Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Messaien Improvisation

I'm just back from a short but restful holiday and thought I'd ease back into the blogoshpere by simply posting a youtube clip.  This is Olivier Messiaen improvising at the organ of Sainte Trinite in Paris.  Because he was so important and influential as a composer and teacher, comparatively little fuss has been made over his improvising skills.  This man was simply an incredible musician.  The second, longer piece that begins around 6:30 was mind blowing for me. If I could hear music like this in church every week I'd convert to Catholicism tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Merci, monsieur Truffaut.

Earlier this week Nancy Tod,  a student of mine at Cap, posted a link to some Truffaut films on Youtube.  As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, one of the great perks of my job is having super hip and intelligent students.  With the semester now finished I finally have a little bit of recreational time and have been watching Truffaud's "Antoine Doinel" series.  I'm trying to get my french skills back in better shape and having fun torturing my children by speaking to them seulment en francais.  Truffaut's work is really amazing for a number of reasons. Compared to today's films, Truffaut's work relies on very simple resources in terms of sets, camera gear, extras etc.  He relies on carefully chosen camera angles, the classic elegance of Paris cityscapes, good writing,and a small cast of talented actors to tell stories.  No special effects required.  The elegance and unassuming beauty of the women in the "Antoine Doinel" series is especially striking. 

Unlike many of today's film and TV characters who live in giant mansions and seem to have inexplicably endless financial resources, Truffaut's characters live in little Paris apartments with shared bathrooms, borrow money from friends, run out of milk, and work at mundane jobs as record or book store clerks, violin teachers, and civil servants.  Their external, material lives are simple and seemingly devoid of excess 'stuff' that clutters every space today's films and living situations.  Most of the action takes place around the things that count: romance, love, friends, relationships, humour, music, ideas, and food. Of course the films are not meant to be educational or even overtly philosophical, but they have a strong, unified aesthetic that is enlightening in some way.  Having watched a few of these films this week, I found myself re-evaluating what really counts and enjoying some of the simpler pleasures of life.  Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Truffaut!