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Monday, September 30, 2013

Mentioning the Unmentionables by John von Daler


                 Something happened in the summer of my twelfth year, that long break between sixth and seventh grade: the deep breath before the flight and crash landing of my teenage years.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A clean, well-lighted place by John von Daler


                You have of course heard the old joke about #Groucho Marx not wanting to be a member of any club so lousy that it would give him a membership. I have a similar problem: I enjoy and seek out isolation in public places. I always choose places to sit where other people do not come. My own club has no other members.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Having a Ball by John von Daler


                I remember it as a series of evenings in a low building on the outskirts of Tulsa, one of those places with a sign lit from within and covered with hand-fixed letters like a movie theater: Ballroom Dancing. From 12 years old to 112. Swing Dance, Foxtrot, Waltz, and Mambo! Every Day from 12 to 12.

Friday, September 27, 2013

#Troels #Brandt: A soft and subtle soul. By John von Daler


                The little island called Langeland nestles up to the southwest of Funen together with another island called Ærø on the southeast side. Together they form a kind of nutcracker pinching the bottom of Funen, the great island that has given Denmark Carl Nielsen, Hans Christian Andersen and a wealth of painters. Among these exceptional artists was Troels Brandt.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Matter of Fact by John von Daler


                In order to satisfy my own sense of order I always have imagined that it started with the #Salinger story where Zooey (I think) rummages through the medicine cabinet in somebody's bathroom.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Recycling Angst by John von Daler


                Mom used to reach out and put her flat, closed palm in front of my child's eyes during the scary parts of a movie. Childhood was not supposed to be scary.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

#Violin Repairs and Sentimentality by John von Daler


                Violin building and maintenance have always been the domain of males over sixty. My #violin has always been repaired by old men.  What happens to the young men and women who study violinmaking for years and years? Do they put them in jars with holes in the lid like fireflies waiting to be freed  - and then forty years later miraculously liberate them as kindly old men?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Backing Up by John von Daler

                A few years ago I hung my violin up on the wall (where it never had been before!) and quit my musician's career. I decided to write instead. That is what I call retirement.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Resemblance and Diversity by John von Daler


                There is something so touching about parents and their offspring: the whole transference of visual traits, the security born of and built on resemblance.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thanks, #Grieg, by John von Daler


                               I love #Grieg's music. I could probably find some theoretical reason in my stockroom of musical judgements, but somehow his very music precludes intellectual thoughts. Let me tell you a little story instead.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I on the Ball by John von Daler


                 Europeans were a little bit of an unknown commodity in Tulsa where I spent my first thirteen years. We had Mexicans, South Americans and American Indians as the exotic spices in our section of the great melting pot. I remember filling out some questionnaires in fourth grade where we were asked to check off whether we were 1. Caucasian 2. Negroid 3. American Indian (these categories were not chosen by me!). I don't remember there being room for Oriental, Scandinavian, middle-European, Romanesque, Inuit, or Greco-European or anything else for that matter. But I do remember thinking how boring it was to have to check off Caucasian.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Ladies. by John von Daler


                The garden was in the middle of town. Middle because the town had grown up around it since the 1860s when the house was built by a rich man outside the old walls of the inner city. He put the heads of sea gods and other mythological characters on the walls of the four-story building. They peered imperiously into and across the small patches of grass. If you sat on our side of the lawn on the bench at the white wooden table under the birch tree, you could look through the dangling strings of leaves up towards our neighbor's slavic tower, possibly a remnant of the trading days with the Baltic lands, and see the heads, the tower, the leaves and the blue sky. Then we would sit, we and our neighbors, into the night with wine, words, and the occasional guitar or violin.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Diamonds in the Rough by John von Daler


               In Bo #Widerberg's beautiful movie, "Adalen Riots" (a really bad translation by the way - I would have called it "Uprising in #Adalen". It's about a strike in Sweden in 1931.) - there is a scene where the young son of a factory worker visits the home of the owner. The owner's wife teaches him to pronounce Pierre-Auguste #Renoir one syllable at a time, slowly and with a great spinning of the R's.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Let's face the music by John von Daler


                #Pre-Senility is that stage of our lives during which we continue to make the same mistakes we always have made, but finally take the responsibility for making them. Like forgetting names. I've forgotten names since I was four. These days when I forget a name, though, I think, you must be getting old.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A #Chanterelle Cantata by John von Daler


                They are up there among my best experiences, like hearing Brahms' Double Concerto for violin and cello with #Piatagorsky and #Heifetz for the first time. Or like putting for the first time ever a piece of #Crottin de Chavignol on a piece of baguette in my mouth and chasing it with a glass of good #Bordeaux. Or seeing the view over the Bay of Amalfi from #Ravello.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Candide, indeed! by John von Daler


                 I used to be very good at sight reading when I played the violin. Perfect pitch and a sort of innate fearlessness combined with hundreds of Saturday afternoons playing Beethoven, Mozart, Franck, Grieg, Hayden and others prima vista had hardened me into a merciless reader of new music. This talent came in handy at recording and practice sessions.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Mother Tongue. by John von Daler


                 For years I read. Then I played, notes from sheet music. Later the notes were improvised. I composed and arranged. All the while I was learning #Danish. I even learned when to say English words with a Danish accent so I could sound more Danish than the Danes. I learned to growl through a closed throat like some viking ordering mead. I even wrote songs and lyrics in my new language out of respect for my new country.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Finding #Fado in #Funchal by John von Daler


                We walked into a cavernous dining room with about fifty tables. The white-jacketted waiter had the same look on his face that I had once seen at five in the morning at Logan Airport when I roused a lady behind a counter to buy coffee and a doughnut. As I handed her the money, she contorted her face into a forced smile while she mumbled those ever-present words, Have a nice day. This waiter's face, too, fell in contours and folds that were not indigenous, a kind of welcoming pride that neither was very hospitable nor very dignified.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Proust and Pavlov in Princeton by John von Daler


               
                 You hope for Proust and you get Pavlov. I turned on the Billie Holiday cd and swimming back through the fog of memory I heard the sounds, saw the colors, felt the movements of Gatsby's cocktail party  - as if that fictive affair somehow had really happened in my life.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Doing #Dufy by John von Daler


               Somebody with a great sense of timing and a knack for pleasing a child presented me when I was six with a series of prints of pictures by Raoul #Dufy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Pretender by John von Daler


                If you are interviewed in the audience of some tv show and you say that you are going on seventy, everybody claps. Not as much as they would have clapped if you had said ninety, but enough to let you know that you are an achiever, a winner in life's lottery. But in front of the mirror in the bathroom at home there ain't nobody clapping.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Heroism for Beginners by John von Daler


                 Spartan, you might call the Danish summer. The dark, blue-green water of the inland seas laps up against the wet, heavy, seaweed-carpeted sand along the gently sloping shores covered with hip rose and broomrape plants. The sun peaks out timidly from behind fleecy clouds, giving off sporadic warmth through the constant breeze.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

These are some of my Favorite Things by John von Daler


               There is a saying in Danish (and perhaps a similar one in English?) that the Best is the Enemy of the Good. I thought of this immediately when an old friend who happens to be a great art historian and an excellent teacher asked if I thought any composers should not be as highly-touted as they are.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All's well that ends, well... by John von Daler


                 Once a week for three months I sat on a small balcony overlooking about a dozen five course meals in a fancy restaurant in Copenhagen and played #Paganini's sonatas for guitar and violin. I was accompanied by an extremely fine musician with one small idiosyncrasy: he could not stand to finish a piece.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The #Sun takes a Bow. by John von Daler


               From Texas to Connecticut and perhaps even beyond the sun can be a relentless villain. I remember my Danish girlfriend on a visit to Princeton muttering something about it being too stuffy inside; she took a step outside for a breath of air. Old Man Sun gave her a huge, hot slap in the face. There was just no place to go. That kind of heat makes you feel as if you are stuck together in the same space with one very bad old star who is trying to scorch you out. You've taken #Schwarzenegger's seat on the plane and he just turns those burning eyes on you until you get up and go somewhere else. Only there is nowhere else.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sexy, sexy Denmark by John von Daler


                Denmark is reputed to be a sexy country. Perhaps. I remember seeing a New Yorker cartoon in which an American couple in a convertible is seen driving through a rolling landscape of fields and cows. The wife is saying, Somehow I had imagined that Denmark was sexier than this!

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)