Esteemed thinker: Harold Arlen


Perhaps one of the most enchanting forms that takes shape in nature is the rainbow; an arch of colors that will appear as if out of nowhere.  From behind a veil of grey clouds, after a dreary day, the rainbow brightens the slate sky like a flashy peacock unfanning its feathers. This kaleidoscopic ribbon stretches itself across the sky for all to see, and then, without much warning, fizzles away, leaving behind a wanting of more.

Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Harold Arlen (1905, Buffalo NY- 1986 ) born Hymen Arluck, the son of an acclaimed synagogue cantor and became one of Americas greatest song writers and composers.  At the age of nine his mother bought him a piano, though slowly warming up to the instrument as a reluctant student of classical music. But his attitude soon changed when at the age of twelve he learned a ragtime piece. Suddenly he was inspired. Harold_Arlen_1960

He quit school at fifteen to play at movie houses and by twenty-one he had his first solo piano piece published, “Minor Gaff (Blues Fantasy).”

Arlen compositions were unique, longer than the 32-bar ditties his most composers of the time were writing. His songs had grand leaps from one note to another —often considered a challenge for singers — and traces of melancholy. In 1933, he was writing for Harlem’s most popular nightclub, and with lyricist Ted Koehler, produced a song that was exceptional, “Stormy Weather.”

In 1938, Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg were working the film The Wizard of Oz. For 14 weeks — and $25,000 — they composed one amazing song after another; they called them “lemon drop songs.” IT was “Over the Rainbow” that became a sensation for the movie and Judy Garland at the start of her career.

Arlene had a most successful career, collaborating with the greatest of the Tin Pan Alley lyricists, including Johnny Mercer, Ted Koehler, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields and Truman Capote.

Esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau

moon Scarcely is there a person who is not awed by the moon; and unlike many of the celestial treasures, it shows different phases of itself throughout the month and then starts all over again. If we had to select a gender; many think of it as a male…the man in the moon, although I imagine some may find the feminine side to this lunar beauty.

The moon has its own glossary of terms such as eclipse, which sends us running outside to see it hide behind the earth or palus, a less notable Latin term meaning ‘swamp’ that is used to describe topographical features on the moon which resembles dark plains or swamps. The moon even has its own personal holiday; Lunar Day, representing two ideas: the first refers to the period of time it takes for the Moon to spin completely on its axis in terms of its position to the sun. The second is the amount of time it takes for the Moon to complete a single orbit around the Earth.

Even the ocean are “moved” by the moon…well that is more literally than figuratively as we recollect that the “motion of the seas” are caused by the gravitational forces of its lunar overseer. (Quite a wily fellow isn’t he; and without us looking, too!)

And how we all must agree that the moon is a romantic; flooding beams of light over the earth in the darkest time of the day…night. It permits us to stare upon its continence without finding us rude. I suppose it is use to such gestures for its wonderment invites us to gaze. Even the animals find the moon intriguing; the wolf bays, owls are more chatty, while all the while humans become more nostalgic.

It is not hard to see why all the arts have paid homage to the moon in all the forms that we humans can muster. A mere sampling back in time journeys us to Paul Delvaux, Belgian artist’s 1939 painting Phases of the Moon; Spanish artist Joan Miró’s lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon, Antonin Dvorak’s Famous Czech Opera Rusalka in 1901, which included “Song To The Moon” , while in 1964 the airwaves played Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon”. Then there is the literary fiction The First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901), and the classic French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) written and directed by Georges Méliès both.

thoreau And so, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau (1812-1862). Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts he needs not much of an introduction for this 19th century American essayist has donned most library book shelves around the world. Friend and mentor to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he is most remembered for his philosophical and naturalist writings as well as the small home he built on Emerson’s property on Waldon Pond. In 1854, he published Walden; or, Life in the Woods which told of his life close to nature.

From his essay, Night and Moonlight, here are Mr. Thoreau’s observations which I hope you find a lovely respite out from your busy day… who knows….he may even inspire you to stroll beneath the moon beams tonight!

“…Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season. Take a July night, for instance. About ten o’clock,–when man is asleep, and day fairly forgotten,–the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present themselves. Instead of the sun there are the moon and stars, instead of the wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will,–instead of butterflies in the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire!

It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad alone in moonlight nights.

How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect…”