Europe Break I: CDG and Les Trois

The weekend finds the Roys continuing to sort. That's usually what we do when we get back from a trip. A change in location always accompanies a change in perspective; about what we value and need and want and hope for. It usually involves some sort of "Spring Cleaning" regardless of the weather or season, sweeping out corners, and taking boxes and bags to Goodwill. This trip it also involved getting rid of the mice that apparently come every Spring (thanks for the heads-up landlord).

If trips to California inspire us to streamline our clutter and our lives, then two weeks in Europe will do even more. It will take quite a few posts to report and express our adventures and our subsequent resolutions regarding that amazing trip. I thought that if I didn't at least start somewhere, I'd never start. So here it is: a report of our adventures, starting at the end, at our connection in Paris.

This trip was spent in the Germanic countries and the Czech Republic. However, after an early morning ride to the airport in Vienna and a relatively short plane ride with frightening frat boys on one side and shrewd business men on the other we landed in Charles de Gaulle airport for a connection to Seattle: with about 30 minutes to spare! Ah, Paris! The linguistic part of my brain was fried with two weeks of Germanic and Slavic paradigms, but I did manage to remember French for "Excuse me" and "Thank you." We did a lot of sprinting that day. A lot of grumbling when the security officials put on their unhelpful and snotty pair of pantalon. Some actual utterances of frustration and explications of despair when they let us know that our bag was not in the plane. We collapsed into tears and into our seats and watched "Tangled" as our plane chased the sun into the western hemisphere.

In the end, our bag was found and made its way to our front door (merci, Horizon Airlines) via Paris, Detroit, and Seattle. After being up for twenty-two hours we slept for fourteen at Amanda's house in Seattle and then had a romp in Ikea. Traveling is hard, but I truly believe that Jessica and I are much stronger for overcoming that and other adversities. We are more determined to return to France to get a better impression of it than our jog through the airport.

To that effect I'd like to add a little of what I'm interested in at school this quarter. Jane's history class is now on "The Twentieth Century" though in reality she would like to call it "Everything after the year 1900." We're getting a grasp of the furthest reaches of tonality in the transitional composers like Mahler, R. Strauss, and Debussy.

I am very interested in the ways that all three of those composers develop a style which our book describes as "patchwork" or "mosaic-like." For Mahler it is in the juxtaposition of divergent elements, such as children's songs, bird noises, marches, cantabile melodies, chorales. Each contrasting style has its own associations and contexts that Mahler combines in an almost OCD sort of way.

R. Strauss has a collage character to his music in his harmonies. Each chord still has its driving power, but it pushes so continually and unpredictably that the effect is one of overwhelming motion which never finds its resolution. Amazing, especially in Salome and Electra. Maria Ewing does a great job as a demented Princess Salome. It doesn't seem very far from this opera to the black expressionism of Shoenberg's Pierrot Luniaire.
Top: Saguet
Bottom: Señor Fluffers

Debussy's "patchwork" quality goes in a completely different direction and creates moments of color where Strauss has created unfulfilled moments of yearning. Debussy follows the logic and spirit of this aesthetic (not as far as Satie and his musical wallpaper) to the point at which there is no exposition of a piece, nor development, nor recapitulation. Time stands still in a quasi-improvisatory stasis. The only problem for performers is that his music is quite difficult and yet they must express a feeling of utter freedom and casualness.

Here's where I link all the topics of this post together! We are cleaning our house and I found my grandmother's copy of Debussy's eponymous Clair de lune. On the back is a wonderful little advertisement for other pieces offered by this publisher of oevres modernes de musique français. There are names like Delannoy, Jacob, Jaubert, Marescotti, Paray, Vellones, and Tailleferre. The only one to have any substantial opus to his name on the Naxos Library is a flick by the name of Henri Sauguet. He was born in 1901 and lived to 1989, writing operas, ballets, four symphonies, songs, and pieces for radio and film. At the time when "Les Six" had been formed, Sauguet and two of his friends, Emié and Lizotte, decided to call themselves "Les Trois." Interesting? Yes. Worth looking into? Most assuredly. While Debussy, "Les Six," and Messiaen hold the spotlight in twentieth century French music, it's always good to get a feel for the Kleinmeisters who may have hidden and undiscovered jewels for us. Let the France rehabilitation begin.

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