Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”

Cover: Jim Aitchison Correspondence Fields, oil pastel and graphite on paper, 2021

I finished the novel Figures in a Landscape by Barry England back in 2021 and was captivated throughout. In the story, two men escape from war-time imprisonment and flee across a spare landscape pursued by their previous captors. The younger of the two is the more innocent Ansell, and the older is the callused fighter MacConnachie. The novel, from 1968, has no specifics about who the antagonists were or where the action occurs.

England’s book was a pure and existentialist response to sentiments the late 60s regarding war and the value we put on life, ours and others, and how proximity affects that value. What he wrote transcends the specificity of the events contained; the detailed and exposed psychology of the duo in flight contrasts the ambiguous landscapes. I think of it, imprecisely, as a more “human” companion to Waiting for Godot. Bleak humanism?

I read the book several times and annotated the events and days (approximately 11) when those events occurred, converting what I felt were key moments into specific movements. They are:

  1. march
  2. village I
  3. helicopter I
  4. crawl I
  5. fire
  6. boat
  7. mountain I
  8. village II
  9. mountain II
  10. rain
  11. fissure
  12. crawl II
  13. helicopter II
  14. “we’d never have got”

The movements are generally grouped in threes, with #13 and #14 standalone.

(written from 16 May 2022 to 3 Feb 2024)

Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”–Coda

Slowness has occurred the last few months. Passive voice. I know the cause is that I’ve focused on learning Italian, but a few years ago when I was on a death march at work, every night I still took at least 30 minutes to work on my Symphony No. 1. Those days haunt me for their dedication under stress.

There’s no excuse.

Maybe I need to drink less?
Continue reading Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”–Coda

On learning a language and becoming a person

I started taking Italian lessons a month-and-a-half before I left for Italy. Well, I was taking Duolingo lessons before that for a few months but I don’t count those lessons much after the quality of my experience with a Real Live Tutor. No offence, Duo.

My six months anniversary with Marina hits on October 10th so, as with all anniversaries, I’m assessing the state of the state of my improvement. I guess as arbitrary as they are, anniversaries are still good for taking a moment to assess or else we’d end up being goldfish. And you always want some proof of advancement or else in its absence the effort becomes wasted time that is soon abandoned. With the approaching anniversary, around two or three weeks ago, I started realizing that I’ve become a Real Live Person during lessons.

Continue reading On learning a language and becoming a person