Stoneware jar designed by Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse and made in the factory of Choisy-Le-Roi, c. 1898
Looking yesterday at these images of Syrian Kurds attempting to flee the ongoing catastrophe in that country I recalled the late Christopher Hitchens’ advocacy of Kurdish liberty. As he never tired of repeating, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world to have no state of their own. I also remembered an anonymous fragment of Kurdish poetry that I translated many years ago, via an Italian intermediary. Apart from its approximate age I have no further details of the poem nor of its Italian translator. It was written in the 7th or 8th century and shows that persecution is far from being a new experience for the Kurdish people.
The places of prayer are destroyed
The fires spent
The greatest men hidden
Cruel Arabs raze
the peasant villages as far as Sharazar
Enslaved are wives and daughters
Brave men are rolled in blood
The rites of Zarathustra are no more
The Wise Lord has no pity on us
A few weeks ago at the Saronic Chamber Music Festival in Poros, Greece I heard Psappha, a work for solo percussion by Iannis Xenakis. The impact of this music, brilliantly realized by the virtuosic young Greek percussionist Alexandros Giovanos under the night sky of its native land, was quite literally stunning. I have since done a bit of reading about the piece, struggling without success to understand the complex mathematical processes that underlie it. One of many things I admire about Xenakis and his music is this: though his compositions were frequently the result of extremely complex formal and mathematical techniques the result is anything but aridly intellectual. His music is sensual, visceral and often overwhelming in its raw power. The man was truly a genius of modern music, and that night at the Syggrou Amphitheatre an unforgettable musical epiphany. Mπράβο Aλέξανδρο! Mπράβο Ξενάκη!
Two architectural projects by Iannis Xenakis
Son et lumière spectacle by Iannis Xenakis, Persepolis, Iran, 1971
The artist Arthur Kraft (1922–1977) was a Kansas City native and, like myself, an alumnus of that city’s Southwest High School. Much of his work was painted in an abstract style which is pretty hard to take seriously these days, but he was also one of the many talented designers employed by the Container Corporation of America in their pioneering and unconventional advertising campaigns of the 1940’s and 50’s, “… intended to differentiate the CCA from its competition through the use of modern art, or, as Elizabeth said “to associate the company with design excellence.”