biophilia

the beav can remain incognito during most routine social interactions, seeming to be an unremarkable, pearl-buttoned, i.p.a.-swilling, portland rodent.  but every now and again (like last week) someone will attempt to make small talk and ask an ostensibly innocent query, such as: so, what have you been reading lately?  and thus, i am forced to sheepishly respond: um, a biography on benjamin britten.

and you know what?  the next time somebody asks me that question, my reply may very well be (after i don a beret and shove a hunk of baguette in my pie-hole): um, a biography on camille saint-saëns.  blank stares and conversation killers bedamned!  seriously now ~ i’ve never uttered the phrase holy shit with such veracity while perusing a wikipedia bio.  [and until the oregon symphony performs a work by percy grainger, i doubt i ever will.]  yo, check it – monsieur saint-saëns was pretty much born fatherless, started composing at 3, was fluent in latin by 7, and following a piano recital at age 10, offered to play as an encore any one of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas from memory.  yep.  he apparently hung out with every major 19th-century composer (rossini! liszt! fauré! berlioz! massenet! debussy! wagner! tchaikovsky!).  in addition to being a virtuoso pianist, organist, and composer, uncle cammy was an accomplished journalist, playwright, poet, editor, archaeologist, mathematician, lepidopterist, astronomer, geologist, philosopher, and botanist.  and for this embarrassingly lengthy resume, he was forced to flee the 1870’s paris commune.  oh sure, he deserted his wife after both their young sons died within 2 months of each other (!), but in 1908 he composed one of the first film scores – like, ever.  his world travels took him to places like russia, the middle east, south america, asia, the canary islands, and san fransicso (where he conducted the sfo in 1915).  and after accomplishing all this wonderfulness, he notoriously transformed himself into a conservative, xenophobic whacko before kicking le seau at the ripe ol’ age of 86.

c’mon, this could be the next great biopic at a theater near you… meryl streep as camille anyone?

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1 Response to “biophilia”


  1. 1 Nancy Ives March 5, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Wow! I had no idea. Somehow I got through music doctor school without acquiring even an inkling of this. Thanks for the Cliff’s Notes! ;>)


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