“. . . unraveled dry whirlpool enameled Gongorism . . .” (Adriano Spatola)

young-peasant-in-blue-1882
On February 2 I started writing about Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” and Punxsutawney Phil. It was an interesting piece I couldn’t finish because it was turning into a whiny confessional about my inability to see the world as others see it (literally) and my inner railing against civilization.

The painter Georges Seurat (1859-1897) died of a throat infection when he was only 39 years old. He was one of the first artists to dabble (pun intended) in a pointillist style of painting, one of those painters you know about if you took an undergraduate course in Art History or a graduate course in the History of Musical Style.

If you were in those classes as long ago as I was, what you remember about Seurat is a pointillist picture of dots not connected well. Recently I went with a friend to the Kimbell Art Gallery (Ft. Worth) to see the exhibit “Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay”—an (overwhelming) number of portraits by painters not thought of primarily of portraitists, Monet, Van Gough, and their ilk.

Georges Seurat’s portrait, “Peasant Boy in Blue (The Jockey),” 1882 was in the exhibit. When I heard the recorded commentary about pointillism, I was reminded of the style as I learned about it in that History of Musical Styles class. I know about pointillist music (it’s not one of those definite eras or “movements” in music history like “The Baroque”). Webern comes to mind.

Quite by accident I stumbled upon Adriano Spatola’s poem “The abolition of Reality [George Seurat]” the other day. I remembered the Kimbell exhibit, and pointillist music, and other curiously related subjects. I did a little research and found Aaron Copland’s “Piano Variations” (1930). Copland composed it before “Appalachian Spring” (1944) and his other well-known works—those works we musical elite consider too “popular.” We learned in music history class that Copland used his considerable talent as a composer to become rich and famous rather than writing obscure music the masses don’t like. (Copland is scathingly denounced for selling out to Hollywood in a letter from the composer David Diamond to Leonard Bernstein which I read at the Library of Congress a couple of years ago.)

There. I’ve gone into flights of memory and gobbledy-gook that comes out of God-knows-where and into my brain when I’m not careful.

Might be a Gongorism.

Copland’s “Piano Variations” is to music what Georges Seurat’s “Peasant Boy in Blue (The Jockey)” is to painting, or something like that. And the connection came to me from a glance at the Seurat at the Kimbell and accidentally coming across a poem with Seurat’s name in the title on the Internet.

And in this writing, all of that is preceded by Punxsutawney Phil and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Yesterday I was asked to write my impression of the possibility of ADHD in the thinking of a student I am tutoring. Poor kid can’t keep his mind going in one direction for anything. But I’ve learned to go along for the ride and listen to the bizarre and improbable connections he makes as he reads.

I use the words “bizarre” and “improbable” to indicate not that his thinking is in any way “wrong” or “untenable,” but most people would have difficulty following the connections he makes; they would be seen as tenuous at best.

Tenuous, adj.
1590s, “thin, unsubstantial,” irregularly formed from Latin tenuis “thin, drawn out, meager, slim, slender,” figuratively “trifling, insignificant, poor, low in rank,” from PIE root *ten- “to stretch” (cognates: Sanskrit tanuh “thin,” literally “stretched out”) . . . The figurative sense of “having slight importance, not substantial” is found from 1817 in English. . .

I quote the Online Etymology Dictionary for “tenuous” because I need to describe my own sense that I have “thin” and “unsubstantial” connections with—with almost everything—if I think about my connectedness. That’s probably true of everyone. No one I know talks about it, however.

I’m going to make short work of this for two reasons. 1) I fear anyone who might read this will think I’m merely trying to be special. 2) I fear.

Last night I was first to arrive at a meeting because I had the key and was scheduled to open the building. The building has an alarm system which I had to disarm and arm when we left. Disarming was no problem—open the door and punch in the code.
No one else arrived, so I left. My instructions were to put in the code and punch the “away” key. I could not see the “away” key, so I punched in the first two numbers and walked away to turn on the lights. Then I punched in the number again and punched the “away” key and left. I don’t think I turned off the lights.

I don’t know.

Most of the time I don’t know. Does going to the bank to deposit a check happen, or is it an event in my mind, whatever my mind is. I know the pain in my hip is real because the event of my not being able to walk is real. Or is it? I’m not trying to be funny or weird.

Is “Peasant Boy in Blue (The Jockey)” real. Are “Piano Variations (1930)” real? Is this writing real? I’m caught up in questions like this every day. I know driving a car is not real. Or paying my rent. Or vacuuming my living room. My connections seem to be more tenuous day by day.

Gongorism, n.
an affected literary style characterized by intricate language and obscurity . . . ornamental, ostentatious vocabulary and a message that is complicated by a sea of metaphors and complex syntactical order. The name . . . was coined by its opponents to present it as a heresy of “true” poetry. This movement seems to use as many words as possible to convey little meaning or to conceal meaning.

I don’t know.

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