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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anton Bruckner: Wagnerian Toady or Symphonic Genius?

The jury on Anton Brucker's originality is still presumably out, although it is probably safe to say that those who find Wagner's music too grandiose for their taste will be equally impatient with Bruckner.

Bruckner was everything that Wagner was not: devoutly Catholic, personally unambitious, and professionally obscure for most of his life.  But he was as great a champion of the new musical world opened up by Wagner as anyone.  This earned him the opprobrium of the conservative symphonic school in Vienna, headed by Johannes Brahms. 

To get technical, Bruckner took the chromatic tonal language of Wagner, with its frequent enharmonic modulations, as the basic for a series of 9 symphonies that stretched the temporal framework of the form as far as it had ever gone until Gustav Mahler (another Wagner disciple) appeared on the scene.

Derek Watson's book in the Master Musician Series (J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1975) gives special attention to the many extant versions of Bruckner's works.  Bruckner was sensitive to criticism and frequently revised his music; the critical consensus is that his revisions were not always in the best interest of his art.

Another biography is The Life and Symphonies of Anton Bruckner, by Erwin Doernberg (Barrie and Rockliff, London, 1960.  This was the first British book devoted to Bruckner, directed "at the general musical reader who may be impatient with too much detail in the dissection of the music."

A reading knowledge of musical notation is nevertheless recommended for the enjoyment of both these volumes, as each includes musical examples.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Musical Oddities I by Kamposer*

Richard Wagner is said to be one of the most biographed (if one may coin the word) historical figures, alongside Napoleon.  His music has been exhaustively analyzed, as have his writings.  Yet there remains room for fresh approaches.  For instance, Richard Wagner: A Mystic in the Making, by Alan David Aberbach (1991, Longwood Academic).

A bookplate featuring a winged horse bestriding a rainbow beneath the crescent moon (a nighttime rainbow, no less) seems appropriate to the esoteric subject matter treated within.

According to the preface, "no study has tried to systematically explore the development and evolution of Wagner's religious, spiritual, and mystic ideas."  The two parts of the book are entitled "Self-Realization" and "God-realization."  The author touches on Wagner's remarks on Jewishness (inevitably), as well as his brushes with Sufism, Schopenhauer, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Meister Eckhart.

A skim through the volume (which your correspondent intends to read some day) suggests the thesis that, like Proust, Wagner came eventually to believe in salvation through Art.  This sort of mysticism may be well-tailored to the artist, but: what about the rest of us?  Happily there remains garden-variety mysticism, which is so to speak an open book-- and of course reading; though few can be famous composers, all may read about them.

Next up: Anton Bruckner:Wagnerian toady or symphonic genius?

*Kamposer is a composer manqué and musical correspondent (plus book photographer) for Pistil Books.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Outdoor Book Sale Rescheduled

The weather forecast shows a 90% chance of rain and wind tomorrow, so we're re-scheduling our annual outdoor book sale.  We think we'll have it next Saturday, Sept. 5, but will confirm closer to the date.
Image result for books and rain

Books and rain go well together when the books are inside and the rain is outside!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Annual Outdoor Book Sale - Aug. 29

It's time to make room for new inventory - out with the old books, in with the new!  The Pistil Books Annual Outdoor Book Sale has been scheduled.  We'll have hundreds of great books for one and two dollars, free lemonade, and, of course, thrills!  Hope to see you there--

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pistil Penthouse Premiere Party

Pistil Books had our first literary and musical event in our upstairs space (the Airbnb apartment mentioned in the previous post) this week and it turned out to be really fun.  Our format was an hour of music, food, wine and mingling followed by three readers, then more music as the party wound up.  Since our space was limited, all the guests were invited and we had a full house at about twenty people.

Thanks go to Kamposer and Moss Willow for providing the music, and to Kat Humphrey, Russell Scheidelman, and Stacey Levine for their readings.

Russell reading "Aphoristic Alibis." (Photo by Patricia Spencer.)

Here is Russell's smart and funny piece:


Assonance and alliteration, applied and aggregated alphabetically, archly assist an alleged
amateur author aggrieved at assembling aphoristic alibis advertised as art.

But beware--bystanders bemoan being besieged by blatantly belabored buffooneries borrowing
bookish buzzwords.

Catcalls can commemorate curiously contrived consonant concatenations.

Dandified dilettantes derivatively declaiming dubious "Debbie Does Dallas" dialectics deservedly

Enlightening eloquence ever eludes excessively ejaculated elocution effects.

Fastidiously following frivolous formalities fans furtive fantasies favoring foot flight.

Gullible guests, gathered gleefully, go gagging.

Heroic holdovers hover haplessly, hardly hearing.

Ignominiously injured, I issue immediate instructions invalidating imminently insufferable
idiomatic iterations, initially irreversible in intent.


Let like-lettered lexicon listings long lapidate lingering listeners loudly!

Meanwhile, my maniacally monotonous method, marching mechanically, makes me mentally
map many minefields menacing my mission's mad momentum.

Namely: narrowing name numbers, not now noteworthy, nevertheless nestle noxiously nearby.

Oddball occupants of oncoming orthographic outposts offer odious options or otherwise
obliterate orally outlandish opportunities.

Panic pervades Portlandia's potentially poorest pen-pushing poseur ploddingly pickpocketing
Peter Piper's peck.

"Quit quavering!" quibblers quip--quixotically.

Russell resumes reading: "Rotgut rivers regularly rinsed Rapunzel's Rastafarian rope-like ribs."

Something sinister somehow spoiled Society's simpler speculations surrounding several
Spanish strangers spotted Sunday slyly selling Superman's so-called sacred Spandex, slightly

Totalitarian teetotallers torrentially taught transformative truths that tenacious tipplers typically

Uhura University's unearthly undergraduates ubiquitously underwent unnerving urges up until
unanimously using up uniquely unctuous underarm unguents utterly unlike Uranus's.

V veers victorious: vociferously validating Vaudevillian verbosity, voluminously vaunting
vainglorious vassals, voraciously vacuuming Valentino's vast vocabulary.

While Washington wondered warily whether war was what Warsaw wanted, wordsmiths worried
wearily whether words were worth Wordsworth's while.

Xerxes xeroxed "Xanadu".

You yawning yet?

Zulita's Zionism ziplocked Zorro's zipper.

The view from the balcony at sunset. (Photo by Patricia Spencer).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pistil Penthouse

We have been busy the last two months starting a new business - the Pistil Penthouse Airbnb vacation rental.  We live in a 1903 built house, turned triplex, on Capitol Hill, one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Seattle.  We live in one of the apartments, Pistil Books is in the renovated basement, and the other two apartments have been traditional rentals until our top floor tenants recently moved to Amsterdam.  We spent about three weeks getting the place ready - some maintenance, painting, and furnishing needed to be done first.  We are located pretty much on top of Capitol Hill, and this apartment has two balconies with some amazing views looking west (towards downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains) and south.

View from western balcony:  Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, and one of many cranes that now dot our skyline.

Although of course I was tempted to cover all available wall spaces with bookshelves and books, I restrained myself and partially filled  just one small book case with a selection of titles I thought would be fun for guests to pick up at random and leaf through:  a collection of vintage books on trees and nature, some graphic novels and comics, a book of surrealist games, some art books, and a selection of guidebooks to the city and the northwest.

Our first guests were two women in town for a comparative literature conference - what serendipity!  Comparative literature was my college major.  We received some messages from them during their stay, commenting on their enjoyment of the apartment and the conduciveness of the dining table to working on a presentation for the conference.  In their after-stay review, they said "We were in for several days, and constantly discovering creative touches around the apartment (when you find a Lynda Barry book on the shelf, you know you are in a good place)."

About a week after our first guests left, Pistil Books received an order from one of them for several graphic novels and two of my recycled blank journals.

We have the idea of using the space mid-week when there are not guests to have readings and other art events.  So far, though, the summer is getting booked quickly.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Coming up: Group Collage at Magmafest

When: Sunday, March 1, 2015 - 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM 
Where: Hollow Earth Radio,  2018 East Union Street,  Seattle, WA 98122
Cost: Free
Get your creative juices flowing like lava and join Pistil Books for the making of a wall-sized community collage during the Magmafest Warm Up event at Hollow Earth. The collage will be on the wall at throughout the month. Cut-up materials and supplies provided.

There will also be Magma soup, bread from, & popcorn (donations for food gratefully accepted).

While you are creating & eating, enjoy Stand-up Showcase. Hosted by Forrest Baum, known in deep time as Hollow Earth’s OG DJ Prismatic. Toe-tapper, pun-cracker, yum-snacker, non-hacker, lunch-packer extraordinaire.