- The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. [attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus]
Some people cast their attention to many things, the Renaissance Man for example. Others focus on one thing. Neither approach necessarily is right or wrong. Each person is challenged to find the mix that best suits her.
Today’s topic is focus, whose meaning here is concentration on a narrow band of concerns, often one concern. The research scientist who spends a lifetime on one project, the football coach who dedicates his life to the sport and the parent who spends many years devoted to a child’s upbringing are examples of focus.
Tanshu Terayama, Zen Brushwork: Focusing the Mind with Calligraphy and Painting (Kodansha International, 2004).
- Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006): Amid the grand and terrible events of World War II and the Nazi holocaust, and the tragic personal events in a 10-year-old girl’s life, this story is organized around a series of petty book thefts that are barely that. The juxtaposition illustrates how our internal lives can make small events large and large events small.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Minimalist composer Morton Feldman (1927-1987) titled several of his works as though they were being dedicated to particular people. Each has its own character but their common element is the careful, focused attention required to listen to and absorb them.
- For Philip Guston
- For Frank O’Hara
- For Aaron Copland
- For John Cage
- For Samuel Beckett
- For Christian Wolff
- For Bunita Marcus
- For Stefan Wolpe
- For Franz Kline
“Gro Marie Svidal is a well-established and renowned performer and interpreter of the traditional Norwegian Hardanger fiddle music.” Her scrupulous focus on this musical tradition shines through in her albums:
- Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988). Quattro Pezzi Per Orchestra; Anahit; Uaxuctum
- Raga Kaunsi Kanhra (Kaunsi Kanada; Kaunsi Kannada; Kausi Kanhra; Kausi Kanada; Kausi Kannada; Kaushi Kanhra; Kaushi Kanada; Kaushi Kannada) presents one slowly-developed theme (performances by Banerjee, Chaurasia and Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan).
- Steven Halpern, “ADHD: Mindful Music for Enhanced Focus” (2019) (69’)
- Steven Halpern, “Clutter Clearing at the Speed of Sound” (2016) (71’)