Tuesday, January 24, 2017

America as I love it

Norman Rockwell, Going and coming
Frank Capra, It's a Wonderful Life
This is neither about Obama, nor Clinton, nor Trump… It is about America as I dream of it, as it speaks to my heart and to my memory. I see it through movies, songs, books… The list would be too long, but… a few names immediately come to mind: Frank Capra, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen… Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, John Steinbeck, John D. Salinger… Gershwin, Bernstein, Jessye Norman, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder… 

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech
Why do I want to evoke this now? First, a few days ago, I was reading an article – I don’t remember where – about fundamental freedoms. It was illustrated by a Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell was a man who succeeded in showing us America as we love it. I regard him as a genuine artist, a painter rather than an illustrator, as he was usually depicted. Rockwell (1894-1978) is especially known for the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, which he illustrated for more than forty years (1916-1960). If you type his name on Google images, you will be able to admire many of his works.

Then, one or two days later, haphazardly on the Internet, I watched a video that illustrates what, in my mind, makes for the superiority of American pedagogy, at least that of the major universities. It offers a masterly presentation of a work by Beethoven, the third movement of his 15th string quartet (op. 132). A musicologist, a certain Robert Kapilow, speaks to an audience at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He analyzes in very lively manner, with the help of a real (and good) string quartet, this movement, Heiliger Dankgesang (Sacred Song of Thanksgiving), in which Beethoven expresses his gratitude to "the divinity" for his recovery from a serious illness. What a talent!

These are only two small examples, but this is the America we love!

Norman Rockwell, The Runaway