“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”: was she an angel warning us?

The 1952 film “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”, by John Brahm, is of some special interest to me right now, with my own fiction project.  The film, in “Warnercolor”, predates the religious spectacles that would start a year later with “The Robe”, when Cinemascope would introduced;  this film is in the old 4:3 aspect.  And it looks a little hokey by modern standards.

The film opens in 1910 with the revolution and establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, which was definitely authoritarian, with mixtures of fascism and communism. Most notably, it as anti-Church.

Fast forward to 1917 when the Catholic churches have been begrudgingly allowed to reopen. Three grade-school-age shepherd children one day in May encounter, in a dry thunderstorm, an apparition hat seems to be the Virgin Mary or some related angel. The angel warns them to say their rosaries and to be careful but to return regularly.  Media accounts often maintain that she was the Virgin Mary.

The family and local priests try to get the kids to remain quiet, but word gets around and soon pilgrims start to arrive to the hill to see the angel again, especially in October.  The kids are arrested and jailed and terrorized, and told they will be responsible for the deaths of their families (a common tactic of totalitarianism). But Hugo (a very hairy-chested Gilbert Roland) gets them out of jail, and the authorities cannot stop the pilgrimage, which assembles in another storm in October 1917. The angel appears and warns everyone that a second great war may happen even though the current World War will end soon.

The Sun comes through the cloud as if it were going to burn up the landscape and then recedes. This conclusion reminds me of the end of a short film “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” (Dec. 3, 2016) where an angel or extraterrestrial appears over Vienna with blazing light, burning off a young man’s chest hair in the very last shot.

The style of writing in the script, however, emphasizes simple, almost naïve Christian faith and loyalty to the authority of the Church, with no respect for independent thinking — this stands in contrast to the stark warning of the film.

The film has an epilogue in 1951, showing the modern day church and grounds at Fatima, which I visited myself in April 2001.  The grounds are massive, and various pilgrim groups appear.  There are unusual candles in large quantities.

The music score by Max Steiner is impressive, with choral passages that remind me of Vaughn Williams.

There are various Catholic churches around the world for which claims of miracles around Virgin Mary statues are made.  Two of these are in Aliquippa and Ambridge PA, north of Pittsburgh;  I visited the Aliquippa church briefly in 1989.  Another may be in Harlingen, Texas (near Brownsville), which I think I visited with the help of Southwest Airlines “peanuts fares” when I was living in Dallas, in 1980.  The Church generally does not verify these claims or continue to publish them.

Catholic churches and schools, to a Protestant, seem to have their own world. I can tell that from visits to an “Our Lady of Good Counsel” school in northern Virginia for “Chess for Charity” Sunday afternoon events in the past couple of years.

Fatima church and grounds today (wiki).

Aliquippa (wiki)

Harlingen (wiki)

Name:  “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”
Director, writer:  John Brahm
Released:  1952
Format: 4:3  WarnerColor (an old proprietary process)
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 2017/12/29
Length:  102
Rating:  NA (probably PG-13)
Companies:  Warner Brothers
Link:  Washington Post 2007 article on the Miracle


(Posted: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 at 10 AM EST)

“The Shape of Water”: satire, period drama, and more than ordinary horror; in fact, a love story

Guillermo del Terro’s lastest auteur-isch tour de force, “The Shape of Water”, is indeed a cutting social satire of the social and political values of rival “power structures” in the 1960s.  It’s also good horror, and it’s a love story. And it is a period piece.  I worked at the old NBS in Washington DC in 1963-1964 (before there was a UDC) and it really looked like that in the underground tunnels.

The basic premise is a bit concocted. In a secret research facility near Baltimore, the military (read NSA at Fort Meade) holds a captured “alien”, a scaly biped creature with gills and lungs who has to stay under water, discovered in the Amazon, and maybe an extraterrestrial alien. I will accept nothing less.

Maybe the creature is superman. The US wants to send him into space. And at the height of the Cold War, the Russians (and their inside implants) want the alien dead.

The autocratic civilian head, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) plays his world of Trump-like powers.  Among his chargelings are two proles, janitors who bow down to him: Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and the mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins). Strickland treats them with racial remarks that even make a modern audience cringe, and (for Elisa) sexual harassment – and the movie was shot before the recent scandals.

One day Elisa finds the creature (Doug Jones).  After a series of mishaps, Elisa binds to him and the second half of the movie is taken up with her arranging his escape into the Chesapeake Bay, at high tide and after a fall thunderstorm.

Shannon plays well the typical bureaucrat who believes you get things only by intimidation and control. But so does the general  (Richard Jenkins), who near the end warns Strickland about winding up in an alternate universe of “shit” with his own future cosmic existence undone.  Bullies win in this world.

The film mentions other events in the geopolitical environment, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Sputnik, but I didn’t hear mention of the Kennedy Assassination. So maybe the time is early 1963.

Back in the 1960s there was a late Saturday night movie program “Chiller”, of mostly monster movies, where typically you didn’t see the monster until two-thirds the way in.  I can recall “The Werewolf”, “Blood of Dracula”, and “Invasion of the Animal People”.  Or try “Donovan’s Brain”, or “the Undead” or “The Disembodied” (or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, a real classic). Then there was also “Creature from the Black Lagoon”.  This film doesn’t quite fit those, because you see the monster early, and he really isn’t a monster, although he fights back with his fingernails at Strickland.  So I could wonder about “Roswell” (1994, or even “Six Days in Roswell”, 1999), or “Fire in the Sky” (1993, about Travis Walton). I could also suggest that Terro could have taken a hint from “An American Werewolf in London” (“The Monster Movie” in 1982) or “Wolfen” and allowed Strickland a full decapitation at the end.  Maybe for a few seconds “you know you’re dead”.

The story is by the director and the script was written with Vanessa Taylor.

A Sense of Wonder from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

Before the show we were treated to Mathieu LeLay’s  “A Sense of Wonder”  The short appears to he filmed in the Canadian Rockies.

Name:  “The Shape of Water
Director, writer:  Guillermo del Torro
Released:  2017/12/18
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Angelika Mosaic, 2017/12/14
Length:  105
Rating:  R
Companies:  Fox Searchlight
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, December 25, 2017 at 11 AM EST)

“Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret”: UFO’s, aliens, and false flags

Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret” (2017), directed by Michael Mazzola, gives an account of the Disclosure Project which traces the evidences of UFO’s and alien visitation since Roswell in 1947.

The descriptions of the crashed saucers and of the aliens is rather explicit:  three feet tall, wearing tight fitting skin suits, egg-shaped craft without mechanical parts inside.

The film moves on to showing many presidents (Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford) and candidates (Hillary) on talk shows admitting their interest in aliens.

But the film also presents a major industrial conspiracy to hide information about UFO’s even from the government, in order to protect their market for a fossil fuels industry.  Nick Tesla is depicted as having wanted to move beyond AC current to energy in space-time already in possession of aliens.  There are claims that the government knows of at least two or three other advanced civilizations within a reasonable distance (maybe 100 light years) in the Milky Way (let alone the Dyson’s Sphere that might live around Tabby’s Star 1400  light years away). The setup sounds like Clive Barker’s “Imajica“.

The film goes into the subject of psychological warfare and particularly “false flag” attacks.  In this kind of operation a government creates an incident in order to blame an unpopular enemy, like the Nazi Broken Glass operation. The film claims that a false flag operation was set up in 1980 to blame Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boatlift in order to justify Guantanamo later. The film present George W. Bush’s war in Iraq as a false flag by claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It also says that Werner von Brahn supported a false flag operation to protect the world from aliens.

No question, the day that alien contact was proven would indeed be “The Event” (like the NBC series).  Then you have the “Smallville-Clark Kent” problem.  If someone somehow arrived from another planet and developed like Clark, what would his legal rights be?  That would engulf the debate on immigration (or race) if it happened. We may be approaching a world where we need to consider the legal rights of “non-human persons”, like individual orcas (killer whales) and other dolphins. Cetaceans may be the closest thing we have experienced to alien intelligence on our level. The possibility of cross-mating (DNA compatibility) would no longer define “personhood” legally.

Downtown Roswell NM, Wiki. I visited it in April 1998.

Area 51, Nevada, Wiki. I was near there in May 2000.

Name: Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret
Director, writer:  Michael Mazzola
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play  2017/9/8
Length: 107
Rating:  NA
Companies:  The Orchard
Link:  Facebook

(Posted: Friday, September 8, 2017 at 7:15 PM EDT)

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: Life in the ultimate model world populated by aliens; De Haan shines

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, directed by Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) tells us what we have to look forward to as a species if we survive Donald Trump, North Korea, and Putin, and take civilization to the stars.  The movies is based on graphic novels and comic books by Pierre Christin and Jean Claude Mezieres.

Unfortunately for the 3-dimensional space city of Alpha, it has a leader who is like a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, played by Clive Owen.  “Foreigners” whose desert planet (“Dube”) he had once destroyed, played by “Pearls” (like the beings in “Avatar” (2009))have infiltrated.  They seem to have placed a radioactive core “tumor” in the heart of the city.  It’s up to special operatives Major Valerian (Dane De Haan) and girl friend Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) to find and destroy.

De Haan, with his boyish skin and looks (he is 31) plays the role with great charisma, a real hero.

Alpha has many physical spaces, inhabited by all kinds of creatures.  AI bots looking like flies make up the computers.  The humans live in a vertical city sort of like a Hong Kong.  Toward the core there is a red district where no foreigners are allowed (hint: Trump) but drag queens are,  that looks like an open air gay bar running for blocks, embedded into a Disney theme park.  You expect to run into Sean Spicer in leather at any moment.

The desert planet was also interesting before it got blown up, with its own lego-city underground and rather bizarre lake beaches.

The film was shot in studios in France (Toulouse) and Quebec.

The title of the film makes me think of the “Valley of 1000 Smokes” in Alaska.

Here is an imdb image of what Alpha looks like.

Name: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director, writer:  Luc Besson
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, sneak, small auditorium, fair audience, 2017/7/20
Length:  129
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  STX, Europa  (French Canadian production, in English)
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, July 21, 2017, 8:30 PM EDT)

“Extraordinary: the Stan Romanek Story”: auto-biography of a UFO abductee, with a disturbing twist

Want to watch an autobiography of a UFO abductee?  Try “Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story”, directed by Jon Sumple, first released by J3Films in 2013, now available on Netflix.

The film starts with square, narrow aspect shots of lantern-like UFO’s in Colorado.  The film also as a lot of display of text and case summaries, before it settles into interviews, with the middle part of the film largely taken up by Romanek’s own interviews

Romnek says his first encounters occurred near the end of 2000.  Shortly after 9/11, his home, he says, was visited at night by humanoid aliens, two men and one woman. Over time, be believes he was abducted various times, and recalls one female alien child.

Romanek (b. 1962) says he grew up as the only white kid in a Latino area with gangs, and had to deal with bullying as a kid.  He also was in special education.

Various things happened to his bod.  Lesions would appear around his wrists and on his chest, and sometimes some body hair had been removed.  The lesions (which look almost like Kaposi’s sarcoma in the film in a few shots) would melt away quickly.  Various things would happen to his house, and his landlord one day suddenly decided to replace the siding.  He fell and torn the ACL ligament in his knee in 2008 working around the house (actually a common baseball injury).  Just before he was to have surgery, lesions appeared behind his knee and the injury mysteriously resolved.  But no alien implant was ever detected by further medical exams.

In hypnosis sessions, Romanek would write out the Drake equation, and also other advanced calculus equations involving the  Alcubierre Drive, which is said to be able to manipulate space so as to enable faster-than-light-speed travel by aliens.

The film has an epilogue which outlines, in text (added after the film was first completed) the prosecution of Romanek for possession of child pornography in 2014.  The case has not been tried as of this writing. The Wikipedia article gives links to details in a Huffington story that is quite disturbing. It seems that the police traced IP addresses from P2P activity from other known cases to his I.P. address. This does happen, and watermarked images are often found from a database managed by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The film text mentions all kinds of conspiracies by government to frame people for child pornography possession, as well as stories about malware causing illegal images to appear. This is indeed possible.  Until about 2006 or so, prosecutors tried to maintain that compute users had absolute liability for possession on any devices they owned.  In more recent times, law enforcement has had to deal with the idea that malware framing is possible. A lot was written about this possibility online in 2013, about the time this film was made.

Wikipedia picture from northern CO, which I drove through in 1994 (on the trip where I decided to write my first book).

I could compare this material to Dan Fry’s 1976 book “To Men of Earth” where Dr. Fry related “hosting” an “alien” named A-lan who came from a UFO.

Name:  “Extraordinary: the Stan Romanek Story
Director, writer:  Jon Sumple
Released:  2013
Format:  1.85:1 (some shots much smaller)
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play, 2017/7/11
Length:  109
Rating:  NA
Companies:  J3films
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, 6:30 PM EDT)

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”: can a young man be a god and not know it for a little while?

Can a young man first born in the American Midwest to a seemingly average pair of young lovers find out that he is supposed to become a god and be immortal?  Can one be a god or angel  (or human-looking alien from another planet) and not know it until some initiation in young manhood?  Maybe Chris (or Christian, like in the Sibelius King Christian Suite) is the best name for such a character or the Hollywood star who plays him.  Donald Trump would never suspect a thing; his travel bans won’t apply to UFO’s from other planets.

That seems to be the gist of the new franchise sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” written and directed by James Gunn (based on the Marvel comics series by Dan Abnett).

Minnesota-born (from the Iron range) Chris Pratt (remember him as the teenager “Bright” in the WB Series “Everwood”) plays the archtype superhero Peter Quill, or Star-Lord.  Chris, approaching 38, does look a little more weathered, and as I recall had at one time gained weight, which he shed. Now, well post-adolescence, there is a mop of hair decorating the middle of Chris’s chest, which is at risk from the laser probes through his bod toward the end.  (That also happened to the young Clark Kent on Smallville near the end of Season 2, resulting in a keloid scar for a few episodes.)  Chris’s character needs to add some art to his people skills: how about singing bel canto, playing piano, directing plays, and making short films.  He does carry others on his back.

After a prologue set against the disco radio music of 1980, we jump to 2014, when Peter (who, without relativity, would be the same age as Jesus during his ministry) visits the High Priestess (that was the name of a friend’s cat when I lived in NYC) on a golden throne in a golden palace in a city on some other planet looking like Dubai.  He’s sent on a quest to find his father and his ancestry. How he gets past the speed of light barrier is not explained.  Does he rent a digital holographic replica of his body from Hertz when he streams instantly to a new planet?  Oh, they show in him spaceships with a co-pilot Rocket, a talking raccoon with voice of Bradley Cooper.  And there is a little wood spirit (whose learning abilities play a critical role in the resolution at the end) with voice of Vin Diesel.

There are some other planets, like one with an open market in what looks like a town in Siberia, but he finally meets his real father, Ego, played by a foppish but aging Kurt Russell.  Ego has created his own living planet in his name, the size of the Moon – making us wonder how it has near Earth gravity. (Ever notice how these planets all have the same atmosphere as Earth?)  Ego wants to expand, so that the entire universe (or at least Milky Way Galaxy) becomes him.  The planet has wonderful scenery:  organix spires of plant material, with red and violet colors as well as the more common photosynthetic green.  Are any of these planets tidally locked?

We do see planets explode at the end, at least Ego.  And there is a scene where a blue mass (remember “The Blob”, which was pink) encroaches on a town (is that back in Missouri?)

And finally, after Peter is reassembled one last time it seems like he will become a god whether wants to or not.

Remember the pretext of the NBC series “The Event”, where Jason Ritter’s character saves everyone but doesn’t know he is an alien?

Wiki chart of sizes of exoplanets known so far.

Name:  “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Director, writer:  James Gunn
Released:  2017/5
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D, IMAX
When and how viewed:  AMC Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, VA, 2017/6/4, late, small audience
Length:  136
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel, Walt Disney Pictures
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

“Alien: Covenant”: A synthetic man makes his (adopted) home planet a deadly honeypot for a colony space ship

Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” is said to be a prequel of the well-known “Alien” franchise but also a sequel to “Prometheus” (2013), which had shown the panspermia of man and then set up the series of space journeys that could set mankind in mortal danger.  The story for this movie is by Jack Paglan and Michael Green.  Titan books sells a “novelization” of the movie.

I was still living in Manhattan at the end of 1978 when I saw the movie posters for the upcoming first “Alien” movie. There was a picture of an egg and a laser flare beaming down on bodies, and I thought some wording like “a warning”.  I wondered then if the movie was about some kind of mass abduction (given my contacts then with Dan Fry and “Understanding”).  Indeed, a movie about what happens to those who are “raptured” (an inverse of “The Leftovers”) could be an interesting premise. That would not be the case.  I remember standing in line at the Medallion Theater in Dallas Memorial Day 1979 to buy a ticket, and seeing a young man who had been severely burned in line.  That’s one of the few time I remember seeing that.  And I remember the visual captivation of the first movie:  the cave with the devices combining man with machine, the egg cases, and then, back on the ship, the exploding bodies, and later the hidden robot.  Ripley, Sjjuourney Weaver, believer.  For the third film, they gave out clippers for private parts.

The new film starts with a shot of an eye, and then we’re on some mountain spa on another planet, as David (Michael Fassbender) learns he is an immortal android artifice created by his dad, who has learned how to connect consciousness to AI.  Then we’re on a colonization ship, the Covenant, with 2000 colonists and some embryos looking for a specific Earth 2 at the other side of the galaxy. The ship (where Fassbender plays another droid, Walter) passes through a “neutrino flare” and gets damaged.  When the ship is getting fixed, it gets a bizarre transmission indicating another earth-like paradise planet is much closer. The crew takes the bait, not suspecting it is a honeypot.

The surface is a damp, fjord country of southern New Zealand (“Aotearoa”).  When the crew makes its initial exploration, it quickly notices the silence, no birds or animals.  Soon the astronauts are getting infected by dust that can enter an ear lobe, and the bodies start to explode.  Some of the crew is led to the ruins of a former city, ruled by David.

It seems that ten years before, the survivors of “Prometheus” had been there, and David, after arriving with them, had thrown a hissy fit and destroyed the entire civilization, after breeding a virus that destroyed all other animal life except this one shape-shifting monster mutant.  (Did that virus come from the Prometheus planet?)

The flashback makes the ancient city look quite interesting.  There were two organic sabres or “ships” that commanded an open circle in the center of the City.  The rest of it looked like a typical place in the Middle East, despite the damp climate.

Davis, as a character, presents a dilemma.  If you’re immortal you don’t need to have children. But wouldn’t you care about the future if you knew you would be around forever, like a god?

There’s an interesting sequence where David learns to play a flute, to articulate the soaring music theme that had played in “Prometheus” (by Mark Stretenfeld). David also has a fixation with Wagner, the “Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” and the movie (before credits) ends with the close of “Das Rheingold”.  The closing credits feature a Wagnerian symphonic poem by Jed Kurzel.

Wikipedia New Zealand scenery.

Wikipedia chart of extra-solar planets.

Name:  “Alien: Covenant
Director, writer:  Ridley Scott
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/5/22, large auditorium, evening, small audience
Length:  122
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, TSG, ScottFree
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 3:30 PM EDT)

Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony should become standard concert repertoire in a full 4-movement form; there is real debate on the coda

Shortly after my “expulsion” from William and Mary at the end of November 1961, I had come home to my parents, planning to restart my education at George Washington University in early 1962 (which I did), with somewhat strained relations with my somewhat authoritarian father. But I got a Columbia mono LP of the 3-movement Bruckner Ninth Symphony for Christmas, with Bruno Walter. Bruckner had dedicated his life-leaving symphony “to God”.

Right after Christmas, I started composing a third Sonata. I still have a lot of the sketches, which I am drawing together for a performable document. Only recently have I realized that the playful theme that starts the Exposition of the first movement has a subconscious origin in a theme from the trio of the Bruckner Ninth Scherzo, which many music scholars call the “Hallelujah” theme, by comparison with Bruckner’s Te Deum and probably his Psalm 150 (and possibly can trace back to Handel).

My own autobiographical narrative is well covered elsewhere in my three DADT books and in own music is covered in another blog (“Bill’s media reviews”) so now I want to get to the case for seeing a complete four movement Bruckner Ninth as standard concert repertoire around the world.

Before proceeding further, let me note at least two CD’s available: Rattle on WB (2011, to be discussed below)

and on Naxos (1992 version, Wildner conducting, same composition team, Naxos site; Amazon link does not resolve.

Bruckner himself had suggested that the C Major Te Deum be performed if he did not complete the symphony. But, unlike Mahler, Bruckner always ended his symphonies in the same key as the first movement. The Te Deum does have material that connects to the Ninth (and other works), but is not quite as harmonically dense as the symphony itself.

(Note the Psalm 150 also, which I heard in performed in Dallas in the 1980s.

A “boyfriend” who was also a physician loved it, but others in my social cohort didn’t feel reached by the music.)

We do accept “completions” of other works: Mozart’s Requiem (Sussmayr), and Puccini’s opera Turandot (Alfono) and even the Mahler Tenth (I got to know Ormandy’s performance on Columbia of the “Cooke 1” version).. In fact, I rather like the “completed” Schubert Unfinished (Newbould, with Rosamunde music in the Finale), and the “completed” Schubert Symphony #10 in D (Bartholomee), which has a Brucknerian feel in the first two movements. I also like hearing the Mahler First with the Blumine movement included.

There is a 35-minute YouTube video by Nicholas Harnoncourt where the conductor discusses the surviving bifolio manuscript of the Bruckner Ninth finale.

Harnoncourt takes the position that composition (as a “process piece”, to use the language of NYC composer Timo Andres in his famous 2015 twitter storm) and instrumentation are different steps. So Harnoncourt explains that the existing music thread up to the coda is almost complete, except for a few missing bars in the development, and then again after the fugue.
Harnoncourt says that note indicate that Bruckner wanted a catherdral-like coda with quotes form his earlier works, especially the Third, Fifth, Seventh (the “Jacob’s Ladder” rising theme), and Eight (the scherzo theme) symphonies, as well as the “Hallelujah” motif that occurs in the scherzo trio and then again in the slow movement. He apparently also wanted to use the descending interval motive that opens Beethoven’s Ninth (as well as Mahler’s First later), which becomes a major idea in the first movement (the “octave” motive that concludes the first theme group) and which is said to occur in the Te Deum.

I find four performing versions on YouTube. One of them with Eliahul Inbal seems truncated (although it uses the “Bruckner Pivot” to introduce the final pedal point, and I’ll come back to that), and there is another by Carragen, performed by Schaller, that didn’t particularly convince me, at least. I admit I haven’t spent much time on it, and it is covered in Wikipedia.

That leads me with the two best versions, the Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazucca, which are actually about four versions (1985, 1992, 2008, and 2011, the “Conclusive Revised Edition”), performed by Simon Rattle and the Seattle Symphony on a Warner Brothers CD.

And a version, 2 minutes longer (to 24 minutes) by Belgian composer Sebasiten Letocart (he also calls himself Seba Tracotel in social media) with the Budapest Symphony performed by Nicholas Couton.

The two versions are very similar until the Coda, which starts at Minute 19 on Letocart. Both follow Harnoncourt’s analysis.

At this point, it is well to summarize the form of this Finale up to the coda.

There is a brief introduction in moderate tempo of a dotted theme, that soon leads to the first subject, which has lots of wide skipping intervals and is almost dodecaphonic. Indeed, the whole symphony, most of all this finale, explores new areas of chromaticism (written in the mid 1890s), which anticipates not only the Mahler Ninth (1909) and probably some late Scriabin, but frankly the world of Arnold Schoenberg, especially Schoenberg’s large post-romantic works before he took up 12-tone writing. Unresolved dissonances abound, which, as Harnoncourt explains, conductors would want to take out (this had happened with Brucknner’s earlier symphonies, but remember Beethoven’s Eroica and Schubert’s Great C Major were considered shocking at first to conductors). But even in the world of this finale, atonality seems like the ultimate endpoint.

The Exposition, however, has three major subjects. The second subject is more conventional Bruckner (a little like the second subject of the first movement), with its own “trio”, before this prepares us for the majestic, descending chorale theme, very chromatically harmonized from E Major, as if it should be sung as a church hymn. In many works (like if Rachmaninoff had this material), it would become the “big tune” for the conclusion, but here the descending nature of the motive argues against that outcome already.

The Development starts out in a straightforward way, but in a short time a fugue begins. Harnoncourt calls the music “wild”. Curiously, to me, the dotted rhythms and blocked nature of the clashing lines reminds me of Schubert (toward the end of the development of the first movement of the “Great”, whose clashing contrapuntal dissonances early 19th Century conductors found disturbing) The music then presents the “Hallelujah” motive, as then what sounds to my ear like a genuine Recapitulation of the original D Minor stuff starts. The Recapitulation in both versions is reasonably straightforward until it comes to the restatement of the Chorale, where Harnanoncourt (and all other scholars) admit so some controversy.

Samale at al bring back the “Te Deum” idea with the full octave theme from the first movement, repeat the Chorale, and come to a violent climax (one more restatement of the Octaves) with a harmonic “Pivot” and a double take. Then the final version (2012) maintains tempo and volume, and throws the “Jacobs Ladder”, Te Deum, and Hallelujah motives together on one final pedal point in D Major. The overall mood is one of conventional joy.

The 2008 Samale-Cohrs version had, after the last dissonance pivot (with only one invocation of the Te Deum octave idea), provided a “coda of the coda” that briefly goes back to pianissimo, in D Major, quoting the Beethoven Ninth opening intervals, and building the Jacobs Ladder and Allelulah together, coming to a stop on a find fortissimo D Major chord for full orchestra. The 1992 version, on Naxos, is very similar. But in the 2011 version, after the Pivot, the music maintains its momentum and volume. It’s hard for me to understand, from the explanations in Cohrs document, why.

But it’s useful to compare to the end of the Bruckner Symphony #8, where the coda in the finale starts “misterioso” and quietly in C Minor, build up to a climax in F Minor, and then crashes on a subdominant seventh-to tonic Pivot (the “Bruckner Pivot”, although Scriabin uses it to great effect at the very end of his Divine Poem), where the music remains fortissimo, with various motives (especially the scherzo) play on top of one another until the last three octaves, E-D-C, still in FFF. (Schoenberg offers a similar Pivot to end his massive “Gurrelieder” in C Major.) The Bruckner Eighth is very satisfying and perfectly executed, since Bruckner finished it himself. Some observers note that the Bruckner Eighth is the only of Bruckner’s symphonies to have a first movement end quietly, and have even suggested that Bruckner could have considered ending the Ninth quietly, in religious resignation to a perhaps hollow Heaven (maybe like the end of the Mahler Ninth).

But Letocart takes on a different tack. His coda is in four parts (starting at 19:00). He reiterates the chorale theme, to be sure, but dot not fully requote the Te Deum octave theme (he does invoke one central jagged phrase from it in the brass, with unresolved harmony dissonances, which might be more effective in a “bare bones” sense). He, instead, has briefly quoted a key theme from the Bruckner Fifth (well known for its blazing conclusion in the brass after another fugue, recalling Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue indeed). He comes to what could be a pivot point, but in fact has prepared us for one more “misterioso” invocation, back in D Minor. In fact, the music has already turned quite dark. We know Bruckner is facing an End, his own. The music could wind down to solitude, as Letocart invokes the descending D Minor intervals originally from the Beethoven ninth. But instead, through a serious of Neapolitan chords, it explodes like a supernova, using only the “Halelujah” motive. I miss the “Jacobs Ladder” of the Samale and the Te Deum, but somehow the simplicity of Letocart’s final bars, leading to a final drum roll accompanying the fortissimo D Major chord and finally only octaves, conveys the sense of Apocalypse.

The sense of apocalypse is communicated in a shocking 17-minute short film by Narcis Aliphalic, “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” Letocart explains the darkness of the music, and plays the descending chorale theme on the piano as if a song without words. But the film shows a parallel narrative with some young adults, including a young man and woman, in their 20s, enjoy a (Vienna?) city park. Other spectators join, include a group of other shirtless young men. As the coda turns dark, the other young men draw the first young men into a bizarre intimate, perhaps homoerotic, ritual. But then everyone is watching the sky, as a huge light approaches. The original young man is “chosen” by others to be the first to meet the returning Christ, or God, or alien spaceship. Everyone knows that they are facing their last moments on earth, but their afterlife will not be hollow. The very last shot of the chosen young man shows him facing the light with chest hair suddenly burned off. I do wonder if this film has been in a festival somewhere, like Cannes, Sundance or Tribeca.

Here’s Letocart’s discussion of the “Hallelujah.”

I’ve tweeted the New York Philharmonic, and I think they could be interested in putting on this work in the 2017-2018 season. It’s hard to say which version would be chosen. The “establishment” likes Cohrs-et al, but I think the Letocart conclusion is far more shocking and may be closer to the truth of what Bruckner thought he faced in his last days.

So, the “big tune” of the chorale is not used, and the Allelujah is a motive, not a full tune. Many post romantic works are well ended with a big tune which (as with Rachmaninoff’s second and third piano concerti) can arise from simple, playful beginnings. A “misterioso” near the end is not possible in works like that. But in the Bruckner Ninth it sounds right, and needed. It tells us what we may all face.

Here are references, to

And Letocart.  (He also calls himself “Seba Tracotel” in social media, and lives in Belgium, but near Germany. He is quite active on Facebook in commenting on troubled European politics; it helps that I can read French pretty easily.  With postings by another Belgian music and film artist, Timo Descamps, it helps to read Dutch, which pretty much looks like “misspelled” English and German mixed together.)


Letocart has an ftp-ed PDF of much of his score which I requested through social media, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be public.

(Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 2:15 PM EST)

“Arrival”: one way the first public alien contact could happen (but does physics allow the time jumping?)


Name: Arrival
Director, writer:  Denis Villeneuve, story Ted Chiang
Released:  2016/11/10
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic 2016/11/11, morning, very full auditorium, audience clapped at end
Length 116
Rating PG-13
Companies: Paramount-FilmNation  (Canadian production)
Link: official

I’ve always been fascinated by tracing how the world would react to a public alien “Arrival”; in my novel draft, and in of my screenplays, most of the narrative leads up to the arrival, which will solve a mystery (and provide a sense of initiation).  In my cases, some of the suspense is indeed interpersonal.  I think I have a more complicated concept than this film by Denis Villeneuve, based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life”.


The film opens with a shot of a gray ceiling with nice designs, before we see linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) looking out of a lake (maybe Flathead, near Kalispell, Montana, which I have driven around) near her home, remembering the passing of her little girl Hannah to an aggressive brain cancer, which we will later learn was cause by a bizarre virus that enables the “sufferer” to experience space-time in a tesseract (like in “Interstellar”).  In my novel, I introduce the idea of a novel retrovirus (incorporating micro black holes) that can convey some people unusual powers, but I won’t get into that here.   Hannah’s name is a palindrome, and that becomes important (the last movement of Hindemith’s Horn Concerto is also a palindrome).


Soon Banks is lecturing about what makes Portuguese interesting as a language, when her students start seeing news on their phones and laptops, and interrupt her, to turn on the TV.  The spaceships have suddenly arrived within the last hour, and the world is in a panic.  There are twelve of them.


Soon the Army is recruiting her to come out to the spaceship site in rural Montana.  You have to go through decontamination to get in and out of the spaceship (not quite as bad as the “body analysis” of “The Andromeda Strain” – thankfully no photoflash chamber).  The ship is a large ovoid, maybe 1000 feet high and you wait under it for a door to open.


Once inside, you are elevated through a tunnel with wall designs like those of Louise’s ceiling. Eventually, you get to meet the aliens.  Usually, you see the bottoms of their bodies – looking like cephalopods, with seven arms, each of which ends in a tentacle that can expand into seven more hooks for writing messages that look like circular Rorschachs.  Most of the time, the real bodies (like stalks) are enshrouded in fog.


It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that the non-linear nature of the alien language provides a key to how they experience time and can accomplish space travel.  It also excuses the out-of-sequence flashbacks and flash forwards (like in the ABC series “Flash Forward”).

Suffice it to say, also, that the look of the film becomes fixated on the aliens and the images of their writings.  It doesn’t who a lot of scenery, except a few shots of the shops in other places like Shanghai. A lot of the time, the movie seems to be almost in black and white.

The other aspect of this film is, of course, world politics – especially when China, Russia, and then other third world countries want to go their own way, which in this situation could threaten the planet. “China is not your friend” Trump has said.  Like neither was the tiger Richard Parker (“Pi”) until he was.

The dour original music is by Johann Johansson;  the Dvorak Serenade in E is quoted. There is a string quartet theme that resembles the slow movement of Beethoven’s A Minor quartet.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Flathead Lake by Paul Frederickson, CCSA 2.5.

(Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016 at 3:45 PM)