Recognize Earth Day with the Breathtaking and Epic Nature Symphony by Siegmund von Hausegger

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a dramatically-lit image of the Earth from outer space showing the sun just beginning to rise over a crisp blue arc of the atmosphere against a black starry skyNature has inspired humanity for as long as stars have shone in the night sky and the orbit of the earth has caused the seasons. Long before Linnaeus assigned official names and categories to all the living things, many other people gave organisms names and wondered about their relatedness. Millennia before we understood the structure and implications of DNA or first saw our own planet from space, people pondered the vastness of a universe they could only imagine and the complexity of life they undoubtedly knew they could only begin to grasp.

Although nature can be daunting, erratic, and bogglingly complex to analyze, this same recondite, awesome nature has inspired portrayals in many forms of art. One of those, written by Goethe, would enable Siegmund von Hausegger a century later to complete this symphony harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. Read more

Sound of the Season: Gary Schocker’s Cherry Blossoms

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a photograph looking at a blue sky through the branches of an ornamental cherry tree in bloom; this pale pink variety is called 'Akebono', which means "dawn"
This is a variety called ‘Akebono’ which means ‘Daybreak’ or ‘Dawn’.

“A simple phrase can say a thousand words that a thousand notes cannot. This is my attraction to Gary’s music. I have always identified with his music; his beautiful, elegant melodies and corresponding harmonies free of excess. It’s my legacy to share his music with the harp world.”

harpist Emily Mitchell,
check out an interview here

Over the past three decades, American flutist-composer Gary Schocker has written well over 100 pieces for harp. Only a small percentage of that abundance has been recorded, but it includes a septet called Cherry Blossoms. Written in 2006 for flute, clarinet, harp, and string quartet, Cherry Blossoms may recall the instrumentation of another piece now a century old. In case the unusual instrumentation seems familiar, that’s because Read more

Flowers of the Forest by Jean Elliot

a woodland scene with bluebells carpeting the forest floor

There’s always a time appropriate for these verses, given the events in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the unchanging human condition. It is safe to predict the forests of humanity will always produce such flowers.

The best introduction to these timeless “flowers” comes from about 1,000 years ago: Read more

Sound of the Season: Johan Wagenaar’s Power of Spring

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“Spring arrived – a beautiful, kind-hearted spring, without spring’s usual promises and deceptions, and one of those rare springs which plants, animals, and people rejoice in together.”

Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

berries of leatherleaf Mahonia, commonly known as grape hollySince spring is a season associated with planting more than harvest, I thought these berries of grape holly–that just developed–could remind us what a rich source of inspiration it’s been to artists over the centuries and that we can (nearly always) enjoy that harvest whenever we want. Read more

Sound of the Season: A Morning in Spring

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The oil painting Bluebells (1899) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema shows two women, one sitting on the ground, one standing by a tree, in a refreshing woodland scene loaded with bluebells in flower.
Bluebells (1899)
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In the late 1990s, I had a recording of this piece, D’un matin de printemps, for more than a year before I listened to it one day on accident. Boy was I ever surprised! I had certain expectations about a piece titled From a Morning in Spring written by a French woman, so I had avoided it on purpose until then. The reality was nothing like I thought. What the music presented is a conception of spring I still find difficult to explain. Read more

In a Persian Garden by Liza Lehmann

Note: the timing of this post is meant to tie in with both Women’s History Month and the Persian New Year known as Nowruz or Norooz.

Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

a 17th Century Persian panel of tiles in shades of blue and yellow showing people enjoying themselves outside in a setting of blooming plants and trees
Fritware wall panel now in the Louvre, 1500s-1600s, showing entertainment in a garden
(similar to this one at the Victoria and Albert Museum)

The word “paradise” comes from an old Persian word that means “a walled garden.” The intent of that walled garden, however, was indeed to create an earthly paradise. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Genesis 2 mentions four rivers in the Garden of Eden, so these spaces were traditionally divided into quadrants, known as chahar bagh. In addition, so was the country.

oil painting showing inner courtyard and garden at the Palacio del Generalife and Patio de la Acequia near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain painted in 1848 by Wilhelm MeyerThat design sounds formal, and often these areas were courtyards with pavilions and elaborate tile work. You might wonder: what did Persians plant there? Most had rows of trees such as cypresses, sycamores, or date palms, possibly low boxwood hedges, and perhaps sycamores, beeches, lindens, palms, or other trees such as mimosa or redbud at intersecting points or just planted around for shade. But despite its formal tendencies, Read more

Sound of the Season: Claude Debussy’s Enchanting Music for Spring

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painting The River Epte by Claude Monet (1885)
The River Epte (1885)
by Claude Monet

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

George Santayana

a portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)
portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)

As a young adult, when the French pianist-composer Claude Debussy was living in Rome as a laureate of the Rome Prize, he was expected to send works back to Paris indicating his artistic progress. One of them was supposed to be a symphony or a piece of similar scope for orchestra. In fact, he hardly completed anything because he was trying to write music “that is supple and concentrated enough to adapt itself to the lyrical movements of the soul and the whims of reverie.” It also helps to acknowledge he was a meticulous craftsman and re-writer who held himself to an exceedingly high standard and an innovator who wasn’t content to write music the way it had been before.

One of the few things he did complete and send was a piano duet called Spring, and he added that the full score for orchestra, piano, and chorus had been lost Read more

Sound of the Season: Spring (in Catalonia)

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the 1918 impressionist painting Almond Trees in Blossom by Theo van Rysselberghe
Almond Trees in Blossom (1918)
Theo van Rysselberghe

“When you remember me, it means you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.”

Frederick Buechner,
who is Read more

Crocuses, Clivias, and the Forgotten Legacy of Johanna Daemen

A book on house plants, published in 1929, has a large, stylized Clivia on the cover.
A book on house plants, published in 1929, has a large, stylized Clivia on the cover designed by Johanna Daemen.

Few Americans have heard of the Dutch graphic designer, illustrator, artist, lyricist, and writer Johanna Maria Hendrika Daemen (1891-1944), and it’s a pity. She began her varied career as a teenager, and since it’s Women’s History Month you’ll be pleased to discover much of it would involve publications aimed at women in the marketplace. Read more

Sound of the Season: Music for a February Sky

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a painting of a city street lined with trees called Night in February (1901) by Charles Conner
Night in February (1901)
Charles Conner

In England, there’s a group of contrarians who oppose “blue-sky thinking” by helping people appreciate the beauty of clouds, which makes you realize a curious aspect of our language. Although we commonly use the term “landscape,” we only rarely encounter the term “cloudscape.” Yet we look up all the time, and gardeners in particular often look skyward and spend time thinking about what kind of weather will come. And all this means Read more

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