For many, spirituality may already have begun to emerge, or may have emerged long ago. For others, an additional distinction may not yet have emerged clearly.
Early on, we identified willingness as sine qua non to ethical, moral, spiritual or for that matter virtually any kind of personal development. Later, we found through painful experience that we had a startling capacity for self-deception and needed the distinction of honesty to break through barriers that impeded our progress. This week, we focus on the distinction of openness, the final element in the holy trinity of honesty, openness and willingness (HOW), transformed into WHO in order of development.
You may ask how openness differs from willingness. These are only words we use to describe distinctions we make as we learn to identify, categorize and work with an ever-expanding set of life experiences. In essence, though, the distinction proposed between willingness and openness is that the former is a precursor to the latter: the former cracks the door open a bit, mainly through the emotion that we call willingness, while the latter throws the door wide open in all three domains of emotion, thought and action. With that introduction, enjoy the music, art and readings on the global subject of openness and then prepare for an exploration of this essential spiritual virtue in each of the three domains of Being.
- Lawrence M. Krauss, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011): “Like those quantum particles, he seemed eager to try every path – even the crazy ones. That was true in his life as well as in his physics.”
- Hugh Eakin, Picasso’s War: How Modern Art Came to America (Crown Publishers, 2022): “It is almost unthinkable that the now universally acknowledged masterpieces of modern art, such as Pablo Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ or Henri Matisse’s ‘The Red Studio,’ were scorned by American museums and that wealthy patrons refused to buy even a single canvas by either painter.”
- Pierre Bonnard, The Open Window (1921)
- Konstantin Makovsky, By the Open Window (1910)
- Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure (1905)
- Victor Borisov-Musatov, Window (1886)
- Rembrandt van Rijn, Girl in the Window (1645)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major, M. 83 (1931) (approx. 21-25’), is an example of a person from one culture opening to another culture. On its own terms, the work is dreamy and romantic, evoking someone in love. However, it seems quirky in places. Ravel, who was French, drew heavily on George Gershwin and American jazz in this and other compositions. “It is . . . easy to hear the concerto as a sort of musical self-portrait, a manifesto of Ravel’s artistic aims and beliefs”, which had been shaped by listening carefully to and appreciating the work of others from outside his immediate circle. “After months of careful planning, Maurice Ravel embarked on a 4-month tour of North America in 1928. In all, he visited 25 cities coast-to-coast, and performed and conducted the leading orchestras of Canada and the Unites States. Ravel also made tourist visits to Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, and he was fascinated by the dynamism of American life. He admired 'the huge cities, skyscrapers, and its advanced technology, and was impressed by its jazz, Negro spirituals, and the excellence of American orchestras.'” “Several of Ravel’s works, notably his Piano Concerto in G Major, make use of jazz rhythms, ‘blue’ notes, and other features of American vernacular style. The first movement of Ravel’s concerto (composed in 1931) is in several respects a remarkable sequel to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and Concerto in F Major (1925). The frenetic rhythm patterns and Ravel’s ‘bluesy’ main theme in this movement bear an uncanny resemblance to Gershwin’s adaptations of the jazz idiom.” Top recorded performances on disc are by, Monique Haas & Schmidt-Isserstedt in 1948, Michelangeli & Gracis in 1958, Katchen & Kertész in 1966, Argerich & Abbado in 1967, Collard & Maazel in 1979, Zimerman & Boulez in 1998, Moravec & Bělohlávek in 2004, Li & Ozawa in 2007, Parker & Francis in 2010, and Grosvenor & Judd in 2012.
Other jazz-influenced compositions include:
- Ravel, Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 77 (1927) (approx. 16-18’), was influenced by Gershwin, especially in the second movement. Excellent performances are by Capuçon & Braley in 2001, Mullova & Labeque in 2006, and Graffin & Désert in 2018.
- Aaron Copland, “Music for the Theatre” (1925) (approx. 20-24’), is “a five-movement suite exploring several different moods while trying very consciously to create a new national sound. ‘I was anxious to write a work that would immediately be recognized as American in character,’ he later recalled.” Excellent performances are conducted by Bernstein in 1965, Hogwood in 2005, and Bernstein in 1989.
- Darius Milhaud, La Création du monde, (The Creation of the World), Op. 81a (1923) (approx. 17-19’), is a brief-in-duration ballet that “elaborates an African creation myth of the earth, its plants and animals, and the First Man and First Woman” Milhaud drew inspiration from visits to jazz clubs in the United States in 1922. Excellent performances are conductged by Bernstein in 1977, Nagano in 1992, and Prêtre. “Op. 81b is an arrangement of the five-movement ballet for string quartet and piano.” Contemporary Chamber Ensemble in 1973, and Turtle Island String Quartet in 2005, have recorded Op. 81b on disc. Branford Marsalis brought the work back to its roots in jazz.
- Dmitri Shostakovich, Jazz Suite No. 2 (1938) (approx. 25’): “Shostakovich's jazz embodies a kind of ethereal chintz . . .”. Linked performances are conducted by Chailly in 1992, and Kuchar.
- Gunther Schuller, Triplum (1967) (approx. 17’): Bernstein & New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1967, recorded the work on disc.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 1961 through 1966, a group of independent free-thinking musical composers put together a yearly ONCE festival to explore expansion of musical boundaries. These efforts have resulted in a 5-CD compilation of forward-looking music. To most people, this music remains obscure but it is well worth seeking out not only on its own terms but also to illustrate the virtue of openness. Selections from these composers, not necessarily represented at the ONCE Festivals or even of those vintages, are linked below.
- Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives (1980) (approx. 82’), an opera for television;
- Robert Ashley, The Fourth of July (1960) (approx. 19’);
- Robert Ashley, The Wolfman (1964) (approx. 18’);
- Robert Ashley, Automatic Writing (1979) (approx. 7’);
- Robert Ashley, Ideas About Thinking (approx. 18’);
- Gordon Mumma, 1978 Santa Cruz Saw Festival (approx. 8’);
- Roger Reynolds, Sanctuary II (ca. 1975) (approx. 33’);
- Roger Reynolds, Quick are the Mouths of Earth (1965) (approx. 19’);
- Roger Reynolds, A Portrait of Vanzetti (1963) (approx. 21’);
- Roger Reynolds, Watershed I (1995) (approx. 30’);
- Roger Reynolds, Variations Solo Piano (1988) (approx. 22’);
- David Tudor and Pauline Oliveros, Applebox Double (1965) (approx. 17’); and
- Robert Sheff, Diotoma (1963) (approx. 19’).
Andreas Romberg (1767-1821) composed twenty violin concerti but only four of them have been published. They evoke openness of Being, even in a minor key.
- Thomas Wilson, Piano Concerto: “Seen as a whole, the Concerto is a continuous set of free variations based on the quiet, reflective music given out by the solo piano at the outset” [from the liner notes to this album].
- Tawadros, “Hand in Hand Suite”
- Ernie Watts Quartet, “Home Light” (2018) (68’): “Demonstrating a bonafide inner motivation, Watts mixes earthly vibes with some occasional spirituality, keeping jazz in its purest, classic forms.”
- Phronesis, “Alive” (2010) (89'), “demonstrates an openness that is not always achievable in a studio setting. It is this telepathic empathy between the players and their collective desire to take the music in new directions.” “Trio leader Jasper Høiby, a double-bassist with much of Dave Holland's agility and power, wrote all the pieces, which often revolve around buildups of layered rhythms setting bass patterns against contrasting drum rejoinders, a method Guiliana takes to with an explosive creativity.”
- John Keats, “Ode to Psyche”
Books of poetry:
- Florence Gander, Twice Alive (New Directions, 2021) “vibrates with the thrill that comes with being open with another person”.