Politics

Traces Seen Through Azzurro-blue Water by Mikael Rudolfsson - Trombone

I swim a lot. It's like meditaion. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breath, Stroke, stroke, stroke, breath. Rhythm and symmetry. Like music.

A swimming pool tells us a lot about a country. Take the French charming ones with the small private boxes for changing, or the perfectly organized but sometimes boring German ones with mixed nude sauna for men and women, or the Swedish one in the suburb where I grew up, with the water slide and the 25 meter pool where I played and swam as a child, claiming the "Simborgarmärket", a reward for being able to swim 200 metres.

I like the Italian piscine, where it's mandatory for everyone to wear a cuffia, a bathing cap, in order to keep clean (because the Italians are, in a strange way, the uncrowned cleanliness specialists of Europe). Or - recently discovered - the modern architechtural landmarks of rich cities in countries like Switzerland and Luxembourg.

By the way: the price for an indoor swim also tells us something about the politics of a country - not necessarily connected to the general price level of the country, but rather a representative of the philosophy behind the structure of a society, or the political agenda of a city - privatized and expensive in some places, or solidarily subsidized in others. Does your country care about its citizens and their well-being?

There are, of course, contrasts in all aspects of life, not only in the interesting field of swimming pools. And when you've experienced one thing which is new for you and changes your horizon for good, the old experineces will never be the same again, the new ones adding to the variety of experience. I thought this thought when I went through the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last week - after seeing the Rembrandts, no other portrait remains the same. There were, of course, excellent contemporaries of his. But no-one like Rembrandt: don't ask me how, but he manages to make his protagonists incredibly real, their personalities glowing through their faces. How can someone paint with oil on a plain piece of canvas, and achieve something like this? Giving us, the audience, the inceredible feeling that we already know the people on the pictures, that we feel the depth in their personalities through barely watching them? What a power art has! And how revealing it is. The clear wrinkles of age. The history of another human being, written on his or her face. Traces left, like waves of sand on a seabed, clearly visible through the azzurro-blue water.

Grandeur by Mikael Rudolfsson - Trombone

I traveled to France to feel the sweet breath of true greatness again. In the least humble city of all, in the shadow of the Sorbonne, the swell autumn air let my thoughts fly like swirling winds, high up in the air, my body sitting firmly on chairs or half-lying on sofas in cafés, finally relaxing and joyfully observing the self-confident manners of the Parisien.

This helped me realize one thing:

We should all allow a bit more Grandeur in our lives.

Politicians would then make their visions come true instead of permanently managing so called "crises". Composers would then get out of their comfort zone and dare to make something that tries to grasp the world, to create a universe of emotions, like Mahler, Stockhausen or Bach once did. And - most important of all - the common man or woman, people like you and I, would make it part of our agenda to grow in all directions: inwards, outwards, to expand as beings, in the true sense of the word.

So far so good. Time for a new Jugendstil maybe? An inspiringly new belle-epoque, an era where all the levels of style exist and grow parallel to each other and everything is allowed, but with us humans truthfully involved - instead of volunteering as digital cripples in the claws of Google and c/o, we'll build something new, something fresh, something smelling of autumn leaves and grand, new, sparkling ideas. Together.

Visiting Earth by Mikael Rudolfsson - Trombone

There are a couple of things I would have a difficulty to understand, if I came visiting earth as an alien: how humans sometimes choose to live in groups under such incompetent leaders, how most of us spend most of our lives working with things we don't like and the rest of our time in weird trains on our way back and forth to this work, swiping our smartphones. And...why we take utmost care in practical details and everyday perfection, choosing the right soy milk, but not always the same care in the emotional details of life.

But, as always, there are also things on earth that would impress me immensly - the fruit for instance. So simple and so delicious. Or the amazing beauty of our nature, the frozen lakes of the North, the red soil of Africa.

In spite of all these astonishing and beautiful things, though: I wouldn't understand what the whole fuzz is all about before I heard music. Imagine (still being an alien, of course) coming to a concert hall with an empty stage, asking yourself what people are doing there in their evening dresses. And then, the musicians come on stage and it sounds, finds its way through flesh and bones, to the very core of us, the place nobody has managed to describe. Makes us complete in a way that no other form of art I know can.

All of our highways, our drainpipes and toilets, infrastructure nets and breakfast buffets, tax departments and smartphones, banks and cars, everything to no point without culture - our content in life. For me: the reason for keeping up the functioning world, the one thing that defines us as humans. Out in space. And here back home.

Happy New Year!

Yours,

Mikael

Das gute alte Telefon by Mikael Rudolfsson - Trombone

Man muss nicht mehr "Smartphone" sagen, ein Telefon ist in diesen Zeiten automatisch ein Smartphone, es gibt einfach niemanden mehr der ernsthaft ein Dumbphone besitzt. Außer mir. Mein geliebtes SonyEricsson W810i ist aber unglücklicherweise vor drei Wochen aus meiner Tasche in die Ostsee gerutscht. Was tun? Naja, ich habe mir sofort ein neues gekauft, natürlich. Identisch, nur in nagelneu.

Was mich erstaunt ist, dass das Besitzen eines Dumbphones nicht öfter als Effektivitetswerkzeug gefeiert wird: Du ersparst dir das Online-Sein, du ersparst dir die Unsicherheit, stets unverschlüsselt, überwacht und digital misbraucht zu werden. Du ersparst dir durch die Effektivizierung die das alles mit sich führt Zeit, das kostbarste Gut was wir haben. Und du förderst das eigene Denken, muss deinen Orientierungssinn pflegen, selber ein paar Zahlen, Vokabeln und Fakten im Kopf behalten die du sonst gegoogelt hättest. Eine Herausforderung - und eine direkte Intelligenzförderung, würde ich behaupten.

Das ist aber nur der Anfang: Die praktische Größe, die unglaubliche Akkuzeit, das schnelle Tippen von T9-Nachrichten sind andere Highlights. Und dieses Wunder ist eine Waffe gegen Kommunikationsinflation - wenn eine SMS noch eine SMS ist und Geld kostet, wenn auch nur ein paar Cent, ist sie auch was wert.

Das neue schwarze Teil liegt gut in meiner Hand, summt zufrieden vor sich hin wenn jemand anruft und verkörpert, ganz nebenbei, ein historisches Kapitel schwedischer Industriegeschichte. SonyEricsson, ach, waren das schöne Zeiten. Japanische Präzision und schwedisches Kommunikationsdesign. Ein schönes Pärchen. Zum Glück habe ich noch eines der letzten Exemplare im Neuzustand ergattert. Eine Beziehung die hält. Mindestens 10 Jahre noch.

On length/brevity by Paige Brunton

So, Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize. Probably not a bad decision, considering that music and poetry have belonged together for thousands and thousands of years. The question if pop culture needs prestigious literary prizes like this one is another one, which I don't intend to answer here.

But what really struck me during the last week (I spent it in Sweden) is the general tendency in favor of art forms that are short and easily chewable (or at least, not too al dente). I see it in the concert programs of orchestras ("come and listen - short concert with no intermission - no difficult or demanding music - we promise!"), I see it in the hollow and dull short messages people send each other with their smart phones, I see it in literature, in the way we go to museums, in the way we surf the internet.

I believe in lengthy art. I need the Wagner operas and the Tolstoy novels just in the same way that I need cathedrals and Roman or Greek ruins. For me they symbolize continuity, effort and stamina, make a manifestation of what we humans are and can achieve. I think that we, people working with art, should be cautious of not stripping it down too much, taking away a branch here and there, leaving a clean and sleek forest with lots of room but little content.

I would be curious to see if there is a way of reaching out to more concert-goers in actually fully believing in our legacy of the lengthy and demanding, in presenting full pieces. The Bruckneresque state of meditation, the endless flow of a Bach oratorio. I think it's a matter of showing that we can, that we want to and will present our art this way. Because we're completely convinced that it stands the test, and will stay effective until the end barline.

Who knows if this theory is valid or true in the case of Dylan, it will be interesting to hear what he says in his Nobel speech. As always, we'll stay awake and see where the journey takes us. The answers are blowin' in the wind. 

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