I'm in almost exactly the same place that I was yesterday, maybe a foot or two further towards the top of the garden. This gives me the advantage of shade from the large tree that grows at the end. As it is quite warm and brightly sunny, this shade is most welcome.
As yesterday, I am typing this on little HP Pavilion dm1z laptop. Really just a slightly souped up netbook that I bought as a lightweight, small and low cost portable computer to take to South Africa at the end of last year. It served me well there, and I continue to use it as my main Skype computer. It's more powerful than my desktop of four years ago, despite running on a low power 1.6 MHz AMD E-350 processor. As I write this, it is playing Satie's Sarabandes through the surprisingly efficient built-in speakers. It cost me about $350 – it has been by far the best value-for-money computer that I have ever owned.
Funny how the mind can wander into technical-speak mode. I'm analysing the specifications of a machine when the numbers quite are irrelevant. What is relevant is that I can type this, listen to music, and run the laptop on battery power long enough for me to do for a long time. That is the real essence of this technical miracle.
Another of those black and white stripey-legged mosquitoes is trying to land on my hand. It's hovering about above my fingers, darting this way and that, but never actually making skinfall. There – it's gone. Oh, another one. It's hotter than last night and the insects are more swiftly active. Several still deciding to drown in my tea, though.
My son graduates from high school this month. It's throwing my memories back to the same period in my own life, easily the most lost and miserable time in all of my existence. Not good memories to retrieve. What they do achieve is a reinforcement of how far I have come since then and a reminder that a life that once seemed bleak and hopeless turned out to be nothing of the kind. Whatever troubles beset me these days seem of little consequence, even if they could be judged to be not of little consequence at all – such as a tree falling on the house. It's not what happens to you that counts, it's what you feel about what happens to you that makes the difference.
The sun is moving. My shade is vanishing. Time to move again.
My son and I went to Walmart this morning. To buy another laundry basket, cat food, a pair of lightweight shoes to wear in the lab and some more dishwasher detergent. Detergent – such a funny scientific word for soap. Not quite soap, for the manufacturers will trumpet the chemical marvels therein, but really that's all it is. Words were simpler once, and you needed less of them. Or so it seems.
That's the beauty of these Sarabandes. With Satie, there seem to be no unnecessary notes. Just the essence of a beautiful melody. Next to no counterpoint in Satie, but the melodies are remarkably free and suggest wildly modulating harmonics. Suggestion – that is the key to Satie's genius. It's not hard to understand how the most suggestive of all composers, John Cage, was deeply drawn to Satie's music.
Contrast this then with the first String Quartet of Béla Bartok that my friend Mary is attempting to absorb in her quest to finish the unfinished novel, "The Man Without Qualities" by Robert Musil. At this point in Mary's exposition, the two lovers at the heart of part three of Musil's mammoth work are in Budapest in 1914, attending a chamber concert of Bartk's music. One of the key performances is of the string quartet.
Mary is finding it a difficult piece to love. It lacks a strong melody and the type of chunky thematic material that is more common in Bartok's later works. But it makes perfect sense if you are steeped in the chamber music of Johannes Brahms. Particularly in his Op. 51 string quartets, Brahms weaves a dense, strikingly advanced harmonic web of counterpoint with minimal motivic and melodic fragments. Bartok absorbed this lesson deeply. So did Schoenberg. Many of the extraordinarily adventurous harmonic and rhythmic innovations in music just prior to the First World War can be traced back to Brahms. Ironic really, considering Brahms was judged at the time as a conservative composer in relation to Wagner and Liszt. Innovations do not always have to shout out loud.
The Satie has moved onto the Nocturnes. I find the first four of these to be perhaps the most beautiful melodic studies that I know. Alas the fifth and sixth fall far below that standard. So I only listen to only the four. That's enough for today.