Food for Thought-Breughel

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Above the middle I search,
Tilted left, slanted right,
Marching by the church,
Feast and dance all night,
Hungry men joust for work,
They’ve been down so long,
Up feels like down,
While I straddle some cultural fissure,
These ideas keep coming around,
A strange amalgamated mixture,
Smelted beneath this wide town,
Spouted by the yo-yo antagonists,
Pulled between carnival and lent,
With flawless Flemish on their lips,
In the banks across town,
This modus operandi is a moral rut,
Easing its way past the groaning sounds,
Gently taking a chance to be free,
I think I want to be,
At the top of that house,
Where a lone man and his mouse,
Are preparing to scram,
From Breughel’s Venn diagram.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Just to Watch Him Die

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I shot a man in Reno
just to watch him die,
or was it his time to go,
the object of my mental torture,
for a train traveling slow,
through the blue canyons,
down the confined slopes,
where the birds gently hum,
come home to Folsom,
your life has begun,
in the four walled cell,
some call hell,
what have you done?

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-JMW Turner Comes to Ocracoke (A Haiku Series)

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J. M. W. Turner: Stormy Sea Breaking on a Shore, 1840-1845

 

Has Turner come here?
Painting by the Silver Lake,
Clouds and ice are near.

But where can I go?
Land hides from my blurred vision,
In the waves I drown.

Pulled from the current,
Cold horizon beckons home,
Breathe free, brown and green.

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Hiroshima Haiku Quintet

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Light sound shadow falls
Falling ash covers my soul
Ground zero burns me

Screams fall from the air
Skin hangs from our bodies too
Red clouds never go away

Plane drops small black bomb
Time stops on Earth and above
Mourning noon and night

Love still walks about
Bandages wrap our new pain
Have you seen my home

War comes home today
I cannot fight the red sky
Glory dreams die hard

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Why Mahler Matters

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1. Mahler doesn’t take “no” for an answer. He wants his music to go places sound has never gone before. Mahler is determined to use the tools of tonality, the secrets of sound, and all the creative skill he possesses to move us away from comparing his work with anything we’ve heard before.

2. Mahler wants to use every instrument he can get his hands on. He has so many tools available and at his fingertips; why not have each one of them come alive? In Mahler’s 5th symphony, he writes five different horn parts. Five! Yet, there are times when only two will play; different horns alternating with each to ensure no duplication of a part. Everyone is playing something a part which augments the sound coming from their colleagues. How effective are we at using the instruments and resources at our disposal? Are there instruments in our orchestral arsenal that lie in touched or sitting bored in the back of a room? Do we try to insure that everyone around us has a distinct and complimentary role to play?

3. Mahler, as a person, represents civilization trying to move toward a better version of itself. His music is the soundtrack to great societal change. He saw the 20th century begin, dying only three years before the beginning of World War I. Even the Nazis could not silence Mahler some thirty years later. His life and career intersect with Ernst Mach, Theodor Herzl, Sigmund Freud, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The culture of pre-war Vienna gave birth to some of the most important and exciting cultural and scientific discoveries in modern history. Science, society, medicine, philosophy, and world history all collide on the pages of his symphonies. We hear history when he we listen to Mahler. Are we listening to the world around us?

4. Mahler knew when to change venues. If Vienna wasn’t working, if the traditional Austro-Hungarian power couples weren’t into his work, try conducting or performing in other locations, like Graz or Budapest. In the outlying cities of the empire, audiences weren’t as tied to the strictures of tradition and musical form. There were people, in this revolutionary era, willing to embrace innovation (even musical) on all levels. Where will our best ideas work? Are we imposing our creative vision or sharing a new reality? The tension, for Mahler (and us) lies in the relationship between imposing and sharing.

5. Mahler is wrestling with the big issues. Not only is he confronting social change, he also explores the depths of the human spirit and psyche. In his Second Symphony, he explores the idea of life after death and the meaning of resurrection in a Jewish context. Mahler isn’t just describing the afterlife in the symphony, he’s wants to come terms with it in such a way that the people who hear the work will have an opportunity to embrace their grief and begin to heal.  Are we afraid to ask the bigger questions?

Food for Thought-Bringing My Grandmother Into Epiphany

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The gifts we bring into the room,
are not ours to give,
three glittering boxes,
were given to Him,
now presented to you,
in impromptu ceremonies,
by hastily assembled cribs,
the gold of time,
the frankincense of love,
the myrrh of wisdom,
laid by our feet,
near the kitchen table,
where my grandmother stood,
stained apron,
hands with calluses covered,
she gave me these gifts,
and caused me to belong,
in a house surrounded,
by dirt,
gravel,
and the whistling sounds,
of the afternoon train,
rolling it’s forgotten way,
east, through tobacco fields,
and pine trees,
this is the place,
where I learned to be me,
surrounded by the symphony,
of late afternoon peace,
her story,
told in Earth refined grace,
I am what I have become,
because of this place,
sweetened by the sugar,
left slightly ajar,
pickled by the vinegar,
kept in the mason jar,
This is my story,
my song,
It will never end,
the memories move,
on and on, again.

-Richard Bryant