As many people as we have on this planet, it is remarkable that every now and then, a single human being can enter this life and claim it so superiorly, so richly, so giftedly, as to make us pause, hold our breath, and watch in wonder. Without question, Mr. Leonard Bernstein was one of those individuals.
Not long ago, I was driving home from dropping my kids off at school, and I was listening to KUSC, our local, listener funded, classical radio station. It’s a terrific station, and they were playing one of Leonard Bernstein’s lecture series that he presented at Harvard in the early ’70’s. It was brilliant, touching heavily on poetry (at least the portion of the lecture that they played on the air) and his theory of zeugma…where a single word in a sentence can cause a “pivot” if you will, that allows the sentence to be interpreted in more ways than one (note: a zeugma is related to the syllepsis). He talked about how this related to music and how music can create this same kind of experience. What he discussed in the lecture did not stir me as much as the simple act of hearing Bernstein speak, and listening to how his mind worked – his passion, curiosity, lust for knowledge, and the obvious joy he derived from sharing this with whomever cared to listen.
If any of you are interested, I highly encourage you to tune in and listen to his lectures. They are lively, engaging, and filled with zest. The lectures are available on YouTube …the link provided here is the 1st lecture in the series, and if I remember correctly, there are 6 lectures in total.
The quote above, in reference to the great artist “…he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure the one note follows another, and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.” This quote is applicable to any of the arts, and I personally, insert the “one note follows another” with “one word follows another…” in reference to all the brilliant writers that have taught me the value, the importance, the significance and weight, of the one properly chosen word, followed by the next one properly chosen word. Derrida had a name for this kind attention to craft, called – Logic of Supplementarity; each word paving the way for the next word, and each sentence carving the path for the next sentence. It is “logical” (no pun intended!) and yet, surprisingly, we often come across tangled sentences that leap into the future without giving the reader an insight as to where they are going, or why. When we read someone with superior talent with words, or listen to someone with enormous talent with music, or watch the way a person can move their body as they dance – we are affected by their gift, and this gift is usually one that has been crafted over countless hours of work, practice, dedication, and attention to the details.
…and so it is with Bernstein. (just look at this above picture – the passion!) How I love technology, and our ability to reach into the past and watch, and listen, to the great minds of our human collective. Leonard Bernstein, I hope you are still making music, wherever you may be. You continue to inspire here on this planet, and for that, I am (and countless others, I am certain) eternally grateful. xxoxoxo