Music Lessons with Vera Moore

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Continuing my earlier post “A Woman playing the Piano, and a Child of Art” … I want to say a little more in this one, what the music lessons were like.

Wheels that are close to the core, turn  slow and their arcs are vast.  This is a post for the friends of Vera Moore.

My mother’s piano is tres sympathique.  It was easy to imagine Vera Moore sitting with me, and what she would say about this note or that note, wrapping my fingers round it like a baby in a shawl.   I remembered her way with poetic images, and her LOVE.  That is the magic – her love.  It makes me want to go on playing, and keeps me focused.  I remembered her instruction to play what I am learning, like a chorale, without any inhibitions – sing it inside, with the touch.  

by Benedicte Koudry-Lahlali

by Benedicte Koudry-Lahlali

I am inspired, because the little book Vera Moore, pianiste, de Dunedin a Jouy-en-Josas arrived yesterday, and I began to read it, with the French dictionary.  The book has only one photo in it – of this drawing, which captures her essence in just a line.  I am fired up for another drawing adventure … to explore her youth and beauty.

The website Les amis de Vera Moore has two early photos of her. It is exciting when you have known a person of a certain age, to discover them when they were young, bright and cleanly chiselled:  the spirit.

In my soul she sits at her instrument with an extraordinary stability: a maestro.   I feel the “astral male gender” of a gift behind this woman and her concertizing authority in the 1930s.   I remember now her velvet brown eyes.  I have … what have I? – I forgot what to write …she was born in 1896, 15 August, a year younger than Jim Ede my grandfather. He was one of her close friends.  Vera was 100 when she died in ’96.

Oh yes – in the little book, I have got as far as Occupied France. She and 6 year old John have lost their country cottage and become refugees.  John’s father Brancusi is in his studios in Montparnasse, surrounded by his sculpture, bronze and stone;  she writes to him, just to say they are alright.  They are bundled off to the south, to the unoccupied zone east of Dordogne.

I turned the photo upside down and did this sketch, to begin.

I turned the photo upside down and did this sketch, to begin.

The uprooting and her surviving it and bringing up the child, must have broken her – the dignified beauty of the 1930s in full flower.   The book mentions her carrying Leonard Borwick’s music-scores in her handbag;  I recall her hobbling to the piano to play a concert, with her wrinkled dress, her handbag and her arm in a sling …  and the rapture of her instrument, the way she flows the river, still makes me cry.

Vera when I knew her - in her mid-sixties

Vera when I knew her – in her mid-sixties

Pierre-Alain Volondat calls her his Master.  And I feel her as “Maestro” – the male gift which flows into the woman-vessel and never quite breaks it.

Brancusi’s bright brown eyes shine through the dust that covers him and the light:  the luminosity of his great pebbles, his stones from the sea, the curve of rock and bronze and curtains of white dust from the chisel, in shafts of sunlight;  through the war, he is barricaded safe inside his genesis.  Brancusi the sculptor is an earthenware pot, within which the pianist cradles “the child of art”.  She is loyal to him;  he stays where he is;  she is broken but goes on singing.   Stone has a living emanation when the sun warms it.

Brancusi in Montparnasse

Brancusi in Montparnasse

A Dominican priest, Father Alan Cheales once told me that the man should go to where the woman is, for she bears his child.

Brancusi the genius stayed put;  for that is the way life goes.  His equally gifted woman bore their “child of art” as a travelling minstrel.  In those days, illegitimacy took great courage, and was only tolerated among artists and their helpers.

La Muse by Bancusi

La Muse by Brancusi

I am touched deeper than I can say, for my later situation would have some curious similarities:  a gifted central European, who did nothing for our child, but gave her strength of character.  Like Vera, I believed in him until – in our case – he abandoned his integrity.   I feel a profound and speechless sorrow in this, just now;  but the bird sings and life goes on.

It is poignant also, that Marisa, my “child of art” met the 90 year old Vera, for a moment – Vera was in hospital with a broken hip – we brought her red roses – and she smiled merrily to us both, and welcomed my daughter, and pressed my hand in her strong fingers – the memory.

Brancusi kept his integrity in Vera’s heart till his dying day and beyond, because he was a working sculptor.  For her, nothing must get in the way of Art.  So she carried their child through the Resistance and the mess of life, and providence … protected them.

John Moore photographe

John Moore photographe

Life is rich in the resonances.  At that moment in 1986, meeting Vera again in Yvelines, near Paris, I was not conscious of the threads, the harmonies in the chord;  but I brought my daughter to her proudly, and my heart rejoiced.

The heart knows, unerringly, like iron-filings to the lode-star.   Providence arranges the sinfonia.  Time passes, and with hindsight, I am an older woman too, and I look back and see.   Providence arranges:  Time delivers.   Time and the understanding, deliver in full, the form.  Then we see.

pebbles

pebbles

There is no possession of such a treasure, because the arms for it are always open.  I can but marvel.  It provides an understanding of my breakages with men.  The theme is ongoing, whatever the face.  It provides a musical note, essential to the piece.  I was magnetized to Vera and her situation through our family ties;  later I would find myself re-enacting some facets of it.   To feel, breathe and understand the flavours, releases them in full.  Then life is almost unbearably satisfying.

Head by Brancusi

Head by Brancusi

Destiny’s abundance, like full fruit, presses in from the world, upon the inner life’s expansion to meet it.  It is like the perfect balance of pressure within and outside the vein;  our own against the deep sea so we don’t implode;  the regulation which harbours our planet in the cosmic skies.  The centrifugal/centripetal equilibrium is fluid and self-regulating.  “Keep practicing”.  This is daily Kabbalah.

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Far beyond the events of my life, I marvel and wish to share the principles behind them, which reveal our human Tapestry, a fragment of the Whole.  That is an artist’s work – to try to reveal the Artist.

Several attempts today, to draw her.  This is an early one.

Several attempts today, to draw her. This is an early one.

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The father of a child of art is the seminal principle, or YOD – the force of life.  Sometimes, when he  has done the job, he is put aside, by the powers that be.  But the woman may tend to cling and cling to hope – as I did – and then there is trouble.  Trouble takes time – many years – to enact and unravel.   Finally when the Karmic flood and flotsam is past, there is philosophy, the force of life:  the alchemical Stone which flows as serpent, river, stone through vessels and the valleys.  My daughter suffered. But she survived.  A picture of her – she zooms by my front door to return a key, she’s on her way to work, by bike.  She wears new boots and a flashing red-light bling bracelet on her ankle – hi-viz, her cheeky smile, glowing, bright.

This is a drawing she did when she was nine – shortly after she met Vera Moore in France.  It took her about a month.

Riss's labyrinth

Marisa tells me the drawing began in the top left-hand corner.  She was inspired by  a friend, Tamara Barschak, a music student in her teens.  Tamara showed her how to draw doodles on grid paper, and they sat and drew labyrinths together.  This one is on plain paper.  It flowed along by itself, incorporating things they looked at, from sanskrit letters to Fungus the Bogey Man – those are the tunnels.   The eye happened along the way.

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I was sixteen when Vera gave me piano lessons.  The first piece I played to her was the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, which I knew by heart.  She heard through this, my soul.  She agreed to have me come and stay with her in Jouy en Josas;  some much needed francs for her tottering household.  Her piano was a French Gaveau, and she also had a Steinway.  The music room was spacious, with exposed timber beams, and the whole house smelled like my grandparents’ pot pourri and sharp ways with art, books and stones.   Jim my grandfather, who introduced Vera and Brancusi to each other – and started all the trouble –  pervades to this day: his penetrating flavour through every part of the world he touched, picked up and put back.

Jim Ede appraises a vessel

Jim Ede appraises a vessel

Jim became John’s godfather.

Vera is sitting to my right… or she may be somewhere behind me, in the fragrant room.  The family legend was that she would fly into a rage and sweep my hands off the keys.  I am enveloped in her silvery voice, and her warm mischief.  She demonstrates the touch, the principles of Tobias Matthay;  I copy her.  Her small silken fingers, a little bent, are full of power.  The distance from key surface to its bed is filled with love, tenderness and authority.  There is no impediment to the composer’s voice when it is loved.   Those same fingertips press my hand firmly, up and down.  We play together, I suppose!   Extraordinary.

The music is not in the digits.  They are supple and they serve.   The music comes from the heart and the base of the spine, flowing seamlessly through the curve of shoulder, elbow, instrument.  When this is clear, and the fingers have the schooled memory,  the music speaks without my “assistance” and astonishes me.

I learned with Vera Moore, to play Chopin’s Berceuse, and Debussy’s Cathedrale Engloutie and Danseuses de Delphe.  She insisted on my learning each piece by heart;  to engrave it in my soul by touch;  reading not the notes on the music-stand, but the inner depth embodied.   It is consigned to the memory.

When Vera played, I witnessed a fusion.  There is nothing quite like the intimacy of teacher and pupil.   Then she sent me outside with the shopping list for l’epicerie at Les Metz or down the flights of steps to Jouy en Josas, to improve my French.  She spoke French fluently like a brook, with an outrageous English accent – “tray bonn”, like my irreverent grandfather’s.   As she came to study in London when very young, there remained no trace of New Zealand in her speech.  I hear her to this day.

Not quite a likeness;  but the sketch has a simplicity I aim towards ...

Not quite a likeness; but the sketch has a simplicity I aim towards …

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Vera Moore adored her gifted pupils – particularly (in 1965) a fiery young pianist called Philippe Ganter.  He lifted Beethoven’s dark wings in her salon-a-musique, one passionate evening.  From her hospital bed in 1986, she spoke joyously of a young talent who called her his “Maitre”.  I think this must be Pierre-Alain Volondat.

As in the ashrams of the Inner School, the students develop their own measure from the “hand-me-down”, or Lineage, and pass it on.  This is fascinating, for we are dealing not with personalities, but with method:  the transmission.

Leonard Borwick

Leonard Borwick

Vera took the baton from Tobias Matthay, and from Borwick, her teacher, who studied with Clara Schumann.  He heard, and carried the young Vera off, when she was  yet unknown and unproven, and astonished the music world.  She “jumped the queue.”   Where there is love for the craft, is the depth to carry the flame.

Vlado Perlemutter

Vlado Perlemutter

In Vera’s teaching, I learned to “hold onto” the keys – a pressure which is a caress.

She admired Vlado Perlemutter’s exquisite precision, and knew him well.  She called him “Pearly”.

Vera Moore 4

Vera Moore 5

I can no longer play the pieces she taught me.  But the Berceuse has a deep rocking motion, which prevails through right-hand arabesques and waterfalls.  I could not imagine being able to play those, and she showed me precisely how:  the fingering, the tool.  Every piece I learned, I first practiced very slowly, each phrase and giving each note its full touch and space like a chorale on an organ … fortissimo, full voice.  For Vera it was a sacred communion.  If I have forgotten the pieces, I have not forgotten the “musicianship” of this principle, to Life.

The secret of a great teacher, is that music is only the means.

I have written of Robert Adams.  He lost the muscular ability of speech, but never the Music.  Ramana’s silence – his dark eyes –  emanates the pure, living stone, water, serpent.  Ramesh explains “the understanding”.  All three are in my music teacher too.

Is it surprising? – just now, my fingers tingle a little.  And I’m a bit shaky, because now I must draw the young Vera.  I knew her in her late sixties, grown plump and faded.

Slowly getting there ...

Slowly getting there … a drawing of the painting by Winifred Nicholson.

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I was scared when I began to draw today – of the aesthetic titans of my grandfather’s world, and the extraordinary persons whom he knew – and so I drew him too, from a photo I found in “Kettles Yard and its Artists”.  I haven’t drawn Jim since his death in 1990.  It felt strange and rather bold, to step into the sanctuary of my childhood gods.

Vera moore 9

In this Vera sketch – not a good drawing – I detect a Botticelli angel.   She must have had this quality, as well as the Leonardo look through her eyelashes:

“The arts” – she said, quoting Brancusi – “have never existed by themselves (outside of folklore); they have always been a prerogative of the religious, and every time religion has been in decline, art has fallen into virtuousity.  To make art which is truly independent, one must be God to create it, a king to order it, and a slave to realize it.”

 

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Finally, this old drawing hangs in my house near the front door:

My daughter with her great-grandfather, circa 1983

Marisa with her great-grandfather, circa 1983

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

A Woman playing a Piano; and a Child of art

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A few days ago, I found a search-phrase on my dashboard – for the late Vera Moore, a pianist born in New Zealand.  This post goes out to persons who may have known, studied with, or been interested in her.

Vera Moore circa 1965  (ja 1973)

See also my later post (3 December 2012), Music Lessons with Vera Moore, which follows on, from this one.

The link – http://www.myspace.com/lipatti/blog/245826085 – includes a video-clip from 1984, of Vera Moore’s student Pierre-Alain Volondat.

As I began to prepare this post, what should I discover today, but another U Tube link  (for French speakers!):

VERA MOORE, PIANISTE, DE DUNEDIN À JOUY-EN-JOSAS

“Pianiste originaire de Nouvelle-Zélande, Vera Moore acquit une réputation internationale dans les années 1920-1930, et fut la compagne du sculpteur Constantin Brancusi. Voici le premier récit consacré à la pianiste.  

ISBN : 978-2-296-96644-4 • mai 2012 • 78 pages – Category: Travel & Events

– So a little book was published about her, just three months ago.

**

As it happens, in March – after my mother visited – I was moved to assemble my own memories of Vera Moore, and to find out if she was online … maybe aligning with a new response towards her … the antennae curve.

Here is the lane where Vera lived, near Paris … “a wall, very high, with a small narrow door.  It is here.  The door opens to an inner garden …”

From the video clip in 1984:  “When I go back to France, it is to work with my Maitre, because the time has not yet come, for me to have mastered fully the tradition:  but I will.   These traditions (of piano playing) are so sacred, that I have sometimes the impression (or fear) lest I let it down.  … My Maitre is always with me and will be always with me.  This cannot die.

-But she is very old?  You have to think of that? –

“She is very young, yet very old.  We are in constant communication.”

The young man arriving for a lesson, is her student Pierre-Alain Volondat.  I did the drawing from the video clip on the myspace link (see above).  So many impressions came flooding back – when I used to walk along that wall to the little door, with the day’s groceries.   I was sixteen.

 **

Reviewed from my Diary (1965) – “The Invisible Technique”

“…  She is an old friend of my grandparents.  She loved Brancusi the sculptor, and they had a son, John.  John lives in the cottage in her garden with his wife Maryse, and he and Vera argue.  She is, through all her scatty aggravations and disorder, beautiful.  Her eyes are peat-brown, soft and bright, she has a round snub nose and she dyes her long grey hair a reddish tint.  She’s very old, in her sixties, and she had a rough time in life;  she lives in poverty, and things are chaotic.

“But she is rare.  She is a true artist.  The true artists, however enclosed their field, evoke another world.  Perhaps it is their scarcity.

“That evening she played to an invited audience in the long, L-shaped, oak beamed music room.  She pulled out an un-ironed linen dress, said to me with mischievous radiance, “this will do?” and put it on.   It was creased and crumpled all over.   Her broken wrist was in a sling and she limped across the room in her down-at-heel court shoes, with her handbag and sat down.   The lamp was on her other side.  She and the piano, silhouetted into one dark, fluid shape, communed with one another.  Vera and her music flow like a river.  The surroundings melt away, as they fuse.  For Vera IS music:  a prodigy.  The creation of Bach, Beethoven and Debussy, is her being.

“She carries the perfume with her, of just this field.  I never met anyone as beautiful as she.  She misunderstands things all the time and infuriates me;  her franglais French is terrible;  she glows with sympathy.  That must be why I like writing long letters to her.

“The sympathy glowing through her soul, has narrow boundaries.  She has prejudices, many hatreds.  Her war time in the Resistance wounded her, and most people “are not human beings.”  To those whom she does trust, she reveals her true self.  Her pre-war world is ignorant of the world outside.; she is flawed, she has no interest in the human sea.  She has a universal beauty, the wholeness of a leaf.

“When I first met her at Kettles Yard in Cambridge, she asked me to play.  She was giving a concert there.  The family legend about Vera Moore as a teacher, was frightening and volatile.  They said “She’ll scream at you, she’ll push your hands off the keys!”  But she put me at my ease.  She said it’s the music which matters, not the mistakes;  her voice rippled, and she smiled.  So I played, and I enjoyed myself – to a musician from the core, who understands the magic of being free.  When I listened to her practicing, I was spell-bound;  she felt along the keys, the bones of what she would play that night.  Later on, she forgot to take her books and music back to the Garden House hotel where she was staying with Helen Sutherland.  I ran through the dusky, lamp lit frosty streets of Cambridge, to give them to her.  She smelled so delicious in her foxy fur coat with her shabby shoes and bright brown eyes, and she invited me to come and stay with her in her house near Paris.  I fell in love with her.  I met Helen Sutherland too – that is another story.

 **

“When I went to stay with Vera in Jouy en Josas (between Paris and Versailles), I learned more about her problems.  But this makes me love her even more, and eager to see her again.  She taught me to play Chopin’s Berceuse and Debussy’s Cathedrale Engloutie.  A music lesson with her, lasts a lifetime.  It is tenderness and touch.

Brahms/Vera Moore by Winifred Nicholson c.1930

**

 

Constantin Brancusi

FROM AN ARTICLE in Tabloid Libertatea:  Constantin Brancusi’s son is discovered in France: He’s 77 and the only child of the great artist!

“John Moore, now 77, is the only heir the great artist Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) had. He inherited his father not in the genius for art but in the passion for photography. Never recognized officially by the titan born at Hobita, Gorj County, Moore currently lives in France, near Paris, with the still living memory of the time he worked as photographer with famous cabaret Crazy Horse. Tabloid Libertatea exclusively learned the unknown story of the only child Brancusi had in his 81 years of life.

The result of a love affair with Vera Moore, his former secretary and a highly appreciated pianist 80 years ago, John Moore was never recognized as a son by the great artist.

 “Born in New Zealand, Vera Moore met Brancusi when she was 34, in 1930 at a London concert, through a common friend, Jim Ede.. Their personal affair, kept hidden from the public, resulted in a child, born September 15, 1934, when Vera was 38 and Brancusi was 58.

Concerned only with the artistic side of his life, Brancusi however never acknowledged John as his natural heir.

“Since the very beginning, John was named after his mother, taking after his father in only one regard: passion for photography, which was Brancusi’s second passion after sculpture. An extensive article in Reporter Objectif, in August 1972, which includes the only picture of John Moore (see below), details how he got close to this form of art.

All the pictures taken by him and published by the magazine have the Crazy Horse Cabaret as topic, the place where Brancusi’s only child worked for several years, being close friends with the place’s creator Alain Bernardin.

“54 years after the death of his famous father, John Moore lives just as discreetly in France, at Jouy en Josas, very close to Paris.



“First reports about Brancusi having a son emerged in 1978, when Le Monde ran a story about Vera Moore:  “Today, she refuses to speak about herself. She had a 15-year relationship with Brancusi. They had a son.  She doesn’t talk about it.”

John Moore photographe

 In 2005, Doina Lemny, a leading researcher into the sculptor’s life, revealed the name of his son in her book, titled “Constantin Brancusi”: “With pianist Vera Moore he has a son, John Moore, whom Brancusi will never recognize. However, Vera isn’t upset with this.”



 **

John was a pioneer of image manipulation in the darkroom, using colour filters and “accidental” effects.  I remember his sculptural excitement with light – the dancing girls at the Crazy Horse Saloon.  It contrasted wonderfully, his mother’s world.

 “… This made me the first photographer to experiment with the magnificent colour-separation process, in a precise and scientific way … working with Alain Bernardin, a photographer’s art would  place the receptive viewer at such an angle – (this quote is condensed from John’s French in Reporter Objectif 1972) … to let his imagination go into what is communicated creatively … Alain Bernardin’s erotic sophistication was a desire for perfection, admitting nothing vulgar or mediocre.”

**

June 1987  “Invisible Technique” … My Last Meeting with John and Vera

… We packed and left the hotel and took a train to the Moores, having just enough francs thank God, to get there.

The familiar route from long ago – the trees, the smell of the epicerie – opened out along the lane.  Behind the wall, John and Sonya live now in the larger house where Vera was – she has John’s old cottage – they have filled the house with John’s photography, Sonya’s paintings, her three or four sons, her mother visiting, an exchange student, and all their self sufficient building and framing work. The paintings are quite erotic – saucy delicate ideas.  The creative atmosphere hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years – as scruffy and hand-to-mouth as ever, with a larger turnover of cash.   John struggles with his mother’s hospital bills, as she refused to allow herself to be examined for medical insurance in the past, and now she is too old.

Vera too was self sufficient – her entire cottage a death trap – a cats cradle of time-and-motion circumnavigatory solutions to the problem of getting out of bed, and defense against burglars;  it is a wonder she didn’t break her hip indoors, but out in the garden.  She will be bionic, as this is the second hip to be replaced,  She is as obstinate as ever.  Sonya speaks very fondly of her, and John’s mellowed about her, I think.  He’s lost weight;  his hair is white, and he has Vera’s eyes.  The assertive personality of what Vera used to speak of as “the Child of Art” – comes forth, an artist now in his own right.   John Moore Photographe made it on his own terms.  He is very intense, and I would find him uncomfortable, after a while.  But he has developed a most attractive social manner, and bends over backwards with courtesy to strangers.  He suppresses suspicion, feels vulnerable and wants to do things right.   He does all his own building, scavenging and improvising, as does Sonya also.  They seem happy together, and are enduring the shambles of Sonya’s ex-husband trying to get custody of the boys.  Sonya is slim and dark, Spanish Catholic, American reared, my age.  Her manner and sound are rather like John’s first wife Maryse.  John made a crucifix for Sonya by melting down some of his gold teeth.

We all discussed our various avenues of artistic expression.  For John, womens’ faces are an intense blank on the map – his lens captures a vibrance just short of aggression, for an imaginative viewer to write his own script.  Encounters are sparked with the known and the unknown.  He says that for him, as a photographer, a woman’s body frames her facial expression.  He is very articulate and slightly scary.

After this the sink blocked, and there followed a long saga for us all, through the making-ends-meet plumbing, and the removal of an ocean of grease.

Marisa (my ten year old daughter) and the boys broke ice with a game of Monopoly, and went off to play in a park across the road.  There was quiche for lunch.  Then off to Vera in her rehabilitation clinic in the afternoon, Marisa and myself with John and the youngest boy, in John Moore’s truck, which he has to start by putting wires together.

Vera hasn’t changed either, except she is smaller and thinner.  The half dyed hair:  the same delicate fragrance, high insistent voice, and utterly lovable eyes and smile – she is 91 years old! and VERY DEAF.   She brings tears to my eyes.  She felt very happy to see me after all this time, and to hold my hand, pressing it with her speech, with strong pianist finger tips, clawed a little by arthritis.   She still plays.   Sonya says it’s lovely, and showed me a drawing of her.   Vera talked away like a brook and told me all about a pupil of hers who has an astonishing gift, and is receiving wonderful notices about his sonority and expression, and about his teacher – his Maitre – herself.   She dug around in a bunch of envelopes and letters in her lap among the bed-sheets, for the relevant literature.  After some ten minutes of this, I felt a little worried her son couldn’t get a word in.   I managed to close the discussion with our agreement that French piano teaching is a little inclined to nut-cracking, and Tobias Mathay is better, and Vera seemed satisfied that I have retained all the Principles she taught me twenty years ago.   I wished we could go on and on.  I will write to her.  She gave Marisa a big welcome also – my child.   We brought her the remainder of Fred Barschak’s red roses, and she loves roses, and said I shouldn’t have, and John and I fussed around looking for a vase.

I’m an artist, and all artists are impossible people. They go on and on, talking about whatever they are doing, just like Vera and John Moore.  I recognize in them both, my familiar and intense barrage, and Vera herself being now so deaf, is more infuriating than ever.  We are all nutcases, it’s good to be in company.

I always found John Moore disturbingly attractive.  In 1969 I thought “Mr V” (Marisa’s father-to-be) looked like him.  I also recognize in him the familiar interaction of overriding artistic pressure and egotism, with the carefully cultivated self effacing courtesy whenever he has to ask somebody for something – for which the French language and all its polite cadences, is such a perfect vehicle:   the rage and the tamer.   On my visit, I perceived him, Vera and Brancusi his father (who he says, gave away all his wealth and great works, so that his descendents wouldn’t be troubled with tax problems) – recalling the way Vera brought John up in Occupied France (scavenging for scraps and rotten veg) as a sacred trust to Brancusi who wouldn’t acknowledge him. John was “the child of Art”.   John now heads this triangle with his own personally-forged expression, through all the fights he and Vera used to have.   Their egos were at loggerheads.  On my first visit, back in the 1960s, this was painful to witness.

John is a sculptor with his life – he carves and joins.   He sees and evaluates things photographically, with the blink of an eye or shutter.  His females (Sonya is a highly intelligent example, with her own independence and strong working hands) are dark.  They are lissome, quiet-spoken and visually malleable.  Sonya experiences her painting sculpturally, she sometimes adds twigs and bits of flotsam to it.   They both, like me, enjoy Yin and Yang ambiguities across the unprejudiced visual map.

They keep stacks and stacks of fruit crates scavenged by John, around the garden, for firewood.  The garden is still a well kept summery oasis a l’anglaise, with crazy pavings through the grass and flowers.  It contains a garage, a deluge of a workshop, and a bicycle shed built by John in 24 hours flat.   He enjoys rigging up poles and wood.  Chaos is kept just operational – just until “Memi’s” fragrant mayhem with her peat-brown eyes and flow of artistic requirement, is back in their midst … ?

“This is thought to be a portrait of Vera Moore, who was a close friend of Winifred Nicholson from the 1920s. Vera Moore was a New Zealand born pianist, as well as the partner of Constantin Brancusi. She was also a close friend of the collector Helen Sutherland, who greatly admired her ‘heavenly’ playing and wrote: ‘Vera Moore is lovely when she plays – it is sculpture I think – the strange almost bland unseeing eyes and head of sculpture and inward life somehow. Another friend of mine said she looked as if she had just been told a lovely secret when she played'” –  (quoted in V. Corbett, A Rhythm, A Rite, A Ceremony: Helen Sutherland at Cockley Moor, Penrith,1996, p. 56).”

**

14 March 2012 – A Door through the Wall to the Inner Life

The reckless fruit is a road.   I was talking, not long ago, to an old rocker about the rhythm & blues 1960’s scene.   Yesterday I transcribed from my notebook all the things he had said;  then I turned a page … I “turned to the left” through a hole in the wall – when I found the Myspace link to the young student (see beginning of this post) – and there’s an inner garden of souls and their own on-stage knot, who carry on regardless.   Life is so much back to back – the thinnest of membranes between the rooms of time.

In one of Ronnie Bond’s songs to the Key of F – his beloved – the soul is turning home.

Getting off the train at Chaville and climbing up the flights of steps to the lane, I walk along that rustic French wall till I arrive at the door

The archival love affair is magic;   then it passes, as the coming wave replaces it.   It throws up images from the deep, like this garden wall.  To one side the world’s traffic and reckless fruits go by, and on the other side the inner life;  a door opens in the mystery shield, to a disciple with his music case.

Meeting Vera again, I learn more of her. After the war, the outer world no longer made any sense to her.  She grew a protecting boundary, to retreat behind – she obtained, she was given, the house;  behind the wall she raised her son who breathes a robust life into that delicate chaos;  the wall shields him and his womenfolk.   This family enriched my whole life formatively, they are my background.

When a child is born “of art”, he arrives into himself, unfathered.  He regenerates his mother’s shelter, in the effort to establish his own.

I imagine Vera also before the war, an essential flavour of Jim my grandfather’s inner world.  She is being painted by Winifred Nicholson, in her “art gown”.   I wonder how she looked – her power and grace.   She released beauty even when she was “very old” (in her sixties!), putting on weight with brittle bones, trailing old clothes which were given to her, and being “infuriating”.   What a reserve the woman had, to keep her 15 year commitment to Brancusi, and then their son, secret, secluded from the world.   In those days, only the truly bohemian could survive the stigma of single parenthood.

**

When I saw them again in 1966, on my way back from La Coume in the Pyrenees, Vera, John and Maryse were locked in a domestic-emotional armaggedon behind that flowering wall – the child Thomas in between.  They fuelled their heart breaking tale, developing it earnestly day by day, as we all do, and confided it to their helpless visitors.

The door to the inner life opens.  The student passes first through the emotional tension field, caught in it like a fly.

But time comes, the student goes directly to his teacher.   The door to the inner life opens and she smiles in her shabby dress, and ripples a little.   And they go to the big raftered music room.   Like Liszt, Vera could make any piano breathe, no matter how out of tune (she couldn’t afford the piano tuner).   The student on the U Tube, (who she may have spoken of to me, at her bedside in 1987) developed a passion for tuning his instrument even as he played it.   Pianists – as I know – are strange persons.   I recall Vera’s regal authority as a musician.  She would take your hand and press her small bent fingers into it as she spoke, looking into your eyes – the touch, and finger tutelage.

On my first visit to her – I was 16, and my family had briefed me about Brancusi – she gave a soiree to some American visitors, and the conversation touched Brancusi and someone made a brash remark about the money his children should inherit from him …   “Ah, but,” tinkled Vera, giving me her sideways delicious look, like a fellow conspirator: “you see, Brancusi never married!”   I remember the tone of her voice –  her shy secret and her admiration.   Nothing mattered more than art.   She was too unworldly to bother about his tight fist – if such a thought ever occurred to her.  For any great artist or sculptor, their oeuvre is a commodity, a wealth in bulk to manage, an obstinacy to dispose of.  The attitude is obsessive and irrational.   Vera’s unworldliness made the world a suspicious and hostile element.   Yet: she offered a musical gem and looked up from it, sharing an intimate secret – her charm.

The other day I re-invoked Liszt doing this, and that is the link …  (through my mother’s visit yesterday) –   to Vera – (we looked at her picture on my wall) … to remember and to connect with her again!

The mischievous flowering qualities in the Maestri, are the key.  When the Maestro looks up from the key, he or she shares the unifying beauty for ever.   Vera loved me as I loved her, because we love That.   The gesture is universal:  an Archangel’s trumpet to the little child:  the special tune.

I just realized a curious thing.  I too bore a child from “an artist”, and she grew up without the father, she has my family name.   I, like Vera, am a single parent.  The way we touch and love and disappear through each other in the archive of life, is a looking-glass land.

And another thing:  a few days after I visited the R&B man and wrote down his memories and danced to his jukebox, his beautiful pad burnt down – a fag end in the waste paper basket – nearly all his old life was destroyed, including the Wurlitzer juke boxes and the poor old dog who was about to be put to sleep.   But he was heavily insured, and had got restless in the old frame.  He flew from the ashes like a phoenix and built his new palace in Primrose Hill where he thrives.   This episode hides within the turning of a page.  From akashic space between the lines,  thematic progressions flower and are reborn.

I found and read Vera’s letters – they are warm and crisp, not rambly.  As I suspected, I sent her with mine, sketches of horses and the wild night life …  wanting to shock her.

**

            Old Letters

Jouy en Josas, summer 1965

Dear Jane,

What a lovely letter you wrote, & with those two fascinating drawings I seem to be sitting in a café looking out on Life in England!   I was also glad to get the p.c. & to know you arrived home safely.  I have an awful confession to make.  Soon after you left, I put my hand right down into my rain coat pocket, further down than it had ever been before, and found right in the farthest and darkest point at the very bottom – nearly into the hem –  THE KEY!!!!  What will you say to me – … – I deserve the very worst, & cannot even begin to apologise when I think how awful I was about it.  The 10 fr. note has not turned up, but I now begin to think I must have put that somewhere else too.  So it is most likely YOURS too – the one you sent.  Oh dear, you couldn’t have me in a worse position, but as long as you’ll forgive me, I’ll survive this time.

I gave your letter to Anne Marie who looked v. pleased.  She came and looked at me giving Joel his lesson – & Joel made a sign (v. masterful) for her to go out.  She came again (saying nothing at all) & so I asked her to go out again as Joel couldn’t concentrate.  So we were left in peace, while all sorts of wonderful smells came out of the kitchen, & went on so long, I thought something had happened as no one came to say dinner was ready – (my watch is broken – I dropped it).  Then all of a sudden Madame C. burst in in a frightful rage to ask us if we were never going to stop – it was 10 o’ clock, Anne Marie and her father had dined & gone to bed, & poor Madame C. had been keeping things hot for the last hour.   Joel … immediately said he wd eat NOTHING – I said also – nothing – However Madame put delicious fish with caper sauce on the table, & salad, & strawberries & ice cream – and we all finally did full justice to it, to the last spoon full!  She insisted on driving me home – hauled out of the dark back of the car 2 boxes of plants for the garden as well – (Anne Marie had been sent in to tell us dinner was ready – & had said nothing – fortunately she had gone to bed – she would have caught it from her mother!)

 Next time, you must write in French. Glad the piano teacher was not too bad, & that dinners at school are so much better. Try to do the relaxation exercises every day.  Do you know the Berceuse by heart yet?   Much love from Vera.

 PS Philippe Ganter had a great success – Mme Paul played her v. best.  Grisons did not come.  There were about 25 people.  Mme Halff has a … girl wants to exchange with English girl.  The family v. nice, live (O well) in the S of France.  Do you happen to know someone?   As for the 10fr – it arrived during a slump and was one of those miracles!  You were right – but I was vexed …

 ..

Jouy en Josas, Thursday 25 July 1965

 Dear Jane,

Just as I was preparing at last to write to you, I saw some letters pushed through the hole in the gate and lo! one was yours, wh. greatly interested me.  Good news of your further musical development.  It’s everything to be a good listener.   Also about Annapurna – what fun! 

It’s useless trying to describe music in words – just waste of time – Shakespeare never did it, tho’ he must have been deeply moved by it all.  There’ve been some good articles in The Listener lately.  What do you think about the one about Dante’s History in July 15, and the Devon farmers wh. just preceded it?  and Denis Matthews on Mozart – very good, I thought.

It was lovely seeing Jim and Helen who I think enjoyed their stay in Phebe’s flat.  Phebe is here on and off (rather off than on) and as I have no help (all the f. de ménage en vacances) I am rather wallowing in oceans of cooking, cleaning, washing – I emerge occasionally to touch the piano or to read a nice letter from afar – but otherwise my nose is continually at the grindstone.  So please forgive short letter wh.. comes all the same with happy & loving remembrances and to Mary (who wrote me a long letter wh.. I thank her) and to your father and the family, (not forgetting the fat slug of a cat!!  Your ever affectionate V.M.

I loved the drawing of horses – it is beautiful.  The Cafeteria pleases me  (less?)  I don’t like your friends’ hair!

Practice SLOWLY the difficult bars, each hand separately. You’ll be surprised how the problems disappear!

..

Jouy en Josas, Yvelines (no more S. et O.)  21 May 1966

Dear Jane,

What a nice letter you sent me, the best yet, and I do thank you for so kindly & sweetly continuing to write to such an old silent screw as I am.  I followed with great interest your musical ups (& downs), & rejoiced in yr. success – followed you to the Scilly Isles, (what is the beautiful public garden the Halffs are always talking about there?) to Wales & bathing, walking, riding – and now you are returning to France!   It all sounds fascinating, & I hope you will spare us a few days going & coming.  I wonder if the school will be near Prades where Casals holds his musical festival.

Here all is well, & my arm is rapidly mending.  The garden is a dream, every imaginable flower in bud just ready to burst out tomorrow – Sunday.

I liked yr. letter because you told me so much in such a short space.  It was splendid.

We all send our love to you & to your Mother & Father & Q & S & much love to your own self.  Yours ever, Vera Moore.  

Thank you for the drawings wh. I studied with care.  I loved the great fine galloping stormy horses for Christmas.

.Prometheus & Bechstein at Kettles Yard: (A Way of Life by Jim Ede)

**

Jouy en Josas, 8 May 1968

 Dearest Jane,

So glad to have yr. happy letter.  We are still here.  No-one comes even to look at our lovely house & the garden has never been so inviting & gay.  Agents say there is nothing doing anywhere just now.  “Things is bad!!” 

I imagine your frenzy at the beauty of Florence.  I saw it when I was about yr. age, & was so overcome that I had a fever, & still ran about all the little streets in heat of August – wh.. was terrible – but the heavenly feeling of at last reaching civilization has never left me.  I know that hole in the Parthenon – I spent my nights & days beside it.  It is the most wonderful feeling one can ever have, I think.

Don’t be discouraged & wanting to fly off – stick to what you want to do, even if it doesn’t turn out as you want it to.  Enclosed (newspaper cutting) may inspire you to think of the U.S. wh.. seems to have something of everything in every way.  Tom is well;  John is starting to be a photographer, tho’ until we have sold the house or something else, he cannot buy the materials he needs.  He is much better, tho’ not well yet.  Maryse as usual the beautiful mainstay of the family – she even feeds me what little gets left twice a day in the kitchen!  …  pupils.   Let me know what you do!  Tom and I may be going to the Bavarian mountains in July & August.  V. much love, ever – V.

..

Jouy en Josas, 22 Aout 1968

Dearest Jane,

Where are you?  Not in Geneva it seems, from where you sent me that exciting p.c. all bright lights before, & somber mountains behind! 

Jim & Helen came for 3 – 4 magic hours to sit in our garden which was looking most lovely. –  Yesterday tho’, in a sort of spite – the poor old but for once heavily laden & most beautifully leaning-low apple tree dropped an enormous branch – at least half of itself – over the well – crash!   A moment before I was underneath it watering the rose by the well & picking up fallen fruit.  This spring the old walnut did the same thing, crash went the enormous branch, which half covered the end of Maryse’s part of the garden.  Perhaps they are protesting at our idea of selling the house!  John who is better but can never apparently be ‘well’ is helping & overseeing the painting & doing up of the house.  Then when I have a little place in Paris, you must come over & have that fun we have always promised ourselves.  My wrist has mended well, but it is not quite so adaptable as before.  However I gave with Mme Paul my first little concert at Montcel on the 15 Aug. to a summer school of Americans staying there – two lovely Mozart Sonatas (Nos 12 and 13 in my Augeners Ed) with the … Bach in E maj in between.

Thomas is growing up & may be going to school at the “Rentree”.   He never ceases talking now, but will not try to speak in English – his great joy at the moment is blackberrying.

I went for 10 days to the Bavarian Alps where Nicole spends her holidays.  She had arrived a week before me & had immediately fallen ill with an attack of bronchitis & couldn’t walk.  So I sat in the sun & yearningly looked at the mountains without once going up.  From her letters she seems better, but can perhaps never come back to live in Paris again. 

Francisco has been moved to Frankfurt-on-Main for 2 yrs.  He came back on business last week, & came to see me in a magnificent Alfa-Romeo car, dark blue with red linings, & says he has found a flat with 3 rooms & has bought a new Steinway grand just exactly like mine!  He seems well & happy.

I had a p.c. this week from Anne Marie and Joel Cadiou from Brighton!!  Did you happen to see them?  I hardly ever see them now.  The whole family is always working, & at night I cannot go out.  I hope yr. mother & father & all the family are well.   Love to you & all, V.                        (I still have intact that … of chip potatoes!)

**

I learned among other things from Vera Moore, how to cook French food.  Back home, I educated my rustic family with dressed salads and veal escaloppes in mushrooms, cream and sherry. She showed me the the “billets-doux” she received from Francisco and her other admirers.   She adored young men.   My family sent me to Vera for piano study, and to improve my French, and to give her some much needed cash.  Each day she sent me down the long steps to Chaville with the shopping list (“ .. look, here’s fifty thousand francs …” –  the old currency was being devalued.).

I loved this chore.  Each day I learned thrilling new words in the epicerie and the boulangerie; and soaked up the Gallic courtesies like a sponge.  By the end of a fortnight, my school French was almost native.   Vera chattered very bad French en grande dame, with her seamless English accent.

**

Neville Marriner & Alfred Brendel JA 1986

**

Vera Moore to Dale Roberts –  quoting Brancusi:

“The arts have never existed by themselves (outside of folklore); they have always been a prerogative of the religious, and every time religion has been in decline, art has fallen into virtuousity.  To make art which is truly independent, one must be God to create it, a king to order it, and a slave to realize it.”

**

**

And through a further Door, Brancusi … An impression from the 1930s

“When I first went to see Brancusi, I felt that all the elements were there collected in his studio, almost as though it were nature’s workshop.  There I found air and light, and the poise and rhythm of his carvings.  It was really a collection of studios in a little courtyard;  I pulled a string outside the door, and a hammer hit upon a disc of brass within, making a lovely echoing sound.  When Brancusi opened the door, it was still vibrating.  ‘People bring me music while they wait,’  he said.  The only dark thing in all that world was Brancusi’s eyes, they were like wet pebbles in the sand, everything else was finely powdered over, his grey hair and beard, his face, his clothes, the tall columns of eternal movement, the ‘light’.

“It was one of many visits, and I never lost the sense of living energy it was to be there.   Brancusi seemed to talk more with his eyes than with his mouth, and he kept watching my enjoyment.  He would lift the covers from those shining brasses, the ‘light’ would start revolving on its plate of clear reflection ; … and all the time some new object would come upon my wonder;  forms of carved wood lying at hazard , or seemingly so;  for nothing was at hazard in that studio, since all was part of one vision …  the carvings all about became one, and I was in that unity.”

Jim Ede, A Way of Life, 1984

 

**

“Thank you for the most beautiful flower, and I also owe you a word in reply to your charming letter after your last visit.  I explained to Vera that I wanted to make a poem in reply – et voila!  The mountain has given birth to a mouse.”

Brancusi to Jim Ede, 22 December 1933

**

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space.