Sunflowers, galaxies, and Liszt
by Rob Tiller
The sunflower field at Dix Park looked fantastic this week! I visited there several times to bask in their sweetness, and also to test out my new camera. I tried to look at them in different ways, and thought a few of the images were worth sharing.
Speaking of pictures, it was cheering to see the new shots from the Webb Space Telescope showing the early universe. It is truly mind boggling to think of the size and age of the universe (more than two trillion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, stretching back about 13.8 billion years), and to think we have the technology to look back in time almost that far. There is a lot to regret about humans, but this is one thing I really like about them – at times they are full of unselfish curiosity and wonder.
I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a bit low lately from discouraging news on multiple fronts – environmental, legal, social, economic, military, meteorological, medical, ethical, etc. It’s tempting to vent about some of these, but I’m thinking that’s unlikely to be helpful just now for me or others.
Instead I’m trying to take special note of positive events, big and small, and cultivating compassion.
Granddaughter Gus, almost 10 months old, just started crawling, and is getting really good at it. She can pull herself up on the window sill and have a look out at the back yard. She’s usually cheerful, and eager to see what each new thing she can grab tastes like.
I played Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 for my piano club friends last week. This is a famous piece of music, for good reason, with gorgeous melodies and dramatic modulations. There are some exciting virtuosic flourishes, which are at the edge of or just beyond my ability level, depending on the day. I made a few mistakes, but I felt it was musical. Playing the piano for me is primarily about therapy (self care), but I’m glad when I can share with others some of the beauty and joy.
Liszt had a long (1811-1886) and interesting life. I’ve been reading Alan Walker’s very fine biography of him, and am now in the second of the three volumes. He was a towering musical figure in his time, but recent generations have tended to underappreciate his achievements. I’ve been struck not only with his brilliance, but also his remarkable generosity.
I got two of the volumes used, sold by college libraries, where it appeared they’d been checked out either once or never. It pained me a little that they couldn’t find readers, but at least they found me!
Liszt and his great contemporaries, including Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms, continue to inspire me. In addition to absorbing their musical messages, I’m making more use of their discoveries in my jazz playing. Some of their harmonic ideas have already been thoroughly incorporated into the jazz standards that I’ve made my own, but there are always new possibilities.