I recently had to deal with the ancient gods of Greece. Not personally, mind you, but rather through my daughter trying to figure out who is who in her homework about ancient sagas: Zeus, Hera, Artemis etc. I must confess, I was more familiar with their Roman successors as they figure large in some wonderful music pieces. One example would be Claudio Monteverdi’s his semi-dramatic ballet “Il Ballo Delle Ingrate” (The Ballet of the Ungrateful). The researcher Roger Tellart defines the ballet as a typical work of the ending Renaissance promoting a humanistic ideal and fusing choreography, music and chant.
Arcangelo Corelli is my secret Baroque hero. Despite my veneration of Johann Sebastian Bach, Corelli’s music exerts a singular attraction upon me. His individual style, the fact that in his works the solemn element is always perfectly balanced by the entertaining aspect always triggers my admiration anew. Charles Burney, the famous 18th-century music historian, noted that Corelli’s works “contributed longer to charm the lovers of Music by the mere powers of bow, without the assistance of the human voice, than those of any composer that has yet existed.” The Italian was known and celebrated as violinist and composer all over Europe, and Rome’s music life was unthinkable without Corelli as long as he lived.
Museums of contemporary art are sparsely populated areas. I remember visiting the Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo in Rome several years ago. I showed up on a workday in the morning, and I had the museum all for myself. I was alone. Walking through the expositions felt like walking through a cathedral. Silence all around me. A surreal solemnity. Strange artifacts stared at me and I stared back without understanding what I saw. Some works triggered a meditative moment, others made me just shake my head.
Welcome to Westray, a remote island in the North Sea, part of the Orkneys. I have unforgettable memories of a holiday when I was like 25 years old. Few people live there, the climate is harsh usually, but I was lucky and enjoyed several sunny days that made me discover the singular and rough beauty of this part of Scotland. I also enjoyed teaming up with other backpackers to visit the remarkable graveyard of Pierowall, to observe the myriads of sea birds nesting in the cliffs or to try to live for one day of food picked, bartered or worked for on the neighbouring island Papa Westray. That day we got plenty of mushrooms, sea snails, potatoes and a lobster too small to be sold by the fishermen.