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Monday, May 14, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part I

My mentor of mentors praised me once. She said she approved of the way my words were articulated, one to the next. "It reminds me of what Isaac Stern once said about music, that it was the stuff between the notes." Mortar and hinges. Cartilege and tendon and fascia enlaced, one to the next. I always thought Isaac Stern was full of shit, and not just because he ground me into the New Haven asphalt with his custom-made Italian heel after I played the Bach Chaconne for him in his room at the Taft. He was full of shit because of the way he played the Beethoven concerto--yes, as though he were telling a story, but he's not telling the right story! This is an opera about the beauty and muscularity of human thought, and his is the story of a lumbering, ponderous formality. It's not without its own beauties, but honey, whatever I did to the Chaconne at least I didn't slip it a Roofie. Heifetz played the Beethoven concerto with passion and elegance so powerful his recordings leave a slipstream behind them, into which we fall, amazed and ennobled. It's funny, I've only just realized--I haven't heard anybody's recording of the Beethoven concerto in more than ten years, maybe fifteen. I can't start now, James is asleep on the sofa, and I don't have the Stern recording with which to keep him that way.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.