Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas and New Year after the Winter Solstice - The End of Kali Yuga, the Age of Aquarius (Vol. 11, No. 3)

           

We have passed through the eye of the needle, and emerged on the other side, victorious. Congratulations to all Lovers, Lightworkers, and People of Good Will! On December 21, 2020,  the planets Jupiter and Saturn entered into a conjunction that made their light appear as a bright Star of Bethlehem, last seen 800 years ago, and supposedly seen at  Christmas... 

This Winter Solstice also marks a monumental cosmic event: the old era of chaos and destruction ended. We entered into the glorious waters of the Age of Aquarius. We are on our trajectory to a Thousand Years of Peace. Or so, I read, and decided to believe. Why not? Much better vision of the future than the alternative... 

I celebrated this momentous transition with a new poem:




The Star of Christmas, The Way of Light


Jupiter and Saturn became one. Bright
orange gold merged with deep blue purple
into a diamond white Bethlehem star.
A solstice miracle.

We saw it through the telescope
in the neighbors’ driveway.

The cross on the hilltop is flooded with light.
A Christian beacon, a sea lantern on the shores
of receding darkness. The end of Kali Yuga,
the twisted age of chaos and destruction.

We look at it from the safety of our bed - 
limbs intertwined, after interstellar flights
through galaxies of affection.

The portal opens. The way back
irrevocably closes. From the Zero Point
of no return, we step into the Age of Aquarius.
my Winter Solstice poem comes to life. 

Togetherness, acceptance carry us
on ultraviolet waves into 
the ultramarine infinity 
of one true love.

Our ascent is punctuated by bursts
of belly laughter, flavored 
with the sweetness of winter tangerines, 
dissolving into the pure intensity 
of childlike joy - rediscovered 
at the threshold of the Golden Age, 
embroidered on the fabric
of the Thousand Years of Peace. 

(C) December  21, 2020  by Maja Trochimczyk




Well, technically speaking we are still deep within the Kali Yuga that lasts for 432,000 years, has begun 5,121 years ago and will end in the year 428,899. But we can end it sooner in our own lives if we want to bring peace, prosperity, happiness, kindness, gratitude, love and light into this world, ourselves and all around us... 

According to  the ancient prophecies of Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the last avatar of Lord Vishnu will descend as Kalki to destroy the effects of Kali and Satya Yuga will begin. There are four eras starting from the Golden Age, Satya Yuga, followed by Treta, Dvapara, and Kali Yugas. As we have seen so far, during the Kali Yuga, "religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day" and "wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power." In contrast, in Satya Yuga, the age of goodness, all virtues will triumph and people will live long, in peace and happiness. https://vedicfeed.com/the-symptoms-of-kaliyuga-ancient-hindu-predictions/



As for the Age of the Aquarius, it follows the Age of Pisces, or Christian Fish, and some say will start in 2024, while others claim it already started in 1957, or in 2000. In the hippie musical "Hair" there is a song celebrating its arrival. It all has to do with the "precession of the equinoxes" an astronomical phenomenon caused by the curious rotation of the Earth with its axis at an angle; while going through the 12 signs of the Zodiac during 25,868 years, it stays in each sign for 2,155.67 years. If the Age of the Pisces started in the year 1 of our times, we still have 135.67 years to go... In other words, nobody knows anything...

In any case, Christmas followed the Winter Solstice and a Christmas poem should also make an appearance. This one is a repeat from 2015, when I still spent my Christmas alone, with small kids with their Dad in Canada... I figured out how to not feel lonely, but rather grateful for all the amazing gifts of peace and well-being in my garden. 

            

Music Box Christmas


I wind the spring on the music box.
Silvery specks swirl in the snow globe.

 The twinkling of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” fills the air

Santa on the rooftop falls into the chimney.

Are you ready for the holidays?  With Scottish whisky cake

Polish makowiec, American apple pie? Will you cook

Tamales on Christmas Eve, your family gathered

Around steaming pots, laughter mixed with hearty flavors?

Will you roast turkey with fixings on Christmas Day?

Will you nibble slices of chocolate oranges, after unwrapping gifts,

Will you taste walnuts and sesame snaps from your stockings?

I wind the spring on the music box.
Silvery specks swirl in the snow globe.
Memories of home swirl before me.

I make cranberry sauce with pears and apples

The way my Mom taught me. Do I still know

How to chop figs and dates into finely ground poppy seeds

Boiled in milk, re-fried with honey? The favorite flavors of childhood,

Float away with Ogiński’s polonaise, Farewell to the Homeland.

Under blazing sun of California, I still taste the exotic desserts

Of Poland’s eastern borderlands, where cultures mixed

And worlds mingled – Poles, Lithuanians, Tartars, Jews –

Cornflower blue skies, shimmering gold of rye fields.

I wind the spring on the music box.
Silvery specks swirl in the snow globe.
I make a promise to myself I will not break.

This Christmas, I’ll read a novel, wrapped in a plush red blanket

And a Santa hat. I will walk alone in the park, come back

To the empty house and watch The Lord of the Rings,

The epic battles of the elements, good versus evil,

Good versus evil  - twirling and waltzing - the silvery specks

Dance in the snow globe. I sing along “We wish you

A Merry Christmas”  thinking of the Christmas play

My daughter an Angel waving a green pine bough

Singing, in a sweet chorus of children’s voices:

“We swish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”


© 2015 by Maja Trochimczyk


Finally, the most important news is the most timeless. Whether in this age or the next, whether at Christmas alone or with family, we are a rain of diamond light on this planet. Let's shine! 




A Diamond Miracle


I live on a planet

where it rains diamonds

on red-gold leaves of myrtle tree

under the azure – sky so alive that it breathes

and vibrates in the distance.

 

Look up! See the cosmic sigh?

 

I live on a planet

where it rains diamonds.

Water droplets shine in sunlight

scattered on pine needles and broad leaves

of the bird of paradise, stretching, stretching,

growing until orange blossoms alight amidst the foliage

like a flock of birds, copper flames in jade.

 

On my planet, western bluebirds,

Finches, and doves drink from the fountain.

They fly away when the scrub jay comes to take a bath,

dip his head into the crystal pool and shake diamond droplets

down his back.

 

On my planet, hummingbirds hum

suspended in the air by red hibiscus flowers.

Mockingbirds mock the tune of my alarm clock

at four a.m. and sing the songs of red wing blackbirds

that pass through on the way to Mexico or Canada

resting in the garden, then moving on.

 

My planet, where it rains diamonds,

breathes and vibrates with wave after wave

of energy that spins into life forms, growing, decaying,

returning – the endless ocean of live diamonds

that multiply and sparkle in the sun.

 

Would you like to be a diamond with me?

 

(C) November 2020 by Maja Trochimczyk



Happy New Year of Peace, Prosperity and Diamond Light! 





Friday, November 20, 2020

Farewell to Elizabeth Zapolska, President of Szymanowska Society in Paris (Vol. 11, No. 2)


After a turmoil in the world and hiatus on this blog, we return to Chopin and Szymanowska to say our farewells to a wonderful music historian, singer, culture promoter, and friend, Elisabeth Zapolska-Chapelle who died after a brief illness on September 26, 2020.  She was busy  to the last minute collecting articles for a book to be published in French with the most outstanding papers presented during the Szymanowska- A Woman of Europe international symposia, held in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
 
Zapolska and Prof. Irena Poniatowska review books at the first Szymanowska Symposium 2011.

According to the Szymanowska Society website, Elisabeth Zapolska was a Polish opera singer (mezzo-soprano) and philologist, based in France, long engaged in the promotion of Polish culture and female authors. She was the President of the Maria Szymanowska Society founded in Paris on her initiative in 2009, the was the author and driving force of the project Maria Szymanowska ( 1789-1831 ), a Woman of Europe, including many lectures, concerts, and three international symposia. In 2011, in a world premiere with Bart van Oort - on a 1825 Broadwood piano - she recorded Ballades and Romances by Maria Szymanowska (CD published by Acte Préalable). I had the pleasure of providing English translations to some of the texts, including Historical Chants by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. 

Zapolska's last interview appeared on the portal culture.pl, conducted in August 2020 and published in October 2020.

https://culture.pl/en/article/elisabeth-zapolska-chapelle-women-composers-worked-in-isolation

Portrait of Maria Szymanowska in Naples, with Vesuvius erupting outside the window, 1825,
Polish Library in Paris. 

Societe Maria Szymanowska, founded in Paris on 14 December 2009 on the initiative of Elisabeth Zapolska Chapelle, declared on 30 January 2010 in the French “Journal Officiel” had the purpose to "promote the figure of Maria Szymanowska, and creative women." The honorary committee included the following scholars and artists: Prof. Irena Poniatowska - President, Agata Preyzner, Monique Stalens, Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, and Thierry Pied.

 http://www.maria-szymanowska.eu/societe-maria-szymanowska-en

Elizabeth Zapolska with Dr. Maria Smolarzewicz of Poland, 
at the Polish Academy of Sciences during a break in the Conference, 2015.


Poster from a 2013 Concert of the series, Szymanowska - A Woman of Europe

Maria Szymanowska - a Woman of Europe

The international project, Maria Szymanowska (1789 – 1831), a Woman of Europe was carried out by the Maria Szymanowska Society in collaboration with its private and institutional partners, thanks to funds collected since 2011. Its ambition has been to promote the figure of Maria Szymanowska, one of the first female professional musicians in Europe, to highlight her modernity and her role in the history of the status of women. 

Poster from the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium

The project thus intended to draw the attention of researchers, artists and a wide-ranging public to the emblematic character of Maria Szymanowska. European before the creation of the term, she was modern in her desire to override cultural, religious and geopolitical differences, in her search for personal and professional fulfillment, her constant preoccupation with effectiveness and development.

Participants of the 2011 Szymanowska Symposium.

The First International Symposium « Maria Szymanowska and her times» took place on 30 September 2011 - The Polish Historic and Literary Society in Paris, and 1 October 2011 at The Polish Academy of Sciences' Research Center in Paris. During the Symposium, attendees could visit a special Exhibition, "The composer Maria Szymanowska ( 1789-1831 ) in the collections of the Polish Historic and Literary Society/ Polish Library in Paris" at the Polish Library. The events took place under the patronage of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. 

Maja Trochimczyk at the Szymanowska Exhibition in Polish Library.

  • Irena Poniatowska (The F.Chopin Institute, Warsaw) : Maria Szymanowska, grande dame de la musique polonaise
  • Jean Pierre Armengaud (The University of Evry) : Le style et le toucher pianistique de Maria Szymanowska
  • Anna Czarnocka (The Polish Historic and Literary Society in Paris) : Maria Szymanowska et la Société Historique et Littéraire Polonaise
  • Adam Gałkowski (The University of Warsaw) : La Famille Wolowski, ses origines, son histoire
  • Elena Grechanaya (The University of Orléans) : La sociabilité russe à l'époque de Maria Szymanowska
  • Florence Launay (Mannheim) : Sophie Gail (1775-1819), compositrice sous l'Empire et la Restauration
  • Maria Rose van Epenhuysen The City University of New York) : Hélène de Montgeroult (1764-1836), a Woman of the Revolution
  • Ewa Talma-Davous (Paris) : Maria Szymanowska et Pierre Baillot, une amitié musicale
  • Maja Trochimczyk (Los Angeles) : On Genius and the Virtues of “Sense and Sensibility” in the Image of Maria Szymanowska
  • Benjamin Vogel (Swedish Society for Musicology) : The pianoforte of Maria Szymanowska

Selected papers were published in the 2012 (vol.XIV) Annual Journal of the Polish Academy of Sciences Research Centre in Paris (http://www.academie-polonaise.org/pl/).

I wrote a report and posted it on this blog:

http://chopinwithcherries.blogspot.com/2011/11/on-szymanowska-and-chopin-in-paris.html

http://chopinwithcherries.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-maria-szymanowska-in-paris.html

Participants of the Second Szymanowska Symposium, 2014.

The second International Symposium « Maria Szymanowska and her times » under the patronage of the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, took place in Paris, on  Monday 28 April, and Tuesday 29 April 2014 at the Scientific Centre of the PAS (74, rue Lauriston, Paris 16e).

Audience of the 2014 Symposium, Polish Academy of Sciences, Paris.

♦ Irena Poniatowska – The F.Chopin Institute, Warsaw, Lumières et décadence de la musique de salon au XIXe siècle

♦ Karen Benedicte Busk-Jepsen – Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, A for Amity, Admiration and Attachment. On the Neglected Contact between Maria Szymanowska and Bertel Thorvaldsen

♦ Halina Goldberg – Indiana University, Bloomington, The Topos of Memory in the Albums of Maria Szymanowska and Helena Szymanowska-Malewska 

♦ Anna Kijas - University of Connecticut, Storrs, Szymanowska Scholarship: Ideas for Access and Discovery through Collaborative Research

♦ Maria Stolarzewicz - Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Weimar-Iena, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's connections to Maria Szymanowska and her sister Kazimiera Wołowska

♦ Maja Trochimczyk - University of Southern California, Los Angeles, History in Song: Maria Szymanowska and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's Spiewy Historyczne

♦ Piotr Daszkiewicz - Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, Humboldt, Cuvier, Jarocki et les autres - les naturalistes et les salons artistiques au temps de Maria Szymanowska

♦ Adam Gałkowski – University of Warsaw, Femmes de talent, femmes d’action au temps de Maria Szymanowska

♦ Hubert Kowalski – University of Warsaw, Legacy of Thorvaldsen in nineteenth-century Warsaw

♦ Jerzy Miziołek – University of Warsaw, Artistic culture of Warsaw in the time of Maria Szymanowska and Frederic Chopin

♦ Benjamin Vogel – Swedish Society for Musicology, Lund, Piano – the main atraction of the Polish and Russian drawing rooms during the Maria Szymanowska time

♦ Jean-Marc Warszawski – Paris, Mutations, mouvements, évolution dans le monde de la musique au temps de Maria Szymanowska

Moderator: Elisabeth Zapolska-Chapelle (Maria Szymanowska Society, Paris)


Elizabeth Zapolska in conversation with Irena Poniatowska and Benjamin Vogel, 2014.

The Symposium was organized by the Maria Szymanowska Society & the Scientific Centre of the PAS, together with their partners: Polish Academy of Sciences, Polish Institute in Paris, Polish Historic and Literary Society/ Polish Library in Paris, Air Franc & KLM Global Meeting, Polish Music Information Centre & musicologie.org .

The texts of the Symposium were published in the 2014 (vol.XVI) Annual Journal of the Polish Academy of Sciences Centre in Paris.

Elizabeth Zapolska with Prof. Miziolek and Maja Trochimczyk, 2014.

Audience at the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium.

The Third International Symposium "Maria Szymanowska and her times" entitled "Talents of Women: myths and reality" took place from 25 to 27 November 2015 at the Paris Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (74, rue Lauriston, Paris 16e) under the honorary patronage of the Polish Ambassador in France, His Excellency Andrzej Byrt.

Participants: Valérie COSSY (Lausanne) - Jérôme DORIVAL (Lyon) – Helen GEYER (Weimar) - Irène MINDER-JEANNERET (Bern) - Françoise PITT-RIVERS (Paris) - Irena PONIATOWSKA (Warsaw) - Maria STOLARZEWICZ (Weimar) - Maja TROCHIMCZYK (Los Angeles) - Jean-Marc WARSZAWSKI (Paris)

Moderator: Elisabeth ZAPOLSKA-CHAPELLE (Paris)


Guest artists: Ekaterina GLAZOVSKAYA - Marcia HADJIMARKOS - Claudia Dafne SEVILLA CARRION - Petra SOMLAI - Françoise TILLARD - Edoardo TORBIANELLI - Bart VAN OORT – Elisabeth ZAPOLSKA

Fortepiano: Johann Alois GRAFF in Wien 1825 (collection Petra SOMLAI & Bart VAN OORT, NL)

Participants of the 2015 Szymanowska Symposium

Elizabeth Zapolska with Irena Poniatowska, 2015 Symposium.

Papers:

 ♦ Helen GEYER, The four women conservatories of Venice : models of life, rivalry and outstanding examples of quality

♦ Valérie COSSY, Du « talent » pour demoiselle à l'expression de soi : la musique selon Isabelle de Charrière et Jane Austen

♦ Maja TROCHIMCZYK, Szymanowska in the Circle of Duchess Maria Czartoryska de Wittemberg

♦  Françoise PITT-RIVERS, Madame Vigée Le Brun, Angelica Kauffmann, deux peintres musiciennes

♦ Jérôme DORIVAL, Influence d’Hélène de Montgeroult sur la génération romantique, avec l’aimable participation de Marcia HADJIMARKOS, piano 

♦ Jean-Marc WARSZAWSKI, Musiciennes au temps de Maria Szymanowska : un contrepoint d’inégalités et de préjugés

♦ Irena PONIATOWSKA, Etudes et Préludes de Maria Szymanowska : leur apport dans l'art pianistique européen des premières décennies du XIXe  siècle

♦ Maria STOLARZEWICZ, History of a musical friendship : Michał Kleofas Oginski & Maria Szymanowska

♦ Irène MINDER-JEANNERET, Entre cosmopolitisme et patriotisme : les « airs nationaux » dans les compositions de Caroline Boissier-Butini (1786-1836)

♦ Salon musical de clôture : Invite à la danse

Elizabeth Poniatowska with Maja Trochimczyk and conference participant, 2015.

The Symposium was organized by the Maria Szymanowska Society & the Paris Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Partners: Polish Embassy in Paris, Polish Institute in Paris, Polish Library in Paris, Société Française de Musicologie, musicologie.org, Pro Saeculo XVIII° – Societas Helvetica, POLMIC, CID - Femmes, Fondazione Adkins Chiti Donne in Musica, Furore Verlag,  Moonrise Press, AIR FRANCE & KLM Global Meetings.

My reports from this conference are posted on the Chopin with Cherries blog:

http://chopinwithcherries.blogspot.com/2015/12/discovering-womens-music-at-maria.html

http://chopinwithcherries.blogspot.com/2015/11/maria-szymanowska-for-third-time-in.html


Maja Trochimczyk in conversation with Irena Poniatowska, 2015

I had a distinct pleasure to be invited to speak at all three symposia and to spend three wonderful weeks in Paris, luxuriating in the cultural atmosphere of the great European center of culture, learning about Maria Szymanowska and other women composers, researching her life and works at the Polish Library, and enjoying the friendship of Elizabeth Zapolska. We met in 2010 when she contacted me by email - searching for scholars and researchers who had worked on Maria Szymanowska, she found me in California to invite me to the first symposium in Paris in 2011.  I had previously edited Six Romances for publication and published articles about Szymanowska's Songs (in Slawomir Dobrzanski's book on Szymanowska), and careers of women composers. 


Participants of the Third Symposium, 2015

Thanks to the inspiration by Elizabeth, I wrote three papers on new topics - the first one centered on the creation of image of the Queen of Tones in Szymanowska's portraits, fashions, and behavior that earned her admission to aristocratic palaces across Europe and the title of the Court Pianist to the Tsarinas. Then, I focused on Szymanowska's contribution to Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's monumental Spiewy Historyczne / Historical Chants, and the role of this opus in the history and culture of Poland.  I presented this paper during the second symposium in 2014. Finally, continuing the research on Spiewy Historyczne I focused on the circle of Polish aristocratic women centered around Maria Czartoryska de Wittemberg, who was Szymanowska's patron and friend, and who was the main inspiration for Niemcewicz's collection of patriotic historical chants. Elizabeth encouraged me to explore these new areas of Polish cultural history, focusing on the role of women as culture creators, sponsors, and promoters.  I'm truly grateful for her insights, energy, and talents.


Szymanowska Symposium Participants, 2015

Elizabeth Zapolska also greatly appreciated my poetry. In fact, my brief bio on the Szymanowska Society website reads "a musicologist and fascinatingly creative poet, she has long been involved in the promotion of Polish culture in the United States, particularly Polish music and female authors." I was given an opportunity to present my newly written and older poems during the artistic salons that culminated each symposium with musical and poetic presentations by the participants, and with a general discussion of the conclusions of the conferences.  I wrote new poems specifically for the conference and read them in English and Polish. Alas, I still do not speak French!


Elizabeth Zapolska at the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015

Artistic Salon at the end of the Third Symposium, 2015

Participants of the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015.


Reading poetry at the Artistic Salon at the Third Szymanowska Symposium, 2015


I'll end this brief commemoration of the amazing artistic and organizational achievements of Elizabeth Zapolska Chappelle with two poems of mine, written for her symposium and published elsewhere...
Since the title of the final symposium in 2015 was all about the dance, I wrote a cheerful poem about the joy of dancing. 


An Invitation to the Dance

And the angels are dancing.

Did you say dancing? Yes, dancing. Making somersaults  
and jumping two hundred yards in the air.

Air? Are they here? I thought they lived in infinity, 
Or eternity, or the great beyond, or whatchamacalit.
No. Here. They are laughing their heads off.  Giggling, 
smiling, smirking, guffawing. Laughing.

What’s so funny? Nic. Nada. Naught. It is just that they are so happy.
So incredibly,  exorbitantly, blissfully happy.

Why?  Oh, because of that quirky thing from the country song.

What thing? Don’t you know? Have you not heard
that love conquers all?  That love triumphs 
over lies, fear, anger, shame and despair? 
That it is? Love is. True love. Our love…

It blossoms in us, through us. 
It opens its petals.  The world is more tranquil, 
serene in the luminescence of our love.
New stars are born and cherries are sweeter when we 
are together, immersed in this love. When we 
find it. Return to it. Share it. Cherish it. When we 
are not giving up. No matter what. No matter how hard.
No matter how late.  It is soo simple, very simple.
Impossible? Yet, it is here to stay.

So what about these angels, then…
Oh, yes. Would you like to go dancing with the angels? 
Boogie-woogie, waltz, tango or salsa?

Maja Trochimczyk

Published in Altadena Poetry Review 2016, edited by Thelma T. Reyna.

Lady with an Ermine, Cecilia Gallerani, by Leonardo
Czartoryski Museum, Krakow, on deposit at the National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

Lady with an Ermine

              after Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, 
              in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland


Her eyes follow me around the room
with that secretive smile she shares
with her famous cousin.

Filled with the knowledge of what was, what will be
she slowly caresses the smooth warm ermine fur.

Tesoro, amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo*

Leonardo’s brush made a space for her to inhabit,
a grey-blue sky painted black much later –
she was pregnant, her son – a Sforza bastard,
the white ermine – the emblem of her Duke.

Sheltered by Polish royalty, she revealed
her charms only to their closest confidantes.
In 1830, exiled in a precious wood box, to Paris,
In 1919, returned to taste the Polish freedom.

Amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo

In 1939, hidden again, found by the Nazis
for Hitler’s last dream, the Linz Führermuseum,
Art among red flags and swastikas, flourishing
in the dark cavern of his mind. Never built.

Berlin, occupied Krakow, Governor Frank’s
hunting lodge, Bavaria. The Red Army’s closing in.
Train tracks. Crisp winter air. American soldiers,
The cameras of Monument Men.

Sii tranquillo, ti amo

Back home in Krakow, she is safe
in the recess of a museum wall. Under a muted spotlight,
Children play a game: walk briskly from right to left,
don’t let your eyes leave her eyes, see how she is watching you.

Her eyes follow me around the room
Filled with the knowledge of what was, what will be
she slowly caresses the smooth warm ermine fur.
She knows that I know that she knows.

Amore mio, ti amo


* Tesoro, amore mio, sii tranquillo, ti amo – fragment of a love letter in Italian, “Sweetheart, my love, be quiet, I love you”

© Maja Trochimczyk, 2015, published on 

http://www.maryevans.com/poetryblog.php?post_id=7032.



I'm sure that all other participants in Elizabeth's Szymanowska Symposia in Paris are as grateful for her energy, kindness, talent to inspire and connect others.  We are all so grateful for our own Queen of Tones (to paraphrase a phrase from Adam Mickiewicz's poem about Szymanowska). She was with us for a short time, and with boundless energy brought us all together, opening new horizons, and new ways of hearing, performing and perceiving music of the romantic times, and the most modern romantic of two centuries, Maria Szymanowska. 




Thank you, Elizabeth for all your love of music, poetry, women composers, especially Maria Szymanowska, and thank you for such incredible work bringing together researchers, musicians, and audiences, and promoting the wonderful music that you loved.











Monday, April 13, 2020

The Forest Piano - The Magic of Chopin's Music in Japan, Anime-Style (Vol. 11, No. 1)

Kai Ichinose arrives in Warsaw's Park and visits Chopin Monument, Episode 9

The more challenging, personal, inspirational, and sensational the music and persona of Chopin have become, the greater number of Chopins arose, many of these idols ending up in the dustbin of history.
Most scholars have agreed that Chopin is a Polish composer, even if they spell his first name Frederic, as he spelled it in Paris, where this son of a French teacher living in Russian occupied Poland spent most of his years, wrote most of his music, and died at 39 in 1849. What made Chopin Polish has been furiously debated in the 170 years after his death. What made him world-famous, and why pianists around the globe are now intensely practicing his etudes, sonatas, polonaises and mazurkas?


I recently came across an amazing TV series of animated shorts, The Forest  of Piano, Piano no Mori, telling a story of a boy from the red-light district in Japan who grows up to be a charismatic classical pianist and perform at the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland.  It is yet another testimony to the importance of Chopin's music in East Asia - I previously saw Korean and Chinese TV series set in music schools, with Chopin featuring prominently among the pieces played by young students. It is quite heart-warming to see Poland's national treasure so venerated in Japan!

It has been quite fascinating to leave one's own world and look at it from outside, as a guest born and raised in another culture. The animated anime series is based on an extensive series of manga books published in Japan. As the Fan Page of the series explains: "Piano no Mori (ハルチカ) is a manga by Makoto Isshiki. It was serialized by Kodansha from 1998 to 2015, initially in Young Magazine Uppers before transferring to Weekly Morning. Serialization is irregular, and went on hiatus in 2002 before resuming in 2006. The series ended after 26 bound volumes." The list is copied below. The writer was supposedly inspired by seeing Stanislaw Bunin win the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1985 and this event inspired him to delve into the world of classical pianists, competitions, and the importance of romantic piano music in contemporary life.


The anime series is not the first visual interpretation of the story. It was first made into a film by Masayuki Kojima in 2007 (or 2005), with the title Piano Forest. In 2018, its anime version was broadcast for the first time, entitled Piano no Mori: The Perfect World of Kai (ピアノの森) produced by Gainax in Fukushima and shown on April 9 2018 on NHK. The anime series had 12 episodes in the first part and was purchased by Netflix, with streaming rights for the series worldwide (The Forest of Piano is the Netflix title of the series).


Kai escapes from his apartment down the tree into the forest, Episode 1

There  are two seasons so far, both of 12 episodes, and my report is based on the first season that I watched on Netflix with great interest and the second season that has been available on DVD. While inferior in some ways to the original 12-episode series, it was also interesting, despite its faults, such as somewhat sloppy animation and graphic design. These aspects  did not bother me so much, since the setting was my beloved Warsaw, its National Philharmonic, the Chopin Academy of Music (now Chopin University of Music, where I got one of my Masters' degrees), its beautiful old town, and parks... I also loved the magical forest where the neglected, lonely boy found a magical piano and learned to play it.


Let's quote the Fan Page again: "Piano no Mori is a story that follows Kai Ichinose, a boy who lives in the red light district but escapes at night to play the piano in the forest. Shūhei Amamiya, the grade-school son of a professional pianist, transfers to Moriwaki Elementary, Kai's elementary school. But it doesn't take long before Shuhei is picked on by the class bullies, and gets involved in a dare to play the mysterious piano in the forest, leading to his meeting with Kai, who seems to be the only one capable of getting sound out of the thought-to-be broken piano. Kai's ability earns him the respect of Shuhei and his music teacher, former master pianist Sōsuke Ajino. Both Shuhei and Ajino try to get Kai to take proper piano lessons, but Kai is at first resistant to refining his piano-playing technique. However, after hearing Sosuke play a Chopin piece he just can't seem to play himself, he relents."

The piano piece that so delights Kai is, as far as I remember, Chopin's "Minute" Waltz op. 64, No. 1. I have not found its recording by Vladimir Ashkenazy, the pianist that performed all the different interpretations of Chopin in the series, but I found its delightful twin, my favorite Chopin's waltz, Op. 64, No. 2 in C-sharp Minor:  https://youtu.be/j8_DjYyZIoo

The Forest Piano,  still from the 2007 film by Masayuki Kojima

The  whole series follows the trajectory of self-discovery and growth to full self-awareness and mastery, what Jung would call "individuation" and Joseph Campbell "the Hero's Journey."  It is beautifully outlined in this masterly series, bringing high-art to the masses in a way few other animated series have done. Perhaps, the magic comes entirely from the story written out by Makoto Isshiki, inspired by the life story of the winner of the Chopin Competition of 1985, Stanislaw Bunin.  I have not read those volumes yet, though some have been published in English translation.

Kai and his friend and later rival, Shuhei in the forest, 2007 version.

But then, that story had only images, no music - and it is a great asset of the anime series that Chopin's works are remarkably well performed by the virtuoso Vladimir Askenazy, one of the most renowned and respected Chopin pianists of our time. He is able to portray the stumbling, awkward performances by students; the brash, loud performances by aspiring virtuosos; and the exaggerated rubato in romantic renditions of Chopin by some misguided youth. He also captures the whole range of boring, mechanical, and interrupted performances by diligent young pianists of diverse ability. These vignettes last for a minute or sometimes just thirty seconds, but we can clearly tell which one of the pianists is gifted. It is quite clear, that Kai and some others are truly inspired and play Chopin as "their own" and fully embodied "Chopin."  As one anime-reviewer stated: "I was pleasantly surprised by how carefully the performances were presented. When characters had meltdowns on stage, they actually made mistakes in a believable fashion: practically unnoticeable to the untrained ear, but wildly obvious to people familiar with the pieces."

The music plays an exceedingly important role in the series, from the first Chopin piece (the Minute Waltz, if I'm not mistaken) that Kai hears his teacher play and, convinced by the master's ability to do what he could not do himself without practice, decides to formally study the piano. Kai is a child prodigy with a natural talent of a magnitude rarely encountered in the concert hall, but without much formal education, technique, or proper work habits. Gradually, he learns to appreciate his own gifts, and learns to look within for inspirations instead of copying others.

Kai arrives at the Warsaw Philharmonic for the competition

He starts winning local competitions and is finally sent to compete in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, held every five years. This is the most important and prestigious international competitions dedicated to Chopin's music, so Kai is both thrilled and anxious about participating.  Among young musicians there is one of formidable technical ability who reproduces interpretations of Chopin based on old recordings by Kai's teacher Ajino, without any individuality at all - but then, his purpose is to win, not to play music for music's sake, or to express his own musical individuality.  Ashkenazy is able to make his performances inspiring, powerful and extremely dynamic.  The series features many fragments of Chopin's Etudes,  which due to their short spans are suitable for use on the screen, like the Etude Op. 10 No. 1 in C- Major - here played by Ashkenazy in a film about him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsyGQYnvkMc.  Other musical excerpts come from works by Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, and Dvorak, so it is not all Chopin, all the time.

Similarly to the competing young man, an aloof and hostile youth filled with anger and a passion for winning at all cost, Kai's friends and frenemies are much more competitive than Kai himself. All they want is to WIN, and their backstories show the abuse and false ambitions bestowed on them by their parents or teachers. Some of these world-famous teachers who guide or misguide the youngsters care only about winning and thus break the individuality and character of their young charges, often with traumatic results. Other music professors, however, truly love the music, creativity and charismatic interpretations that touch everyone profoundly and leave a lasting impression. It is thanks to their support and recognition of his unique talent, that Kai goes on to winning the entire Competition.  This is a major feat and a start of an international career, connected to lucrative financial rewards, recording contracts, concert tours, and more. But he does it for the music, to express his individuality through music. Thus, his win, after such humble start, is completely justified.

Kai at the Warsaw Philharmonic, Episode 9

In the process of reaching the top, Kai has to learn to trust himself, and to not look to others, not to compare himself with privileged and well-educated students, that come from entirely different background. He also has to conquer his inner demons, find the self of a world famous virtuoso underneath the fears of a neglected and abused boy, who found a magic piano in the forest where he escaped to hide his tears from his poor, suffering mother... Listening to and playing music is a huge help in this journey of self-discovery towards becoming a mature, confident artist, whose technical prowess is matched by the uniqueness of his interpretation and the depth of expression. There are many errors Kai makes when he doubts himself and compares himself to others. It is only when Kai returns, in spirit, to playing as if he were still in the misty forest of his childhood, that he finally is able to truly touch the hearts and souls of his audiences and win the competition. The reward is not given for the speed of fingers moving on the keyboard, it is not given for the talent to charm and bedazzle - it is given for understanding that music speaks from the heart to the heart, and for being able to make the piano speak this language of intuition and extra-sensory perception, the music of the forest piano. Impeccable technique is a condition sine qua non, of course.

Grown-up Kai plays while remembering childhood, Episode 12

The animation is the most successful, to my mind, in creating these moments of magic, where the light rays filtered by the trees appear in the concert hall, where mists arise from the keyboard, and magic fills the screen. This magic of a shared experience of being transported into a virtual space of hearing and feeling things that cannot be properly described, as these impressions are completely beyond words is the essence of classical music world, the reason for performing and attending concerts.  Here, music inhabits, as Rainer Maria Rilke masterfully expressed it, the "heart-space" -

An die Musik

Musik: Atem der Statuen. Vielleicht:
Stille der Bilder. Du Sprache wo Sprachen
enden. Du Zeit
die senkrecht steht auf der Richtung
vergehender Herzen.

Gefühle zu wem? O du der Gefühle
Wandlung in was?— in hörbare Landschaft.
Du Fremde: Musik. Du uns entwachsener
Herzraum. Innigstes unser,
das, uns übersteigend, hinausdrängt,—
heiliger Abschied:
da uns das Innre umsteht
als geübteste Ferne, als andre
Seite der Luft:
rein,
riesig
nicht mehr bewohnbar.

To Music

Music. The breathing of statues. Perhaps:
The quiet of images. You, language where
languages end. You, time
standing straight from the direction
of transpiring hearts.

Feelings, for whom? O, you of the feelings
changing into what?— into an audible landscape.
You stranger: music. You chamber of our heart
which has outgrown us. Our inner most self,
transcending, squeezed out,—
holy farewell:
now that the interior surrounds us
the most practiced of distances, as the other
side of the air:
pure,
enormous
no longer habitable.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, An die Musik (Munich, Jan. 11-12, 1918)
from Gedichte aus dem Nachlaß in Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2, p. 111
(E. Zinn ed. 1956)(S.H. transl.). From https://harpers.org/2009/08/rilke-to-music/


It is enough to listen to Chopin's Ballade no. 1 in G Minor  that takes a sizeable chunk of one episode to know that it is true... The many images of Kai and other pianists with eyes closed, and fingers dancing on the keyboard are a testimony to this mystique. Let's hear Vladimir Ashkenazy's version of this  deeply romantic Ballade: https://youtu.be/sXZ70ykfDn0.

The success of the series in teaching classical music to its audiences  - as something that is a natural part of life, that is not "elitist" or "weird" or "un-accessible" - stems  partly from the masterly performances of extended fragments of Chopin's works, selected and edited to fit the story. It also stems from the way it presents the various pieces by Chopin in ways that both push the narrative forward and stop to contemplate the music. The titles are announced, the general mood or genesis of each piece is explained, and its meaning for the pianist is shown in the imagery that arises from their memories and feelings. Longer works are cut down, to small vignettes showing the versatility of pianists, or their particular styles, but some shorter preludes or etudes are played in their entirety. It would be quite informative to analyze the series's and pianist's interpretations and contexts of each piece - the full scale of emotive "content" associated with various compositions, and their role in healing hidden traumas, carried into the concert hall by all competitive pianists.

At the Chopin competition in Warsaw, Episode 11

The appeal of Chopin - as the suffering pianist from a suffering country - to these traumatized and suffering teens is clear. They connect to his music through its personal voice that they adopt as their own voice. His tragic life, that ended at  the age of 39 after a prolonged illness plaguing his entire adult life, is an inspiration, and so is the history of Poland, oppressed by her neighbors.  Chopin's works express  the young pianists's own experiences, their own traumas. Only when and if the music is so intimately personalized, does it become truly authentic and worth listening to. I'd love to review specific pieces and their expressive and narrative content in this series. But would be a longer study; for now, despite its various design shortfalls and visual shortcuts (especially in the 2D segments), I would give this series an A.

I think it is so heart-warming and reassuring about the future of humanity to find a whole anime series dedicated not to killing enemies and exploding cities, left in rubble by idiot "Superheroes" - but to youth that conquer their inner demons with the help of classical music and hard work at the piano keyboard, studying music of Chopin, Mozart and other great composers of our past.

_______________________________________________

I visited the fan sites and various review sites of the series, and found, to my delight that many of the anime series viewers, predictably those with the classical music background, have shared my delight with the very existence of this series:
  • Jersey Jerry: "This has been one of the most beautiful anime I have ever seen a little unrealistic but beautiful and amazing."
  • Jennie: "I'm a victim to these music based anime. They just grab my heart strings so everything else become blurry to the point where whatever is shown i enjoy."
  • Black Sheep: "Being a pianist made me watch it from a completely different perspective and honestly, I really liked Forest Of Piano. The plot was interesting and different, and even though I myself am not a huge fan of 3D anime I understand the reason behind this choice: most of the compositions played in this anime are Chopin pieces... they have a lot of scales going on and they play at a very high speed."
  • Warvetbill: "I had high hopes when I saw this title and was surprised that I did in fact lose myself in the story, the music, and even the animation... thoroughly enjoying it! Perhaps it is because I play by ear and with heart and that I didn't have the discipline to fall inline with the structure of reading, that I identified with Kai and the frustration of monotonous exercises. I will admit that switching from drawn to cgi was a bit distracting but it was completely forgiven by what it accomplished in conjunction with the orchestration. Ultimately, I would like to think this movie would connect with others as it did with me, but I feel my own story is a unique one, like this. It is refreshing to stumble upon this little gem. It's not a huge gem, but it is a little one. The characters are endearing and the situations were interesting. I've yet to meet a pianist whom would not enjoy freedom of spirit and the connectivity to nature of playing a piano in the forest."
  • Jasper Anthony Challin: "his is the BEST, most moving, most emotional anime that I have ever seen. .... The beauty, the passion........my tears flowed and flowed, and I am proud of each tear."
  • Misaki: "THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST ANIME THAT LITERALLY NOBODY HAS NOTICED"
I have not seen the full feature film made earlier by a different filmmaker as mentioned above, so I do not have a scale to compare both interpretations of the manga series. But I am definitely delighted that such an eminent pianist, with such a profound understanding of Chopin's music agreed to participate in the TV anime series. His interpretations gave the entire series its meaning and life.


Young pianist's hands, Episode 2

More information about the characters, episodes, dates and various technical bits and pieces may be found on the fan page: https://piano-no-mori.fandom.com/wiki/

There were reviews of the cycle, from the point of view of its animation style (usually severely criticized, to the point that it seems that the reviewers object to the character development, growth and the portrayal of classical music as a supreme value rather than simply to animation mistakes):

2018 review by two anime reviewers: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/this-week-in-anime/2018-10-09/.137864

2018 review narrated with music and video fragments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPtNAsCxgQM by Isla McTear, who notes the contrast of 3D computer animation with beautiful backgrounds and the crude 2D drawings of characters, praising the 3D segments: "the animation really comes alive, the camera angles are dynamic, and the lightning makes the forest and the scenes outside it really sparkle."

2016 Review:
https://atmafunomena.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/analysis-in-retrospect-piano-no-mori-the-expressive-core/ (Analysis in Retrospect: Piano no Mori | The Expressive Core of the Piano).

2019 Review
https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/netflix-forest-of-piano-review/




 https://www.netflix.com/title/80986797

Music by: Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt
Arranged by  Harumi Fuuki

The piano album may be purchased separately:
https://www.moshimoshi-nippon.jp/106822 or
https://vgmdb.net/album/76419

LIST OF VOLUMES OF MANGA STORY

No. Japanese release date Japanese ISBN
1 November 30, 2011 ISBN 978-4-19-950274-3
2 February 13, 2012            ISBN 978-4-19-950287-3
3 September 13, 2012 ISBN 978-4-19-950305-4
4 February 13, 2013            ISBN 978-4-19-950325-2
5 June 13, 2013                   ISBN 978-4-19-950345-0
6 November 13, 2013 ISBN 978-4-19-950363-4
7 March 13, 2014                ISBN 978-4-19-950389-4
8 July 11, 2014                    ISBN 978-4-19-950404-4
9 December 13, 2014          ISBN 978-4-19-950424-2
10 May 13, 2015                 ISBN 978-4-19-950452-5
11 October 13, 2015            ISBN 978-4-19-950475-4
12 March 12, 2016              ISBN 978-4-19-950499-0
13 July 13, 2016                  ISBN 978-4-19-950519-5
14 December 13, 2016        ISBN 978-4-19-950541-6
15 July 13, 2017                  ISBN 978-4-19-950577-5
16 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
17 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
18 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
19 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
20 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
21 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
22 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
23 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
24 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
25 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4
26 December 13, 2017         ISBN 978-4-19-950602-4



The trailer for the original film from 2007.


LIST OF EPISODES OF THE ANIME SERIES, 2018

SERIES 1
Episode Title Screen Title Air Date
1 Episode 1 選ばれた手 The Chosen Hands April 9, 2018
2 Episode 2 ショパンを弾くために In Order to Play Chopin April 16, 2018
3 Episode 3 モーツァルトの遺言  Mozart's Testament April 23, 2018
4 Episode 4 一番のピアノ The Best Performance April 30, 2018
5 Episode 5 コンクールの神様 God of Competitions May 7, 2018
6 Episode 6 森のピアノ The Forest Piano May 14, 2018
7 Episode 7 再会 Reunion May 21, 2018
8 Episode 8 挑戦状 Letter of Challenge May 28, 2018
9 Episode 9 ワルシャワの胎動 Commencement at Warsaw June 4, 2018
10 Episode 10 ショパン・コンクール Chopin Competition June 11, 2018
11 Episode 11 ポーランドの新星 The New Star of Poland June 25, 2018
12 Episode 12 フォルティッシッシモ fff (Forte-fortississimo) July 2, 2018

SERIES 2 - 12 episodes on DVD