Three Days of Rain

(Notes for a discussion on Spring in April-May 1999)

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Notes]


Act One

Frozen music:  The idea of architecture as frozen music came from German writers—Goethe (conversations with Eckermann) and Schelling (Philosophie der Kunst)—because it was in Germany that architects strove to create monuments of stillness. Yet they failed. The lofty arches of Cologne cathedral are almost asleep, but if frosty are not frozen; and though the great flat-roofed pavilion of Mies van der Rohe's New National Gallery in Berlin is as cool as architecture gets, it is still thawed by the moods of the weather, of sunlight modulating its icy, geometric perfection.

It was buildings like the Parthenon that Goethe and Schelling would have been thinking of when they talked of architecture as "frozen music." Since then, we have learned a lot more about the ideas temples like the Parthenon were designed to express. Far from being frozen, Greek temples were representations on one level of warships with billowing sails.

Maxwell Anderson:  wrote "The Bad Seed." Synopsis of play/movie from video back:

Meet 8-year-old Rhoda Penmark. She's a well-mannered, sunny-faced, perfect little lady with long golden braids and winning smile. She's also an efficient, unfeeling killer. She's The Bad Seed. And in this spellbinding chronicle of evil, her twisted mind follows a straightforward doctrine: what Rhoda wants, she ruthlessly gets.

Christine Penmark, who adores her daughter Rhoda but has long been troubled by her icy, controlled demeanor, discovers that her little girl has killed and will kill again. Horrified, Christine eventually learns a terrible secret: within herself she carries the "bad seed," an inherited moral blindness that has leaped her generation to burst into dreadful bloom in the next. Torn between love for the child she bore and grief for Rhoda's victims, Christine must make a harrowing decision.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre:  statesman and leader of Greek assembly during the Golden Age and great patron of the arts; responsible for building the Parthenon. Tyre was in Phoenicia.

Oedipal saga:  after Oedipus finds out truth (he killed his father and married his mother), he blinds himself. Also, play shows a son sleeping with his mother.

Hegel:  system of logic based on a process of change and progress (Hegelian dialetic). Basically, one concept (thesis) inevitably generates its opposite (antithesis); their interaction leads to a new concept (synthesis), which becomes the thesis of a new triad. This enables people to understand the historical unfolding of the absolute.

Boolean algebra:  abstract mathematical system; permits algebraic manipulation of logical statements. Can demonstrate the relationship between groups, indicating what is in each set alone, what is jointly contained in both, and what is contained in neither. Such manipulation can demonstrate whether a statement is true. (Johnnie Cochran: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.")

Umberto Eco:  novelist and more importantly a professor of Semiotics, a philosophical theory, which now means a study of any cultural product (text) as a formal system of linguistic signs. The relationship of words to things is not natural but conventional, thus language is a self-contained system of signs, wherein each element is meaningless by itself but meaningful only by its differentiation from others. Semiotics has led to the study of an author's text (vs. his life history) and its structure (the text itself); structuralism (i.e., its architecture).

Palimpsest:  old writing material (parchment or tablets) that, after scraping or erasure, has been used again.

Pentimento:  presence or emergence of earlier painting, images, strokes, or forms that have been painted over. (repent or regret)

Hedda Gabler:  Ibsen heroine who is selfish and willful, whose unbridled desire to dominate and destroy others brings death to herself. Lovborg, Hedda's castoff lover, is inspired by another woman (Thea) to write a book and becomes famous. He writes another manuscript with Thea's help and inspiration which Hedda ultimately burns. "I am burning your child."

Act Two

Joycean riff:  Joyce was famous for his mastery of language and moments of spiritual insight (epiphanies).

Martin Heidigger:  Twentieth century German philosopher. Major work: Being and Time (1927) about concepts of care, mood and the individual's relationship to death. Relates authenticity of being as well as anguish of modern society to the individual's confrontation with his own temporality. Considered a founder of existentialism. Also wrote later about dehumanization of man in modern society.

La Rochefoucauld:  Les Maximes was first published in 1664. They often represented an embittered pessimistic interpretation of human nature. La Rochefoucald considered love of self (egoism) the basis of men's actions. Even virtue dissolves in egoism, as he wrote in one of his most famous maxims. This thesis is supported by La Rochefoucauld's relentless analysis of all the noble sentiments of mankind: friendship, love, pity, generosity, forgiveness.

He was passionately interested in the nature of truth and in the powerful internal and external forces that prevent people from finding truth in the complex and deceptive world of human interaction. In the Maxims, he addresses this fundamental problem by trying to uncover the hidden motives and cleverly concealed falsehoods that enable people to disguise the truth both from others and from themselves. In his concept of "falsehood disguised," people wear many masks and keep their true identity hidden even from themselves. Compounding the problem, there are many forces inside and outside the human psyche which prevent the être vrai (the genuine person) within each individual from dropping his or her disguise.

Nietzsche:  Nineteenth-century German philosopher, who had contempt for Christianity, morality, conscience, and altruism. All were weaknesses and he deplored weaknesses. The "will to power" is the highest good. He advocated a race of supermen (creatures physically powerful, unscrupulous and pitiless).

(influence on drama) "anticipates Ibsen in its keen dialectic of passion and suggests Nietzsche in its predilection for characters that live themselves out in a spirit of reckless and vehement self-assertion—superman and superwoman.

Ibsen's interest in a person's self-realization...the dramatist preaches the development of all a person's possibilities—the discovery and the expression of one's true self—the enthronement of the Individual, the apotheosis of the Egotist, the cult of the Superman."

Ibsen was a believer in freedom of will, but concerned with how heredity and environment shape a man's destiny. These become a new sort of tragic fate (had to adapt because of scientific discoveries).

Emerson on the IRT:  Transcendentalism, a belief in God's immanence in man and nature, and in individual intuition as the highest source of knowledge. An optimistic philosophy, it emphasized individualism, self-reliance and rejection of traditional authority. Kant wrote that there are transcendental elements of thought that can't be perceived directly or through experience.

Sir Joshua Reynolds:  Considered the most important English painter, he raised the artist to a position of respect in England. As the first president of the Royal Academy, his annual discourses were a significant exposition of academic style, propounding eclectic generalization over direct observation and allusion to the classical past over the present. His "Grand Style" set forth the techniques of the old Italian masters (Michelangelo most admired of all), Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and other European masters.

That Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) became the most fashionable painter of his time was not simply due to his artistic gifts or good fortune. The art of pleasing...was as much a part of Reynolds's success—in his life and in his work—as the art of painting.

At the heart of Wendorf's text is an investigation of how Reynolds shaped his own persona in order to accommodate others and guarantee his own continued professional advancement. The key word, and one which his contemporaries used in describing him, is 'complaisance'...Reynolds could, when he wished, charm the birds from the trees.

Reinhold Niebuhr:  Twentieth-century American religious and social thinker who became a socialist in 1930s. Wrote two-volume The Nature and Destiny of Man (1941-3). He was an advocate of the church's moral rule of society.

Trimalchian:  The word is Trimalciònico, it comes from Trimalcione, the character in Satyricon by Petronio. Trimalcione gives a huge banquet: grandiose, sumptuous, spectacular. The word is associated with banquets.

The World of Suzie Wong:  1960 movie depicts the relationship between Robert Lomax (William Holden), an American architect who comes to Hong Kong to pursue his dream of becoming an artist, and Suzie Wong (Nancy Kwan), a Chinese prostitute. When Lomax meets with a British banker to obtain his letter of introduction, the following dialogue takes place:

Banker: You look more like an aggressive, young businessman than an artist to me.

Lomax: That's the trouble. I've been an architect most of my life, but is never satisfied me. I've always wanted to paint so I decided to take a year off and see if I could.

While Suzie is posing for Lomax, she sings a little song and then translates it for him: 
Suzie: Well, it's about a boy cloud, who falls for in love with a girl cloud. But the girl cloud say, "You're no good. You no got good heart." So the boy cloud feel very sad and he start to cry and his tears make rain...because that's all rain is...and the rain fell down and then everything started to grow. And it's green and there is food and everybody is happy. So the girl cloud tell the boy cloud, "You did good thing. You got good heart." [to Lomax directly] So in the end they got married.

Lomax: And rained happily ever after.

Suzie: You do not believe?

After he finally admits his need for her and they begin sleeping together, one day he buys an antique costume representing a Chinese princess. She changes into the robe while he is outside smoking on the balcony in the RAIN. When she emerges, he is transfixed and she tells him that she loves him. It continues to rain for nearly the remainder of the movie.
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