Beyond mere interest is emotional involvement. This does not mean being emotionally consumed or debilitated but only that the individual is involved to such a level as to make the attainment of excellence likely. At this level, the individual does not quite display enthusiasm, which is the fourth level.
Gertrude Bell was "an extraordinary British diplomat and spy." As a youth, she immersed herself in "doing things young girls don’t normally do, such as Alpine mountaineering and desert archaeology." After losing the only love of her life to war, she immersed herself in Mesopotamian culture and political affairs, and is widely credited with establishing modern Iraq. Though the ethical dimension of aiding imperial Britain's drive to create a monarchy in a foreign land is dubious to say the least, Bell's work merits inclusion in our narrative as an example of excellence in involvement: like the weaver at van Gogh's loom, Gertrude Bell immersed herself in her chosen endeavor.
- Gertrude Bell, The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914 (Syracuse University Press, 2000).
- Gertrude Bell, Syria: The Desert and the Sown (William Heinemann Ltd., 1907).
- Gertrude Bell, Iraq and Gertrude Bell's The Arab of Mesopotamia (Lexington Books, 2008).
- Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007).
- Janet Wallach, Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia (Nan A. Talese, 1996).
- H.V.F. Winstone, Gertrude Bell: A Biography (Jonathan Cape, 1978).
Other people who lived immersed in life:
- Anna von Planta, ed., Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks (Liveright, 2021): “Patricia Highsmith Lived Extravagantly, and Took Copious Notes”.
- Sutton Foster, Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life (Grand Central Publishing, 2021): “In those moments where she knitted or drew or stitched, Foster was free from the worry of the world’s judgment; she could relax or celebrate or — as in the case of the granny square blanket replete with owls — mourn for her mother as she was dying.”
- Natalie Livingstone, The Women of Rothschild: The Untold Story of the. World’s Most Famous Dynasty (St. Martin’s Press, 2022), “focuses on several generations of the banking family’s wives and daughters, documenting their passions for politics, science and music, all abetted by wealth and social connections”.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566) was a Spanish Renaissance-era composer from Iberia. In the hands of organist Claudio Astronio, at least, Cabezón’s music conveys a feeling of unfailing involvement, like the weaver in van Gogh’s drawing. With its sustained tones on organ and the music’s continuous movement from one often-complex chord to another, the listener has a sense of being led invitingly through Cabezón’s world. Perhaps this blind composer had something of that feeling himself, deprived as he was of his sight since childhood. Whether for solo organ or for organ accompanied by ensemble, Cabezón’s music does what great music should do, drawing us into a world of sound and auditory motion in which we cannot help but become involved. As one reviewer has remarked: “If Cabezón’s music may be said to embody any expressive characteristic, it is the somber magnificence of Spanish theatre, not just literally from the stage, but from the drama embedded in its music.” I could not find links to any performances that convey or do justice to this sense, as does Astronio’s set on the Brilliant label, linked above.
Romantic-era composer Henry Vieuxtemps’ six violin concerti express the virtue of involvement.
- Violin Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 10
- Violin Concerto No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 19
- Violin Concerto No. 3 in A major, Op. 25
- Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31
- Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, "Gretry", Op. 37
- Violin Concerto No. 6 in G major, Op. 47
- Violin Concerto No. 7 in A minor, “À Jenő Hubay”, Op. 49
A heads-up, on-your-toes quality runs throughout Bohuslav Martinů’s six symphonies..
- Symphony No. 1, H 289 (1942)
- Symphony No. 2, H 295 (1943)
- Symphony No. 3, H 299 (1944)
- Symphony No. 4, H 305 (1945)
- Symphony No. 5, H 310 (1946)
- Symphony No. 6, H 343, “Fantaisies symphoniques” (1951)
In Heitor Villa-Lobos’ twelve symphonies, I hear one ubiquitous theme: the protagonist has mastered the practice of engagement and become involved in the world. No doubt Villa-Lobos would protest but that is what I hear: his symphonies contain much more, to be sure, but he seems to have written them with one consistent attitude, which dominates them to my ears. The subject matters Villa-Lobos associated with these works suggest that he was deeply involved in this effort, as well as in the world.
- Symphony No. 1, Op. 112, W 114, “O Imprevisto” (The Unforeseen) (1916)
- Symphony No. 2, W 132, “Ascenção” (Ascension) (1917-1944)
- Symphony No. 3, “A Guerra” (War) (1919)
- Symphony No. 4, “A Vitória” (Victory) (1919)
- Symphony No. 5, “A Paz” (Peace) (1920)
- Symphony No. 6, “Sobre o linho das montanhas do Brasil” (On the Outline of the Moutains of Brazil) (1944)
- Symphony No. 7, “Odissélia da Paz” (Peace Odyssey) (1945)
- Symphony No. 8 (1950)
- Symphony No. 9 (1952)
- Symphony No. 10, “Sumé Pater Patrium” (Sumé, Father of Fathers) [Amerindian Symphony] (1952)
- Symphony No. 11 (1955)
- Symphony No. 12 (1957)
These string quartets by Alfred Hill do not seem to express any particular spiritual theme but they do illustrate the virtue/value of being involved.
- String Quartet No. 4 in C Minor, “The Pursuit of Happiness” (1916)
- String Quartet No. 5 in E-flat Major, "The Allies" (1920)
- String Quartet No. 6 in G Major, "The Kids" (1927)
- String Quartet No. 7 in A Major (1934)
- String Quartet No. 8 in A Major (1934)
- String Quartet No, 9 in A Minor (1935)
- String Quartet No. 10 in E Major (1935)
- String Quartet No. 11 in D Minor (1935)
- String Quartet No. 12 in E Major (1936)
- String Quartet No. 13 in E-flat Major (1936)
- String Quartet No. 14 in B Minor (1951)
- Graupner, Partitas for Harpsichord
- Geminiani, 6 Concerti Grossi, Op. 7 (1746)
- Bohnke, Symphony, Op. 16 (1927)
- Lee: The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, 22 Salon Pieces for Two Pianos, Op. 66 (1966)
- Grazioli, 12 Harpsichord Sonatas, Opp. 1 & 2
- Zoltán Kodály, Sonata for Solo Cello in B Minor, Op. 8, K. 38 (1915)
- Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 17, R 185 (1858)
- Ernst von Dohnányi, Konzertstück (Concertpiece) in D major for cello and orchestra, Op. 12 (1904)
- Pierre Jalbert, String Quartet No. 6, “Canticle” (2016): “It consists of seven movements, highly contrasting in character, with movements I and VII serving as similar bookends to the overall arch of the work. The piece opens with the quartet members striking various crotales, producing bell sounds that eventually blend with the string quartet – evoking the title, Canticle. The faster, pulse-oriented music requires the players to use glass rods on their instruments and at one point quickly moves back and forth between alternating rhythmic subdivisions, producing extremely rapid metric modulations. The last movement blends the string quartet with the bowing of the crotales to produce an ethereal, other-worldly finale to the canticle.”
Geri Allen was a great straight-ahead jazz pianist. Her albums include:
- Grand River Crossings: Motown & Motor City Inspirations (2012)
- A Child Is Born (2011)
- Timeless Portraits and Dreams (2006)
- Twylight (1989)
- Home Grown (1985)
- The Printmakers (1984)
- Miles Davis, “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud”
- Grant Green, “Alive!” (We could say that being fully involved is being fully alive.)
- Mike Gibbs Band, “Symphony Hall, Birmingham 1991”
- Trio Casals, “Moto Eterno” (2021): “With its inherent innovation, zest, vigor and verve, MOTO ETERNO proves to be another triumph for the long running series: a journey full of musical twists and turns, at times soothing, at times furious, and highly immersive throughout.”
Film and Stage
- Genevieve, in which “two couples become increasingly--and hilariously--competitive as they near the finishing line” during an automobile race
- Household Saints, a working person’s version of life: put one foot in front of the other
A well-constructed mystery illustrates the idea of emotional involvement. The heart quickens, the skin crawls, sweat appears. If only every science student could muster that degree of emotional involvement for the subject matter!
Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the genre. “. . . very few lawyers are gifted with the special ability which is his to put a case together in the most innocent but subtle way, to plant prima facie evidence without arousing the slightest alarm and then suddenly to muster his assumptions and drive home a staggering attack.”
- The Lady Vanishes: “when your sides are not aching from laughter your brain is throbbing in its attempts to outguess the director”
- Suspicion, a few suggestions culminate in a devastation revelation
- Strangers On a Train, about the fear of being accused of a crime one did not commit
- Dial M for Murder
- Rear Window, “both mousetrap and abyss,” in which, along with the protagonist, we are “trapped inside his point of view, inside his lack of freedom and his limited options”; “a masterpiece of indirect exposition (that) lets the moviegoer play Peeping Tom until all at once he sees something that strikes him as — well, peculiar”; the “most bittersweet of Hitchcockian suspense-romances”
- North by Northwest
- The Birds, testing the limits of what people can be afraid of, and a great film maker’s ability to reach the seat of fear
Agatha Christie was a great mystery writer but Hitchcock did not direct films based on her stories. Creating suspense is an art, which can be expressed in writing or on film, but one medium does not necessarily translate directly to another. “Some people don’t know how to tell a joke.” As a result, there are fewer great Agatha Christie films than Hitchcock films:
Other excellent films in this genre include:
- Juli Delgado Lopero, Fiebre Tropical: A Novel (The Feminist Press, 2020): “What this novel is about, even more than acculturation, is observing women.”
- An Yu, Ghost Music: A Novel (Grove Press, 2023), “is an evocative exploration of what it means to live fully — and the potential consequences of failing to do so. Yu braids the mundane and the magical together with a gentle hand: Song Yan receives regular visitations from a giant, luminescent talking mushroom . . .”
Music: songs and other short pieces
- “Get on Board, Everybody!” (revision of “Get on Board, Little Children”)