Please tune in to WRTI 90.1 FM this Sunday, November 23rd at 5pm to hear my episode of “Philadelphia Music Makers” hosted by yours truly! I’ll be sharing some stories as well as playing a program of works by Bach, Schumann, Britten, Piazzolla, and Cassadó! It will also be posted later online at wrti.org.
Listen to a preview at the link below:
A recent Zester Daily article on Parisian café culture, written by my dear friend, francophile, and gastronomical sophist, John Harris, used this term and it caught my eye.
A basic Collins French Dictionary translation will tell us that it describes a “stroller” or an “idler.” But ooohhh it is so much more than this. A flâneur is a character. It developed in the mid-19th century (think Baudelaire) as a dandy- a literary-type, connoisseur of the Parisian streets, with “equal parts curiosity and laziness.” (Larousse: Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle). Typically imagined as donning a top hat and sporting around a long cane, he was a charming, attractive fellow and was fully aware of it. He wandered about—not with any specific destination, but simply for the pleasure of observing. Honoré de Balzac aptly called it “gastronomy of the eye.” However, do not confuse flâneurs with people-watchers. This urban spectator, man-about-town, was not passive in his actions. He was so immersed in his cultural participation that it was intoxicating. Strolling the city, pausing momentarily (more like loitering without time constraint) in a café for an espresso, and noting his surrounding social, political, cultural trends, was the ideal passionate experience. And it made him feel alive.
Ok, fast forward a wee bit. La Colombe café, Philadelphia. In this local, popular coffeehouse neighboring Rittenhouse Square, caffeine-addicts congregate, “regulars” gossip, businessmen read their Times, yuppies tweet about their personal current events or dare to farce a social custom via social media, in 140 characters or less, of course.
Are these not modern-day flâneurs? Instead of a cane, he totes an iPhone, serving a dual purpose as both trendy, stylish prop, and whose screen—when not in use—becomes a convenient mirror for our urban narcissist. In lieu of a dapper top hat, he is in hipster glasses, whose non-prescription lenses magically allow him to better scrutinize and analyze the art, politics, culture, commerce, and customs of the modern city. After he sips his espresso, he snaps a quick Instagram shot of the spread on his table—creaseless socio-political bestseller book, empty espresso cup and saucer, and the remaining crumbs of his pain au chocolat— gathers his belongings, and exits the café to find himself looking at the hustling and bustling of the park square in front of his eyes. He remarks on its beauty, decides to take a stroll through, and smiles coyly at the multitude of possible hashtags at his disposal.
Two weeks from today, I am playing a solo recital at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, entitled “Dialogues”. This sort of “east meets west” program, including works by Bach, Ligeti, Penderecki, and Tsintsadze, has given rise to some serious YouTube diversions on my part in order to understand the music more…
Conclusion: Mandolin is the bomb.edu (i really don’t know why this hasn’t caught on- people take .edu things more seriously)
Also, the balalaika is pretty awesome too.
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin!
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
My performance of Barrière’s Cello Duo with the lovely Jeong-Hyoun Lee was featured in this video about Philadelphia’s art scene. Enjoy!
To see the original Curtis Performs video of this piece, follow this link: