— Explorations while creating poetry, music, & stories in Iceland —
Author: Simo Sakari Aaltonen
I'm the author of the series of illustrated coffee table books suitable for all ages called YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU'LL SEE IN THE HAUNTED GARDEN.
I moved to Iceland in the summer of 2018 after a sojourn in Paris the winter before. I was born in Finland. I will soon retire this journal and move to writing on Medium. It featured explorations of various works of art & entertainment undertaken while here in Iceland.
Before embarking on my own solo projects, I wrote for games such as SERENA (downloaded on Steam more than 2 million times).
OCTOBER 28th 2018 — In Paris I started a personal catalogue of rhythmic patterns to help me with my music-making. I just now strung them all together one after the other, and so far there are 6,762 bars (measures) of patterns and variations. I add to it daily.
This has been all about laying a solid foundation and has involved hours and hours of painstaking, methodical work.
I have every pattern: 1) on paper, in a notebook I bought in Paris, 2) on my iPad Pro, which is my main creative multipurpose tool, in four separate apps (if anyone is interested: Notion, DrumPerfect Pro, Patterning, and Cubasis 2), and 3) in cloud storage. So it would take quite the calamity for me to lose them.
But yes, I decided the foundation is now solid enough and now I can start really building with this resource to draw on. I have been doing that all along in tandem with this, but I mean even more actively.
Now comes melody, instrumentation, and all the really fun stuff.
OCTOBER 24th 2018 — Nearly everyone must know the feeling. Coming across and looking through photos that trigger waves of memories, remembering what it was all like. People we miss… memories of happy times… good moments.
In lonelier times this feeling can be overwhelming. There may be tears. And we may remember with infinite regret things we didn’t do as well as we should have. Perhaps causing that happiness to flee. If we had done things differently, we might still be happy and those times may never have fled.
Did I say there may be tears? Of course there are. All the above being true, of course there are.
As this series progresses, the variety of music will grow ever wider, since my interests in music extend to all types of music and since for decades THE GRAMOPHONE covered all types of music, not only classical, as today.
The quality of recordings will also soon improve radically, since the late 1920s marked the switchover from the much less advanced (and so-called-then) acoustic process to the (again so-called-then) electric process of recording.
From my rudimentary reading on this topic, this basically meant that microphones started being used for recording. Up until that time, music was recorded by singing and/or playing into a kind of tube.
OCTOBER 19th 2018 — Starting with this entry of this “Let’s read” series, I have decided to share Spotify playlists of the pieces I pick out from each issue for special mention. These have also been added to the previous entries.
Editor Compton Mackenzie opens the issue by presenting the idea of what would later be named the National Gramophonic Society. Here he is only asking his readers whether they would support the venture enough for it to be worth doing. They would, and the Society would go on to make many worthwhile recordings of music previously unavailable on record.
The editorial is followed by an installment of “A Musical Autobiography”, also by the Editor. He looks back on a time when he was such a short way along the path of musical appreciation that he honestly couldn’t perceive the melody in the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s SYMPHONY NO. 6 IN B MINOR, even though a friend played it to him over and over, getting more annoyed with each attempt.
Elsewhere in this feature the Editor writes:
“[…] I am always suspicious of perfect taste that has not been reached by leagues of bad taste.” (p. 65)
“For one’s own pleasure I am sure that it is a mistake to have exquisite taste in all the arts. For the rest of my life I intend to be quite impenitent about music and painting, and never to allow myself to get beyond works of art that still delight me, though I know them to be far removed from the first rank.” (p. 65)
“I do not fancy that I shall ever lose my bad taste in music, although I regret to say that I am beginning to find Puccini impossible. This is a sad business, and I grow to like Bach better and better every day.” (p. 66)
About the page numbers: At this point in its history, and for years to come, THE GRAMOPHONE employed page numbering that continued from one issue to another throughout one volume — one year.
Many people would have these volumes bound in handsome hardcover collections, so the result at the end of every volume was essentially a thick book of several hundred pages.
A highly detailed index was also produced for each volume. I have not seen any of these indices myself, as unfortunately they are not part of the magazine’s digital archive. But I should add that the digital archive is searchable — to the extent that the Optical Character Recognition catches each word.
Maybe one day an angel somewhere will drop these indices — not to mention the missing ads from the early years — on the laps of the people maintaining the archive. I hope so.
Recordings of especial interest that are on Spotify:
Cellist Pablo Casals and pianist Walter Golde play a transcription of Chopin’s NOCTURNE IN E FLAT MAJOR, Op. 9 No. 2. Casals would record this again some years later.
From pioneering harpsichordist Violet Gordon-Woodhouse (discussed in previous articles in this “Let’s read” series), Domenico Scarlatti’s SONATA IN A MAJOR, K. 113, L. 345 and SONATA IN D MAJOR, K. 29, L. 461. In these early days, recordings of instruments other than the most familiar ones comprising the symphony orchestra — and piano, of course — were rare. I always perk up when I find on Spotify one of these recordings featuring less common instruments.
Ragtime piano with Max Darewski: “MONKEY BLUES”.
F. Sharp starts her review of dance records with:
“To listen in cold blood to a succession of dance records is fair neither to the records nor to the reviewers. The following have all been danced to, and a dancing expert has given her valuable opinion on their merits.” (p. 79)
And a few paragraphs later she makes the first mention in the pages of THE GRAMOPHONE of the wonderful Cole Porter:
“Talking of syncopation, I cannot find in any catalogue records of Cole Porter’s marvelous syncopated music. I have not any American catalogues by me, but I suppose some recording company has got him on their list. I cannot understand why we are not given anything by this young master of rag-time.” (p. 79)
Spotify playlist for this entry, “Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 4 — September 1923”:
This issue is available as part of the magazine’s digital archive, which every subscriber (a month or a year, digital or print+digital) gets access to.
OCTOBER 18th 2018 — The photo is from IceCon 2018, between panel discussions at Culture House Iðnó in Reykjavík (early October), but it made me think of theater.
Theater is special. There is a magic to it. This post is a small tribute to that.
From the heavy curtains to the wonderfully worn, scratched stage floors, to the costumes and props, makeup and music, light and shadow, real people and things in physical space sharing an experience that will always be new, never exactly the same, and of course the amazing, intoxicating smell that many theaters have, theater engages all the senses and involves us as human beings in a beautiful world of art.
I support the idea that parents should let children discover this magic in one way or another at a young age.
Some things in life simply make for warmer and often — not always, but often — more empathetic souls. And theater is one of those things.
OCTOBER 16th 2018 — I had a lovely dream. Sometimes our subconscious mind, or some other providence, gifts us with moments of beauty in dream no matter how waking life is. The only downside is, of course, waking up.
In the dream I mentioned to someone a wedding of persons who were strangers to her. To my surprise, she got tears in her eyes, even though she did not know the people who got married. The topic of weddings in general could move her so deeply, or maybe there were more specific personal associations for her.
I felt such affection for this sensitive and beautiful soul. She smiled and laughed as the tears kept coming.
As we continued speaking, it came as the most natural thing in the world to lie down on the couch — we were in a living room I have not (at least yet) been to in the waking world — and seek out the other’s hand with our own as we kept talking, both unexpectedly so happy in the special moment that had suddenly happened that it felt like nothing could ever change it.
Talking, sharing, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, both warmed by the rich warmth of the other and of that moment, it was like swimming in happiness and the beautiful promise of life.
OCTOBER 16th 2018 — I visited Chopin’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris a bit over a year ago.
And the greatest thing was that there was his music in the air just then, just like in an episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER that had a scene actually filmed there: “On the Orient, North”. Someone was playing it from their phone. I almost couldn’t believe it.
Also wonderful was how the apartment I rented happened to be located literally just down the street from this cemetery (and I mean, Paris is huge), which I always knew I would want to visit. But I didn’t even realize this when arranging for the flat. It was the only one open to me, really.
It was on rue du Chemin-Vert (“Street of the Green Path”). And in Paris I experienced some of the happiest moments of my life. I treasure some of those memories.