Obscure Musicians and Composers

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by musicians and composers who might be classified as “obscure.”
The list of such artists (in any genre) is long but I will try to compile a list of the individuals that have impressed me.

Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)- Polish virtuoso pianist and composer of some very knotty piano works. He was a renowned wit and his home both in New York and in Paris was the meeting place for many well known artists from Josef Hofmann to Maurice Ravel. Like many lesser known but worthwhile musicians his works may be an acquired taste but well worth cultivating.

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)- Everything I said about Godowsky can be applied to Alkan. Except, of course, that Alkan was French and from an earlier era. Alkan was a close friend of Chopin.
Alkan  was also a prodigy who achieved early fame but would retreat to seclusion in his early thirties. He did not perform again until very late in his life though he did compose the entire time. His compositions were “rediscovered” by pianist Raymond Lewenthal and others in the 1960’s and Alkan’s music has since been recorded with some regularity.

Alkan was a Talmudic scholar and the tale of his death has become legendary. It is said that he met his Maker while reaching for a volume of the Takmud from a high shelf and the bookcase toppled on him.

Sisyphus Smiles

I have always that thought that the legend of Sisyphus was an apt metaphor for all human endeavors especially creative ones.

For those unfamiliar, Sisyphus is a character from Greek mythology who was doomed to push a boulder up a steep hill for eternity only to see it roll back down and therefore begin the frustratingly futile and laborious process all over again.
One week ago I came up with this rough draft of a poem while on my daily jog. Though I have primarily written only instrumental music the past few years I fully intend to find a proper musical setting for this idea.
To my way of thinking it presents a nice twist to the tale if Sisyphus accepts his predicament with a sort of Zen-like calm and embraces his fate. This twist is what the title derives from.
After all, this is what we all must inevitably do or at least should do.

“Sisyphus Smiles”

Push, push, push…
Seems you are just pushing all of your days,

Head down, shoulders squared
through every chapter, stage, and phase.

“Some day soon,” you tell yourself
You’ll stand atop high ground
and survey the scene with proud content and
as you look around.

You’ll cast your gaze on everything that stretches out for miles
and while the sun breaks through the clouds the weary…
Sisyphus Smiles.

reynold d. philipsek