Coup de Grâce

On my green and pristine back lawn, a solitary fallen leaf lies captive among the blades, a sure sign of the coming fall. A summer lengthened by oppressive heat is mercifully at its end. Fellow bloggers eagerly write about crisp mornings, cool nights, and college football games. But here’s a better nod to the upcoming season, a beckoning more sublime than anything “pumpkin spice”. Have a listen to Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concerto “Autumn”, from his best-known work, “The Four Seasons”.

Sure, I could bore you with the details of a classical composition written over four hundred years ago. “The Four Seasons” was cutting edge for its time because the music reflected real-life events: singing birds (“Spring”), soft breezes (“Summer”), and icy paths (“Winter”).  But today’s post is not really about “Autumn” and its drunken dancers.  It’s about the performance of the piece by Frederieke Saeijs.

Ms. Saeijs

I’d never heard of Frederieke Saeijs before I watched the eleven minutes of her violin solo in the video above but I must confess, I’m absolutely smitten.  Frederieke (pronounced exactly like it reads, unlike her last name), is Dutch by birth but worldly in every other respect, including her education, performances, and teaching.  Her list of accomplishments and awards suggests there is nothing further she can achieve with her instrument… and she’s only forty-two.

But I digress (and can you blame me after seeing her photo?)  Let’s get back to this performance of “Autumn”.  Here is what I found so captivating.  First, Frederieke’s eyes and her movements with her violin are unabashedly expressive as she plays, clearly one with the music.  She is a picture of grace with her slender frame, elegant hairstyle, and striking purple gown.  In other words, you could watch this video on mute and still be impressed.  But please don’t.  You need to hear the music, even just a few minutes of it.  I admit to distraction by some other things on my computer screen yet I kept coming back to this performance until I’d completed all eleven minutes.

If I haven’t yet persuaded you to spend a few minutes with Frederieke, consider this.  She plays the entire piece from memory (which, in ‘Autumn’s more furious moments, is mind-boggling).  Also, her performance – as well as those of the smallish orchestra around her – is captured from a dozen different angles.  This was a busy production, both in front of and behind the camera.

I kept waiting for something – anything – to bring this performance back to earth so I could describe it as less than perfect.  Except for a cough in the audience minutes from the end, I don’t see how the concerto could’ve been purer.  Seriously, have you ever wondered how a soloist of this caliber avoids a sneeze or a cough, or even slips a little on her high heels?  Perhaps this explains why Frederieke is a world-class violinist and I am not.

Finally, if you made it to the end of this performance like I did, you’ll find it interesting the video concluded before the audience applause (and standing ovation, no doubt).  I say “good call” to whoever posted the video.  The silent fade-to-black conclusion only makes the performance more powerful.

Mr. Vivaldi

A coup de grâce is defined as “a decisive blow”, and further, “one delivered mercifully to end suffering”.  I love the double meaning here.  The season of autumn delivers a merciful end to the suffering of a hot summer.  More to today’s topic, Ms. Saeijs’ violin performance speaks of force and grace as one.  In other words, she offers you a most sublime welcome to fall.

The poem which inspired Vivaldi’s “Autumn” concerto includes the line, “… And (by) the season that invites so many, many…”  After watching today’s video I feel very much invited.  I suggest you raise a glass of hot cider to the calm of fall.  While you’re at it, give thanks for the breathtaking talent of Frederieke Saeijs.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Here we go again, time-travelers. This Sunday at 2:00am a good portion of the world will effortlessly move backwards one hour as we roll off of Daylight Savings Time (DST). It’ll be dark outside earlier (no more “summer nights”) and it’ll still be dark when most people wake up. Slam the door on summer – our days will feel shorter for the next eighteen weeks.

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The rules of DST have changed over time (ha), at least here in the United States.  The concept itself was borrowed from the Germans as a way of conserving fuel, and began in 1918; the same time the U.S. adopted “standard time zones” (Pacific, Mountain, etc.).  At first it was a federal mandate in conjunction with wartime activities.  Several years later DST was abandoned entirely.  Then it was turned over to the individual states to adopt (or not).  Finally, DST was given formal guidelines in 1966 as part of the Uniform Time Act.

DST still feels like an experiment with no satisfactory results.  In 1974-1975 the U.S. tried DST for an entire year, but went back to the on-off approach when concerns were raised about kids heading off to school in the dark.  In 1986 DST was extended from the half-and-half calendar to include the entire month of April.  In 2005 DST was extended again to the first Sunday in November -to accommodate trick-or-treating on Halloween.  That last modification was only eleven years ago, for a concept that has been around for a century.  Any bets the rules of DST will change again?

Arizona (outside of their Navajo lands) and Hawaii may have the last laugh.  Both states leave their clocks untouched while the rest of us move backward and forward year after year after year.

Whether or not DST continues, this much is true.  On Sunday I will be resetting two alarm clocks (my wife’s actually auto-adjusts but doesn’t understand post-2005 DST), three wall clocks, three temperature gauges, two thermostats, two car clocks, and several appliances and watches.  Any of these products could be designed to auto-adjust (like phones and computers) but maybe their creators don’t trust the DST rules won’t change yet again?

A word of advice about Sunday’s change.  Proceed with caution when you head out on Monday.  Not only will it be darker, but your body clock – which can’t be adjusted with a button – will be slightly out of kilter.  Strange things happen the day after clocks adjust, including more accidents between cars and people (if certain Department of Transportation reports are to be believed).

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Last thought.  Today’s word is mnemonic, which refers to any means of making the retention of information in the brain easier.  MNEMONIC is also an acronym for “Memory Needs Every Method Of Nurturing Its Capacity” (I like that).  That brings to mind a couple other mnemonics.  The Great Lakes can be remembered with HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).  The bass clef in music (the notes A,C,E,G) can be remembered with “all cars eat gas”.  And of course, DST has its own mnemonic to determine which way the clocks adjust.  Remember: “Spring forward, Fall back!”

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.