, 2018 during a PAHA session on Americans on Poland. I I discuss this presentation and my "Gorecki in Context" book on the Moonrise Press Blog.

Photo by Marcin Szerle

The presentation focused on the performance history of the Third Symphony Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (composed in 1976, world-famous since the Nonesuch recording of 1992, and conducted by Gorecki himself in Los Angeles).  The author organized his visit and ensured that the composer, who was not thrilled about metropolitan performances, but rather interested in small-town ambience of "ordinary people" was comfortable and able to express his unique musical vision.  Among other aspects of the Third Symphony, its use of the lullaby as an expressive and melodic model was pointed out and illustrated by singing the Polish lullabies. 

The lullabies are characterized with limited melodic outlines, reduced to three or two notes, slow repeated motion, that may be associated with rocking a baby to sleep. The step-wise semitonal motion in Bzi-bzi-bzibziana is cited in the strings in the opening of the Third Movement of the Third Symphony. It is the same rocking motion that underlies the movement of trauma victims, calming themselves by rocking back and forth, to recover from shock by returning to the state of ultimate comfort, being held in the mother's arms. The same slow, steady motion is of walking in a funeral procession - these associations co-exist in a unique way drawing from universal human archetypes, to form a music that appeals to everyone, everywhere... 

Photo by Marcin Szerle






Friday, December 22, 2017

After the Solstice - Happy Holidays and Best Wishes

shadows and light-rays
intertwined in a lace 
of togetherness

Sometimes we have to pass through the nadir of darkness to emerge into light, on the other side... We had our share of stressful events here in Southern California this year,  the Year of Total Eclipse, especially recently, with the La Tuna Fire in September and the Creek Fire in December. Both fires devastated our open spaces, hillside habitat, and destroyed quite a few houses, too.  Sadly, lots of animals died in both fires, and some animals moved: sighting of bobcats increased in our neighborhood since La Tuna Fire, probably because they lived in Verdugo Hills, covered with green bushes and trees even in the driest of summers, with lots of water and shade and food for the beautiful and dangerous cats...

through ash, through dead leaves
in search of a new home 
a bobcat walks

But then, there is light that casts no shadow, and shines straight in us, through us. I wish all of us, poets, and poetry lovers, to revel in such unique, clear, uplifting light on the holy days and through the next year. Let it be the Year of Light, the Year of peace and beauty.  I wish you all happiness and blessings. I wish...

a new world -
petals open and fade
my rose blossoms

Words have a lot of power and we know that what we say makes an imprint on reality, not only on the internal life, but also the reality around. How many people remember a harsh word, a label, a slur, from their childhood? How many words did we utter we'd rather not, in hindsight?  How many people curse others only have that curse reflected by the mirror of the Universe and came down upon them in unexpected and unexplained calamity? Or, the opposite, how many times do we say something sweet and nice, and a couple of hours later hear these lovely worlds reflected back to us, from someone different?
With Susan Rogers, the giver of Light, November 11, 2017

The Spiritual Quartet in an Easter Garden (Susan Rogers, Lois P. Jones, Ambika Talwar)

Someone sent me the following "decree" of St. Germain - from a fascinating collection of life-changing, and inspirational texts that are more orders, telling the world what it should be like, than prayers, begging for help... I like them a lot, and this one, in particular is a good choice to start, given the Polish background - in Poland, complaining is a national sport! 

“BELOVED MIGHTY I AM PRESENCE”! You stand guard over my tongue, and never let me speak words of criticism, condemnation, judgment, or blame of any person, place, condition, or thing! Reach down Your Hand and withdraw all substance of criticism, condemnation, judgment, blame, or other human qualities with which I have charged into my being and world! Consume it all in The Cosmic Violet Consuming Flame and Saint Germain’s Spiral Blue Flame; then Stand Guard and see that I do not requalify any more of Your Pure Energy flowing through my being and world. "ALMIGHTY I AM”! (3)

Let us, then, use our words wisely, to the benefit of our own en-Light-enment and for the illumination of the world around us. Let us be the candles in the windows, the stars that shine bright up high. Let us radiate pure joy, peace, and tranquility. Let us fill our  hearts with the love that forgives all and understands all, and does not need to say anything, for it is, just is, always is and will be, as it never dies and never changes. And So Be It and So It Is...

Here are my Christmas and New Year Wishes for 2018:

Scarlet - for loving heart
Emerald - for peaceful mind
Diamond - for clear insight
Here are the rose jewels for
Happy Holidays and New Year! 


I spent some time with my poetry books this year, updating two books, and working on things that are still unfinished. For those who would like to see what  I have written, here are the links and covers:


















Thursday, November 9, 2017

On Oaks, Maples, Gold Leaves and Angel Wings


When you travel you try to be in two places at the same time, where you live and where you are a guest. The timelines split and you enter the wonderful country of what if... 

Ujazdowski Park in Warsaw, Maple Tree.

In my recent travels to Poland I spent some days in Warsaw, walking through its wonderful parks, admiring the ancient trees, and then a week in Krakow, where the Old Town is surrounded by Planty - a park built in place of city walls and its moat.


In Warsaw I visited the Orthodox cemetery where my parents are buried. They both loved picking leaves in the park on Sundays in autumn. And the trees around the tombstones are full of birds singing, talking to each other... And the breeze flutters in the treetops... And it is quiet, and tranquil, and all is well...A place of reflection and rest. No wonder Poles especially Polish widows spend so much time in cemeteries!


and here we are
with bouquets of bronze leaves
timeless in sunlight


I spent most of Sunday and Monday  in October wandering around my beloved Warsaw - Pola Mokotowskie (Pilsudski Park) and Park Ujazdowski with the Paderewski Monument, and the Old Town, were the highlights of course....

striped with shadows
gold oak leaves get ready
for winter

I called those leaves "real oak leaves" and my son said, what do you mean, Mom, so California oaks are not real? Not in the same way, to me. Of course beautiful, especially when you see them, dark green and perfectly shaped, outlined against the gold grass... but the colors are reversed in Poland where the grass is always green (or covered with snow) and oaks reach for the glory of the Sun in their majestic golds and bronzes... 

no, we will not go -
said the leaves on one oak tree
in November


my oak leaves
turn sunny gold and bronze 
before first snowfall   

a blur of gold leaves
waits for the chilling wind - 
end of summer

so above as below
gold on the ground,  gold in the sky - 
last days of autumn

all made of gold -
I drink pure sunlight 
at noon

red, bronze and gold 
paint steps into bareness - 
last days of freedom

I witness it all - 
tragedies and joys pass  by  
under my branches

my path of treasures
no time to pick them all - 
an autumn rainbow


do leaves exist for
branches or branches for leaves?
there's no answer


many winters
one war after another -
the one to last

maple bright, maple right
paints the blue sky 
day and night

gold maple leaves  - 
uncounted on twisted branches,
explained by sunlight

Apparently at the end of the 19th century Krakow had such bad climate, it was Poland's capital for tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases, so the City Council made a bold decision, protested by many, including the famous painter Jan Matejko. But history had to give in to health, and the walls were taken out, moats were filled and trees planted, now ancient and surrounding the city with a beautiful green or gold ring. . .



Autumn Wings

A blue-winged pink angel
landed on my desk with a flutter, left one
soft white feather and disappeared
with a smile suspended in mid-air
like the Cheshire Cat.

I’m Alice in Wonderland,
as I wander and wonder,
bewildered by the beauty
of gold leaves under my feet,
mystique of sunrays piercing the fog
patiently filling spaces between 
church towers and ancient 
maple trees receding into silence.

Swish – swish –  the angel’s wings
above me. Swish – swish – 
crumbling leaves mark every step
as I walk through the golden park – 
its beauty unnoticed by passersby
rushing to appointments, parties.
Yet, this glory will sustain us.
This is what is – I stop to breathe in 
the scent of autumn leaves 
and last pale roses faintly disappearing 
into the silence of sleep

marked by the flutter of wings, 
blue wings of my brown-eyed angel.
Shy, demure, he looks down at his feet,
bare toes sticking out under  the pink  robe.
Oh, what delightful noise they would make
when he walked between the massive 
oaks, shrouded by the evening mist

swish – swish – swish  –
now and forever
swish –swish – swish – 


September in Krakow, 2017




And now, that we are in angelic realms, let's read one more angelic poem:

     Just One Secret

      Are you born of untold darkness?
      Are you a child of light?

     When was the last time
     you saw an angel in Hollywood?
     Awesome, majestic,
     dressed in light and ten feet tall?
     With rainbow wings
     perhaps, and a diamond crown?

     This gentle brightness
     is here to guide you
     hover above, guard your back - 
     It casts no shadow so you see
     clearly each turn and pitfall
     on your path.

     This is no faith, no hope,
     just plain knowledge - 
     look all around you,
     open your eyes -

    There is one beside the Superman
    another one above Snow White
    with too much makeup 
    Batman goes hand in hand  
    with his invisible winged twin

    An archangel watches over
    Darth Vader n a tattered cloak
    (in case the light saber is real)
    and a clown cannot shake off
    a flock of putti that giggle
    while pulling on his top hat.

    Cherubs, Seraphim
    with six wings, halos - 
    pure, luminescent
    dazzling and brilliant

    they simply ARE!





There is yet another "angel" poem that I posted here in December 2015 after coming back from Paris, "An Invitation to the Dance" (see http://poetrylaurels.blogspot.com/2015/12/on-polish-christmas-in-paris-at-notre.html). It was officially published in the Altadena Poetry Review 2016, and then reprinted in the Poetry and Dance II anthology in 2017.  It will also appear in the new version of Rose Always - A Love Story, where it belongs.



Monday, October 2, 2017

On La Tuna Fire and the End of the World as It Was


dragon eye of the sun
looks at the scorched earth -
wildfire 

Do charcoal hills scorched by wildfire make you think of the end of the world? Of return and rebirth, dust to dust, light into light? The sun is surreal, reduced by smoke to one, red eye... I lived through two wild wildfires in my Sunland neighborhood, the Station Fire of 2009 that burned down most of Los Angeles National Forest and surrounded us in our little city on all sides, and the La Tuna Fire of 2017 that burned the Verdugo Hills and the peaks and canyons on both sides of the 210 freeway. Only four houses were destroyed this time ("only" - tell it to the four families that lost everything!) and no lives were taken. But still... the black bare slopes remain.



charcoal on the left
charcoal on the right -
210 after fire

It could have been much worse, if not for bravery and endless work of over 1,000 firemen from the entire Southern California region. When I went swimming on Monday, I ran into firemen from Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Montecito, Lompoc...They came to the pool to have a shower. Maybe they were called late to tame down the ever growing monster, spreading in four directions at once, maybe they did not see much action, still they were there to protect us.


 


 

flames dance and scorch
firemen dance with water among them
our hearts dance to thank them

Their bravery and dedication is beyond doubt - but, in fact, expected. They are all owed our unbounded gratitude, fire after fire, year after year. They risk their lives to protect ours.

 What was the greatest surprise for me in the La Tuna Fire was the bravery of about ten ordinary citizens who instead of sheltering in their homes, opted to save the cultural gem of the foothills, the McGroarty Arts Center on the slopes adjoining to the area that first started burning and continued through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with flareups on Monday. 

Willow Bosco and her mother Austina, McGroarty Board member, stayed at the Center overnight; Willow, a delicate young student, with remarkable strength handled the hose, soaking the Center's roof and walls, and all the nearby trees with water. Volunteer firefighter Bill Myers brought the extra long hoses and used them, working along with other volunteers, whom I met on Sunday afternoon, to soak burning trees on Saturday and ensure that all vegetation and ground were thoroughly wet to prevent further flareups on Sunday. The fire came down the hill and some trees in the park surrounding the Center burst into flames. We were perilously close to losing this cultural landmark, the home of the former poet laureate of California, John Steven McGroarty. The flareups were extinguished thanks to heroic efforts of Willow, Austina, Bill and many others whose names I did not get... 

Ray Yocum, ceramics teacher was a fireman for three days.

Willow Bosco took out fires with water


Ray Yocum and Willow Bosco rest after two long days of fire-fighting.

Bill Meyers and Michelle Ramage
he  says  he "only brought the hose"
she that "only came with food"


Austina and Willow Bosco
Austina says she did not do  it, just the neighbors
and her beautiful, brave daughter

they smile, relieved
after red-black days of fighting fires -
they saved the foothills' gem  

Thank you to the heroes and heroines of the McGroarty Arts Center! Willow and Austina Bosco, Ray Yocum, Michelle Ramage from the McGroarty Arts Center, and the MAC's neighbors: Bill Meyers, Kenny Webb, Ben Grupp, Will Meyers, Chris Hall, and Curtis Cunningham.

Where was I? In my pomegranate and rose garden, editing a book, looking at clouds of smoke, watching the helicopters flying above every minute, back and forth, with water for the fire, and packing my personal music and poetry archive. Lots of manuscripts, early prints, signed books, letters, the family photo archives of my parents. So many suitcase of paper.



red bird in the sky
brings blue water to red flames
for victory of blue 

Paper, not gold. My jewelry was stolen earlier, half of it, at least... along with my real camera, photo backup drive, family heirlooms, and more. For the whole week I was searching through, checking the losses, so the fire was not the threat that it seems to have been. Clothes and electronics can be replaced, but who will repaint an artwork that took Toti O'Brien 18 years to make? Square by square, drawn and embroidered, it came into being to adorn my wall...




Sweet Relief by Toti O'Brien and its author.

treasure on my wall
eighteen years in the making - 
sweet relief

Such is life in the foothills in dry, fire-prone California: waiting for the next wildfire, packing precious documents to be saved in case the flames come too close, hoping that this one and the next one will pass us by... And admiring the mountains, or rather the bare hills and canyons, covered with the velvet of green grass in the spring, with the velvet of gold grass in the rest of the year.

I wrote several poems about these mountains, and here's an older one. 



Mountain Watch

They are a bit vain, aren’t they
these mountains of ours, still young.
They like being washed by the rain,
making themselves pretty for sunset.
Wet soil turns into a mudbath 
for these giant beauties.

When they stretch and practice
their dance moves, our houses crumble.
Water jumps out of toilet bowls.
Aunt Rosie’s favorite crystal vase
shatters on the floor. The mountains
shake boulders out of their skirts,
lose weight. Rocks slide into our backyards.

We stand watch. We are ready.
Neighbor calls neighbor: “Are you OK?” 
A friend you did not know you had
stops by. The danger looms. 

In ancient Rome, guards had to hold
one hand up, with the finger on their lips
in a sign of silence, attention. I read
about it in a book, standing on my shelf,
in a crowded row of treasures
I hauled across the ocean, from the 
old country to an unknown world.
I’d hate losing them to mud.

When the mountains dress in red
robes of fire, to dance in the night
rites of destruction, sometimes 
it is too late for treasures. An old man 
lost a hundred years of memories, 
when his family heirlooms –
pictures, tchotchkes – burned to ashes. 
His life spared, he still cries for what
he cannot not bring back. 

We are lucky. Storms came and went. 
The neighbors lived, the houses survived.
We were ready: moved out, moved in, 
moved out, moved in, awakened 
at midnight, sheltered by the goodwill 
of unknown friends. We watched. 
The storms passed. This was a good year.
We will watch. The aging beauties 
will dance again.


(c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk
http://poetrylaurels.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-praise-awe-of-mountains.html



I did not write that many poems about the end of the world, though I've been fascinated with disaster movies for a while, especially 2012, showing how the fabric of this world may be rolled back and unrolled again, in a different configuration. There are ends of the world happening on this Earth all the time, at all times. Every day, every time someone dies, it is the end of this world for that one person. And, sometimes, almost the end of the world for the people around them. 



A purple anemone of mourning
life and death, hurricanes and earthquakes -
the spark, the heart, survives

And what about the hurricanes that flatten whole islands? Tsunamis that wash villages and cities away? Earthquakes that fold tall buildings into stacks of pancakes? Or crazy people shooting innocents to scare the rest of us into submission, into slavery?  Yes, there are plenty of the ends of the world every minute.



Elijah's End


And the curtains of fire opened. 
And God walks through.
And I fall on my knees
Struck down by the might
Of his presence.

And the ground under my feet
Roars and trembles.
And God is with me.

In awe, I do not dare to look
Into the laughing beauty of his eyes.
And the gale changes into a breeze.
And God speaks in a whisper,
Sweetly announcing
The end of the world as it was.

And the sun stops in its tracks.
And the world explodes.
Filled with love, so much love,
It could not bear existing
For one more minute.

— now it ends --
— now it blossoms --
— now it grows again --


(C) by Maja Trochimczyk. Published in Into Light, http://www.moonrisepress.com/into-light-by-maja-trochimczyk.html




Easter Apocalypsis

—After "The Discovery of Heaven" by Harry Mulisch


It is coming. The angels know.
They dwell in their Piranesi castles,
twisted spaces where outside
is inside. They are not indifferent.
Not too smart for their own good.
Not cruel. They don't tell us.

The end is coming, it is near.
Not death, mind you, not that
ugly spinster without its twin.
No. The end of the end. Finis.
The satin fabric of a wedding dress
trails behind the veiled beauty
as she glides towards her beloved.

The river's end tastes of salt
in its own mouth, opened widely
into the waves of the ocean.
Nothing we can do will stop it.
Just stretch your fingers,
let the water cool your skin.

Why resist? Heraclitus
dipped his toes in this river.
Shape-note singers praised it.
Saints dove in and swam around,
luxuriating in incandescent glories
that passed us by.

The end is coming, flowing
swiftly down the slopes.
Let's sit on the porch, doze off
in honeyed sunlight,
before it, too, disappears,
transfigured.

Let us believe there will be
light enough inside us
—that kindling of kindness,
a half-forgotten smile—
to keep us afloat in the final flood
coming, coming to erase the world
and remake it, anew,

bejeweled.


(C) By Maja Trochimczyk, published in The Scream Online http://www.thescreamonline.com/poetry/poetry7-4/trochimczyk.html