I would like to present you a chanson from Clément Janequin, a famous French Renaissance composer. He was one of the first composers who added noises and effects to songs – bird chirps in Le chant des oiseaux; market sellers’ advertising their goods in Les cris de Paris; cannons, trumpets, horses and shouts in La Guerre:
On ChoralWiki you can find the French text and its English translation.
I listened to this piece many times, discovering its many layers: at first I was captivated and amused by the sounds that animate the battle, then amazed by the musical skills of these singers, then by their joy in singing this piece, and then by the sound of Renaissance French and its nowadays odd pronunciation. It is nice to note that modern Canadian French contains visible traces of Old French – and that makes this song look so unbelievably Canadian to me, especially the last part where the singers shout: Victoire! that they pronounce: Victouére! – it makes me smile, but also think of the centuries that have slowly passed and shaped French language, as a river digs a canyon. I feel connected with the mind of Janequin through the centuries, thanks to the countless people who kept this piece of music alive. Enjoy!
For a friends’ party I challenged myself with a new biscuit recipe. It was risky for two reasons, first because it was a recipe untested by me, second because I am not so good at biscuit baking.
Nevertheless, full of optimism, I baked a batch of coconut biscuits following this recipe from La Tendresse en Cuisine [in French] and this is how they came out:
They look nice and crumbly but they were way too dry. I believe that my difficulties come from my inability to understand if the intermediate steps are correctly done. Actually, the pâte sablée had a wonderfully crumbly texture. I wonder what I did wrong, or at least, not well enough.
Anyway, they are all gone! Let’s see how I do next 🙂
I have started to post more regularly about the various topics that interest me, and Friday is book recommendation day!
Today I wish to present Hassan Massoudy‘s “Calligraphie arabe vivante”, a book that I got to know from another book, “La goutte d’or” by Michel Tournier. In Tournier’s novel, the young protagonist Idriss meets a master calligrapher, who teaches him Arabic calligraphy and its abstract, powerful grace. In the post-scriptum, Tournier thanked Massoudy for introducing him to calligraphy, “a traditional art where beauty is weaved to truth and wisdom” (personal translation from French). The citation pointed to Calligraphie arabe vivante. Without hesitation, I bought the book and got fascinated by the plasticity of Arabic writing – sometimes elegantly round, sometimes hatched and mechanical, even expressionist. I am amazed at how much additional information and force can be integrated in the shapes that build up actual words – and how, by not understanding the words as such, I am exposed only to their art.
You can see many more Massoudy’s creations on his personal website. If you want a high-quality photo book with a great selection of calligraphy works and detailed explanations of traditional techniques, I totally recommend this book!
(Picture credits: islamic-arts.org)
Par Edward Julius Detmold (1883-1957) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Around a year ago, I stumbled upon the 10 volumes of the Souvenirs entomologiques while browsing ebooksgratuits.com. I feel ashamed not to have known about him in a more direct way, both as a naturalist and as a francophone, because there is so much passion in his scientific work and so much taste in his sublime prose.
Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915) was a teacher in Southern France and an avid explorer of the nature around him. Along his books you discover his simple and fresh attitude to life, his admiration for insects, which he describes as complex and brave living beings, treating them with care and respect even when he interacts with them to test a scientific hypotesis.
I would recommend to read the original text, or hope that the translators created an equivalently rich and expressive prose. There is true poetry in the way he describes how the whole family, dog included, participate to his curious experiments that fill his room and the house’s garden with jars and cages for any kind of insect and spider; sometimes his children, who eagerly help him, are the ones who spot a crucial detail and are regarded by Fabre as true scientists too. He has a simple yet rich way of talking about his life, his ability to find positive aspects of a grim situation, his admiration for his human and animal teachers.
There has been some debate about his opposition to evolution theory, that is quite clear in this series of books, but this has not diminished the value of his work in my eyes: the theory was only being drafted at his times, therefore I am not surprised by Fabre’s point of view. He also sometimes associate moral virtues to insects and creation. I don’t agree with that, but it is a layer of his interpretation that I can easily peel off.
You can find all his texts in a neat classification on the website dedicated to his life and works [in Italian, French and English]. Happy reading!
Picture credits and sources: