The Kafka Museum Visit

November 16, 2016

As I was reading about the route Kafka used to take everyday to school accompanied by the family chef, suddenly the strains of HaTikvah was heard. It may not be much of a surprise since Kafka was known to have wanted to make aliya, the strange thing is that barely passing 8 bars, the music deviated from what I know so well. It then became apparent that this is not the Israeli national anthem, or a remix of it.

Recalling that the music of HaTikvah was adapted from some pretty pedestrian folk tune, I went to the Wikipedia page in hope of finding some confirmation that the presently playing piece was also a derivative of the same source. There, the name Smetana struck me familiar. Wasn’t that splendid hall where I listened to that underwhelming concert inside the municipal house called Smetana Hall? – It’s probably not the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK’s fault, but my insisting in going to the concert after a whole day’s hike to blame. Now as the second movement of Smetana’s symphonic poem set, Vltava, greets me again, my hypothesis is validated. For some time, I enjoyed the discovery of the hidden links between these initially unrelated dots scattered all over my trip. But it seems to be a well known fact domestically.

Now as I think of it, isn’t it most suitable to choose this piece of music for that short film of Kafka’s Prague? On one hand, the HaTikvah-like melody alludes to his Zion heart, on the other, a Czech rendition reflects his cultural identity. By the way, this is not the only occasion where the museum designers show genius choice of music. Firstly I was met with some non-trivial ambient music in the introductory part. And close to the end in the literary analysis section, some spooky metal sounds are heard accompanying Kafka’s hand injury drawings made for his insurance company, creating a creepy absurd space. I would say the museum is quite experimental sonically and visually.

They also offered scholarly and deep interpretations for Kafka’s work, which were difficult to chew. To be honest, when I read Metamorphosis, I hardly saw anything beyond the storyline. But I’ll have plenty of chances to read between the lines now that I bought a set of three books compiling Kafka’s short stories from the museum shop – almost as impressive as the Autechre EP box that I got at the live show!

On a somewhat remotely related note, the nude with arms raised (and armpit hair exposed) by Pablo Picasso actually reminded me of George Samsa’s sister at the end of Metamorphosis, stretching herself to receive the infinite generosity from the sunshine as much as she could; her parents suddenly realize that here is a full fledged young woman ready for the future. This is not to say that I finally start to whole-heartedly appreciate that drawing. Although admittedly, Catherine’s explanation helped a lot towards that end. She says naivism tries to unlearn the academic training and focuses on the essence of what one wants to convey through childish paint strokes. In this particular drawing, I indeed starts to see the innocence, youthfulness and all the signs indicating the fresh positive, instead of singling out the grotesque squiggles supposedly representing her hair and hands. We also agreed that his intentional neglect of making her face pretty and leaving the natural underarm as is were an explicit challenge to typical modern viewers such as us, who are knowingly but irresistibly conditioned to popular media dictation of what is considered to be feminine beauty.


A Piano Recital

December 13, 2010

一身黑衣的钢琴家风度翩翩地走上台, 一手按住钢琴一边鞠躬.这让我想起原来我不是第一次听钢琴音乐会, Cathy在很多年前在当地的电视台演播厅里也表演过,也是同样的ritual. 这样陌生感就消失了很多.

第一曲是Mozart的F大调奏鸣曲. 似乎一开始还不很进入状态, 也或者是很久以前在古典音乐方面自我教育的不完善留下的后遗症–小学的时候把肖邦的作品都听熟了后, 开始听莫扎特, 还没找到感觉就被滨崎步姐姐牵走了– 后来好像Mozart的曲子一直听不懂. 走神时就会想到刚才在又黑暗又空旷的中山公园迷路的恐怖景象; 不走神的时候,很注意观看钢琴家演奏时的手法, 弹到柔板的地方就像是左右手轮流挠钢琴的痒痒.

待到第二曲的时候精神状态就变化了.按照先前的宣传,第二个曲子是Felix Mendelssohn的庄严变奏曲. 我也就这样以为着听了. 清晰的结构, 明快的气氛, 富于变幻和强有力的低音,一下子就把我吸引了, 和之前不同地, 散发出一股浪漫的味道. 心想我喜欢这个曲子. 直到最后, @tomtung 告诉我们这个不是门德尔松, 而是Brahms – Paganini Variations a minor op.35. 晕,怪不得那么长. 本来就特别期待这曲, 因为同学告诫要注意的,要是早知道的话我一定会听得更加认真.

休息的时候去买了个有背景介绍的小册子,介绍帕格尼尼主题变奏曲的时候也说"拥有浪漫主义的二重性", 看来我听得还不差.

帕格尼尼中间的高速部分,有点令人想起psychedelic trance那种层迭效果, 演奏手法很有趣. 看着Mr. Schmitt-Leonardy的手臂机械而又快速地在钢琴键盘频谱中很窄的一部分来回往复运动, 眼前不禁浮现出两个工业机械手臂对着一小块芯片,蜻蜓点水一样地加工CPU上的集成电路,两者真是一样的精确迅速.

休息结束后的三个曲目, 只能是Chopin – Sonata No.2 b-flat minor op.35最耀眼了, 随着第一个低沉的音符敲击出来, 熟悉的感觉越来越清晰, 一阵紧迫后急转直下的甜美慵懒, 还有以前就觉得很有创意的左手的肃杀和右手的优美的奇异组合, 现场流淌出来的声波和很久以前就存入脑海中的那个音符序列建立了一一映射, 然后和那时伴随着存入的感受产生共鸣, 快乐真是挡也挡不住.

就像在clubbing的时候听到4年或者10年前的经典时候大家就会无比感动,感动到要一边热泪盈眶一边高举双手欢呼一样, 听到古典音乐中的经典曲目也是一样的效应啊. 只是在音乐厅里可要表现节制了!

小时候一直分不清楚这是几个曲子, 还一直以为到了葬礼进行曲就是另外一首了. 现在才终于搞清楚原来是同一作品里的了. (作曲家为什么要把那么独立的部分安排成一部作品,确实很奇怪.)

普罗科菲耶夫的奏鸣曲表示听完没有什么印象. 钢琴家在接受大家长时间的鼓掌之后又返回加演了一曲温柔的慢板. 连@tomtung 都没听出来是哪一曲我就不妄加揣测了, 总之更加具有现代感, 像打了一针镇定剂一样沉静下来.

很早就想重新捡起古典音乐来听, adagio, variations, sonata还有各种难于记忆的作品命名, 这些听上去好有吸引力, 越来越仰慕我小时候了. 总不会永远只浅尝一下trance 改编版的古典音乐就满足了吧…不过–

[在上上上周和爸爸的通话中,被告诫说curiosity这个东西是无限的, 必须要记得要下定决心取舍, 好烦恼呀…]