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  • Works on Paper and Piano

Of Beauty and Death


Forgive me with kindness for speaking of something as morose such as of beauty and death in the same breath but both are breathing, iconic, mysterious, and often misunderstood. Beauty and of death are rarely the point of reflection in daily life given the emotional and spiritual weight they pay tribute to.  The world we know is filled with madness, sorrow, conflicts, chaos, diversions, and changes in life circumstances. The spirit of beauty and death exists like light and shadows on the wall or a chiaroscuro existence, rarely spoken of.

O’ beauty and of death, when do the drumbeats rest for those blessed?
When do the drumbeats rest for the transgressed?
When do the drumbeats rest for the obsessed?

O’ fortune’s spinning wheels of time, like full moons waning in the cadence of time.
I wonder of thine joyful life, like wine and the passing of time.
Taste the bread of O’ beauty, less dread of death put thou to the test in time.

Poem Of Beauty and Death © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Our perceptions of beauty, and of death, define our view of present and past tenses, we are often perplexed to which one appropriates the other, beauty or death?  Both beauty and death are like looking through a multi-colored kaleidoscope where the seer experiences the opposing mixtures of emotional patterns of nostalgia, joy, melancholy, fear or ethereal feelings but all are optically misleading.  Lending to the misconception, that in the end death appropriates all, including beauty. Nothing could be further from the contrarian truth.

Of beauty and death, we recognize as absolute truths, marked by human language denoting words like, is or to be, like burning embers in the human imagination, creating constructs of what is beautiful or what it is to be or not to be.  Know truth, beauty is far from the conventional or popular perceptions where beauty is bemused with ideas what is pretty, attractive, eye-catching, or even artful.

For beauty is dangerous, beauty is dangerous to the corrupt and immoral world in that it attempts to cleanse and remove human transgressions from the world.  For our fruit is rotten, our fruit is rotten with corruption, diminutive thoughts, and fear of not.  For what is beauty or is beautiful, is a result of nature and moral goodness that removes or transforms human transgressions into mercy, grace, humility, and kindness, a heighten experience that transcends decadence, narcissism, arrogance, conceit, tyranny, and at its paramount, beauty becomes a collective organic moral human experience. Decadence, narcissism, arrogance, conceit, and tyranny, are aberrant enemies of beauty, often leading to objectification rather than to a greater and honorable end.

Now and then, works of art become objects of beauty, but such adoration is another form objectification unless works are masterworks of an artist, which elevates or ennobles the theater of the human condition in persuasion. Otherwise, such works become superfluous objects of anthropological nature, commoditized by the gallery-museum complex. Beauty must be dangerous to take hold in changing the world of the human experience; there is no substitute or deviation from originality. Beauty requires risks with a moral compass, even if it leads to being ignored, ostracized, or even of death, which is inevitable given life.

Of beauty, and of death, many fear the latter. Humankind throughout the ages has meditated on the mystery and subject of death with masterworks from antiquity to now, encompassing philosophy, theater, theology, painting, sculpture, literature, and newer mediums, which ultimately forms our perceptions of beauty, and of death.  When it comes to cultural, religious belief systems specifically precepts about human death under a religious context, those of the non-secular beliefs are comforted by their faith, while those of the secular beliefs find comfort with the minimalism of death, merely black and white, and nothing more.  Ultimately, death remains a mystery as the faith or belief we hold, regardless, if we are atheists, agnostics, or faithful believers, as all three ships have not yet left their safe harbor.

Of death, we often contrast with the ember of life, the physicality of the human body is a complex organic chemical, biological system, and clock, bonded together by atoms, and their electrons, neutrons, and protons, which are fragmentary elements created from the electromagnetic energy spectrum.  As humans, we cannot exist without the electromagnetic spectrum, somewhere between gamma rays and radio waves provides the building blocks of the right level of emitting energy or radiation that allows chemical elements to compound, solidify, and form organic life. The electromagnetic spectrum provides visible light in qualities that sustain life on earth.

Such is the razor edge that separates the difference between life and death, which is thin and fragile, like an invisible energy film between two spheres.  When the body dies and decomposes, the atoms from the body still stay around and sometimes break down into a radioactive decay slowly over time, it is estimated a proton half-life is roughly around 1.29×1034 years.  Simply put, the deceased body like any mass is made up of atoms, and the elements of the atom such as electrons, neutron, and protons, linger on in various states but remain on an atomic level over eternity.  When the body incinerates, the body turns into a form of Carbon (Symbol C) Atomic number 6.  Carbon is the fifteenth abundant element in the earth’s crust and the fourth abundant element by mass in the universe; in essence, the atom’s electrons, neutrons, and protons that make up the physicality of the human body after death remain in the atomic universe from which they came, ambient emitting atomic particles. Something Epicurus dreamt long ago.

From the winds of the distant past of antiquity, the whispers of Homeric souls blow across the windswept earth. Homeric poems contained one of the earliest usages of the word soul “psuche” in Hellenistic literature.  In the Homeric world, the soul always belongs to a human being and is one of the same.  The Homeric notion of the soul is something humans risk in life or battle; it is something only a human can have during life or lose after death, where the soul goes to the underworld; transmuted into shade or image of the deceased.

Achilles is always reflecting on risking the loss of his soul in the Iliad (9.322). By the fifth century, about the time of Socrates’ death, and towards the end of the sixth century, the semantics and meaning of soul changed, thought of, and spoken of as distinctive mark of livings things, capable of emotional states, faculty of reason, and bearer of virtues such as courage, beauty, and justice. The writings of Plato and Aristotle to some extent expanded the questions of the soul, and gradually over time, the Homeric idea of the soul lost hold with Hellenistic culture, but this allowed new ideas about the soul to transmute and form.

What came after was the word, “empsuchos” or “ensouled” which became the standard Hellenistic meaning for “alive” and that not just humans have a soul but all living things in the world have a soul.  The belief formed that the soul delineates which is alive from which is not, but moreover, what also defines the soul are virtues and actions of the living human being.

Our contemporaneous view of the soul, we are indebted to history with an obligatory note in hand to the writings of Homer, Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Epicurus, who explored the nature what it is to be a human soul.  Such rich and fertile soil became the bed for the seeds of Western Abrahamic religious thought, our code, and moral inheritance.

Of beauty and death, do not fear. If you must have trepidation of the latter, observe the immoral conditions of your soul and the world, remove the transgressions such as decadence, narcissism, arrogance, conceit, ignorance, injustice, intolerance, the tyranny of men, and replace with the morality of beauty. Fear not death, fear beauty. Fear the absence of beauty from your soul and the world.  In the end, not death, but beauty appropriates all.

Of Beauty, and of Death

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – Gloria

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – Vespers

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – L’Orfeo

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

Georg Friedrich Händel – Coronation Anthems

Georg Friedrich Händel – Water Music

Georg Friedrich Händel – Messiah

Johann Sebastian Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 2

Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach – Orchestral Suite No.2 In B Minor

Franz Josef Haydn – Symphony No.59 in A Major “Fire”

Franz Josef Haydn – Trumpet Concerto

Franz Josef Haydn – Symphony No. 45 in F Minor “Farewell”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The Requiem in D Minor, K. 626

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20 D Minor K.466

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 3 Op 57

Franz Peter Schubert – Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major D. 950 – III. Credo: Et in carnatus est

Franz Peter Schubert – Standchen

Franz Peter Schubert – Impromptus, Op. 90, D 899 – No. 4 in A Flat and Impromptu In G Flat

Johannes Brahms – Symphony 1 in C minor Op. 68

Johannes Brahms – Clarinet Quintet in B Minor Op. 115

Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dances 1-21

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – Requiem

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – Rigoletto

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – La Traviata

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – La bohème

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – Tosca

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – Madame Butterfly

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Pavane in F-sharp Minor, Op. 50

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Sicilienne, for cello & piano, Op. 78

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Rapsodie Espagnole M.54 1-5

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Bolero

Frédéric François Chopin – Piano Sonata No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 35

Frédéric François Chopin – Nocturne Op.9 no.1

Frédéric François Chopin – Prelude in E Minor Op.28 No.4

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Adagio for Strings, String Quartet, Op. 11, and Agnus Dei

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Knoxville, Summer 1915

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Symphony No. 1

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Concierto de Aranjuez

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Fantasia para un gentilhombre

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Concierto Para Una Fiesta

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Asturias

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Evocación

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Pavana-Capricho Op. 1

Manual de Falla – Nights in Spanish Gardens

Manual de Falla – El Amor Brujo

Manual de Falla – Three Cornered Hat

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Peer Gynt Suites

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Solveig’s Song

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op 16

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Requiem

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Symphony No. 9 “New World”

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Song to the Moon

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – The Love of Three Oranges

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – Romero and Juliet

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – War and Peace, Op. 91, Symphonic Suite

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – “The Rose and the Nightingale” for Flute & Piano

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – Sheherazade Op. 35

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – Capriccio Espagnol, Op.34 – 1

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances op.45

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Steppes of Central Asia

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Prince Igor

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Symphony No. 2 in B Minor (revised N. Rimsky-Korsako)

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Khovanschina

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor Op. 23

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6 in B Minor “Pathetique”

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35 – Andante

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Samson and Delilah, Op. 47

Georges Bizet – Carmen

Georges Bizet – L’Arlesienne Suite

Georges Bizet – Nocturne in D major

Jacques Offenbach – The Tales of Hoffmann

Jacques Offenbach – La Vie Parisienne

Jacques Offenbach – Orphee – Orphée Aux Enfers

Achille-Claude Debussy – La Mer

Achille-Claude Debussy – Clair de lune

Achille-Claude Debussy – Rêverie

Franz Liszt – Transcendental Étude No. 4

Franz Liszt – Liebestraum No. 3

Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 1-6

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius –  Finlandia, Op.26

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius –  Valse Triste, Op.44

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius – Karelia Suite Op. 11

Bedřich Smetana – Moldau

Bedřich Smetana – String Quartet N.1 in E Minor

Bedřich Smetana -Ma Vlast

Gustav Theodore Holst – The Planets

Gustav Theodore Holst – St. Pual Suite for Strings, Op 29

Gustav Theodore Holst – The Perfect Fool, Op.39

Gustav Mahler – Symphonies No.1 -10

Gustav Mahler – Rückert-Lieder

Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder

Josef Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 7 in E Major

Josef Anton Bruckner – Symphony No.5 in B Flat Major

Josef Anton Bruckner- Symphony No. 9 in D Minor

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Enigma Variations, Op 36

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Serenade For Strings In E Minor, Op 20

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Salut d’Amour Op.12

Ralph Vaughn Williams – The Lark Ascending

Ralph Vaughn Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Ralph Vaughn Williams – Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – Barber of Seville

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – La Donna del Lago

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – String Sonata in G Major

Louis-Hector Berlioz – Roman Carnival Overture, Op.9

Louis-Hector Berlioz – The Damnation of Faust

Louis-Hector Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Jazz Suite No.2

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – Rite of Spring

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – The Firebird

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – Orpheus

Aaron Copland – Quiet City

Aaron Copland – Symphony No.3

Aaron Copland – Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp, & Piano

Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah”

Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”

Leonard Bernstein – Candide

Philip Morris Glass – Koyaanisqatsi

Philip Morris Glass – Metamorphosis

Philip Morris Glass – The Hours

Arvo Pärt – Da Pacem

Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

Arvo Pärt – Silentium

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past”William Faulkner

Sources:  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Futurism.com, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, IEP.Com-University of Tennessee, Wikipedia  

All Rights Reserved, Of Beauty, and of Death  © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Poetry: Of Beauty and Death


O’ beauty and of death, when do the drumbeats rest for those blessed?
When do the drumbeats rest for the transgressed?
When do the drumbeats rest for the obsessed?

O’ beauty and of death, the sky is thy paper and the sea is thy ink.
Remember what beauty is and the moon shall shed light on tomorrows’ dreams.
And the sun will lure the flowers to the arch of the heavens.

O’ beauty what comes from the glow of roses in thy garden.
Red and rich like the blood of figs, and thy sweet wine.
The sun and moon, thy constant watchmen, exalting sweetness.

O’ fortunes’ spinning wheels of time, like full moons waning in the cadence of time.
I wonder of thine joyful life, like wine and the passing of time.
Taste the bread of O’ beauty, less dread of death put thou to the test in time.

All Rights Reserved, Of Beauty and Death © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Panoramic Landscape Photography: Past and Present


Poetry: Deep Below the Rich Earth


Deep below the rich earth lays a reddish-brown bird. Every now and then, I hear the reddish-brown bird sing at night; songs of solitude and beauty resonate in the cadence of passing time.  I try to ignore the songs, but they take root in my memory like words to a contract, as unspoken bonds of servitude, like blood and bones, are to the rich brown earth.

Deep below the rich earth lays a reddish-brown bird.  Every now and then, I wonder how to capture its winged spirit.  Whose spirit abides witness to all, to every child, to every woman, and to every man inside us, as Seraphim of memory; time spent or mislaid.  The reddish-brown winged spirit was there with Perseus, Cadmus, and Bellerophon to foresee the courage to thrive, to persist, or all art would be but lost.  

Deep below the rich earth lays a reddish-brown bird.  Every now and then, I go out looking for the reddish-brown bird.  Sometimes, I visualize where the reddish-brown bird might hide, and try to capture its likeness in toil.  I wonder if the reddish-brown bird were free of the earth would the world be different in the collective memory it holds of you and me?  Oh, Perseus, Cadmus, and Bellerophon look towards the horizon, and there Athena waits below the line that separates the sun from the earth.

Deep below the rich earth lays a reddish-brown bird. Every now and then, I hear the reddish-brown bird sing at night; songs of solitude and beauty resonate in the cadence of passing time.  I try to ignore the songs, but they take root in my memory like words to a contract, as unspoken bonds of servitude, like blood and bones, are to the rich brown earth.  Oh, Athena, let the reddish-brown bird fly away. Fly away my muse, while Arachne weaves a web to catch the things we have, and the things we lose, to only find them once again, deep below the rich earth.

All Rights Reserved, Deep Below the Rich Earth © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Michel Dahamani Gatlif: The Persistence of Memory, Light, and Transnationalism


The Romani people, also known as Gypsies historically became widely dispersed ethnic segment throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.  The Gypsies arrived in Europe from the Middle East in the fourteenth century, either separating from the Dom people or very closely having a similar history. Genetic findings in 2012, suggest they originated in northwest India and migrated as a group.  The ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between sixth and eleventh centuries.

The Gypsy condition is in essence, the story of the human condition throughout all of human history as it specifically relates to the very nature of human migration across vast geographical regions.  In many ways, the Gypsy experience is an encapsulation that lends itself to the transnational thread of recent human migration of people in search of political and economic freedoms, enabling the workings of cross-cultural pollination that changes both the transnationalist and nationalist alike, where each opposing interest will adopt some aspects of each other’s culture.

The successful exchanges of cross-cultural ideas are the catalyst for social and economic change, are charged with subtlety but nuanced.  Such changes are always through cultural mechanisms of the socialization of the arts and language or freedoms of expression, that manifest both modern and legacy mediums, may it be digital assets or physical outcomes, and in the end are always successful in turning away from and against physical violence of any kind, e.g., Gandhi, Mandela, and King.

Without such cross-cultural pollination mechanisms and socialization, new ideas about human thought, democracy, cultural arts, science, and technology in all its forms would stagnate globally, leaving global populations siloed under the controlling oligarchies of politics, economics, and markets, as witnessed today.  In spite of the surge in populism with a vein of nationalism occurring in  2017, the observations of the cross-cultural pollination merits are neither new nor archaic, but always on razor’s edge of creativity and innovation of every era, in every century.

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition”Mark Twain

Michel Dahamani Gatlif (b. 1948): French film director, screenwriter, composer, actor, and producer of motion pictures under the name of Tony Gatlif.  Born in Algiers, his mother a Gypsy and his father of Arab descent; his early childhood revolves around with his mother’s family of Andalusian Gypsies, and it is here in Algiers, Gatlif becomes exposed to his family’s rich Romani ethnic culture, which becomes a kernel in his memory that eventually leads to his creative efforts in filmmaking. Other than to film aficionados, his film works are virtually unknown to most of the North American public, and the narrative of the Gypsy world, which will be a theme in Gatlif’s most potent and compelling cinematic achievements.

By all measures, Tony Gatlif is an artist with a unique world vision; his early life consists of struggling against all the odds and obstacles against European social conventions and classism. Tony Gatlif found his way through the mean streets of Paris, to become a storyteller of wandering travelers, the unwanted, persecuted, and the musical cadence that bonds the Gypsies of Europe.

In 1960, Tony Gatlif at the age of twelve left his family to avoid an arranged marriage, and he decides to distance himself from the family, begins to work as a shoe-shiner on the streets. By the age of fourteen, he arrives in France and wanders between Marseilles and Paris, lives a life as a child of the streets with acts of delinquency, illiteracy, and thuggery.

“We were close to 500 children, we lived on the streets, free, we hated school, its fences, its benches, and we did not want to be locked up”.

On the grand boulevards of Paris, Gatlif spends most of his time in movie houses, finding the theater a warm and haven from the chaos of the streets. Gatlif, recalls in those days sleeping though show sessions of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. During this same period, Gatlif ends up in a house of recovery; this will later serve as the basis of his first screenplay, La Rage in the fist.

One evening in 1966, an encounter that changed Gatlif’s life forever, he decides to go to see his idol, Michel Simon, in a play by René de Obaldia. At the end of the show, he works up the courage to slip into the dressing room of the immense actor, and there he faces the decisive moment of his life.

“I thought it was cinema, when the curtain opened on this big luminous box, with the real Michel Simon, it was a shock. When all the admirers left, Michel Simon who was removing make-up, turned and asked what I wanted, and I said, “I want to do cinema. Do you think it is possible? He stared at me for a long time, then with this huge voice; of course, it is possible!”

The encounter enables the actor to write a recommendation to the attention of his impresario on Gatlif’s behalf; this, in turn, allows Tony Gatlif joined a drama course in Saint-Germain-En-Laye.  Unable to read, Gatlif learned his first texts phonetically. In the following years, he cuts his teeth as a player in stage plays and begins to write his first screenplay with a plastic toy typewriter, La Rage in the fist.

In 1981, Gatlif, now the filmmaker begins themes of predilection, and he returns to Spain with the film Corre gitano Court métrage, the first film that recognizes the Gypsy condition. This film became the pantheon of his film trilogy of the Gypsy experience.

Les Princes (1983): About a Gypsy family, which revolves around the social, cultural, and economic conditions in the Paris suburb or outskirts, and the challenges they face as Gypsies.

Latcho Drom (1993): Journey through time, starting from Northern India and ending in Spain, a beautiful film hymn to Gypsy music and the transnational experience. Cannes Film Festival recognized Gatlif’s film.  “At the time, it was useless to use words to make a case for the Gypsies, so I used music as the key.”

Gadjo Dilo (1997): A young French man is wandering his way from Paris to Romania in search of the legendary singer of his father’s era, who goes by the name of Nora Luca. The young French man stumbles across with a community of Gypsies than becomes immersed into their community, and falls in love with Sabina, the daughter of the Gypsy who takes him in.  Romain Duris plays Stéphane, and Rona Hartner plays Sabina.

Other Notable Films:

Exils (2003): The film follows the trail of two young bohemians, a brooding Zano and a wildly passionate Naima who both decide to travel to Algeria to visit Zano’s once exiled parents. Romain Duris stars as Zano and Lubna Azabal as Naima. The film was also a homecoming for Gatlif as well after returning to Algeria 43 years later. The film features original music by Tony Gatlif and vocals by Rona Hartner. The film also won the Best Direction Award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Transylvania (2005): the story of Zingarina, a rebel Italian girl who travels to Transylvania with her best friend Marie, and a young interpreter named Luminita.  Zingarina is seeking to find a past lover, named Milan Agustin who finds himself expelled from France, where they had known each other in the past.  Zingarina finds him during a pagan festival (Herod’s Feast), where Milan ends their relationship. Zingarina endures her senseless travel through the boulevards and the villages, meets Tchangalo, a charming and traveling merchant of Turkish descent. Both director Tony Gatlif and composer Delphine Mantoulet won the “Georges Delerue Prize” at the Flanders International Film Festival for the film score, and Gatlif receives a nomination for the “Grand Prix” award in 2006.

Liberté (2008): The film takes place in a village in the occupied zone during the Second World War. Theodore, a veterinarian, and mayor of a town take in his home nine-year-old P’tit Claude whose parents have disappeared since the beginning of the war. The Gypsies who are nearby the village gather there to make the harvest. Mademoiselle Monday, the teacher made the acquaintance of the Gypsies, with the help of Theodore, arranged for Gypsy children to attend school. P’tit Claude became friends with Taloche, a thirty-year-old Bohemian gamin who walks around with his monkey on his shoulder. However, the identity checks imposed by the Vichy regime are multiplying and the Gypsies, a nomadic people, no longer have the right to move freely. P’tit Claude becomes increasingly fascinated by way of life of the Bohemians – a universe of freedom where children are kings; however, joy and carelessness are short-lived. The police and the Gestapo intensify their pressure and danger threatens at every moment.  As the Gypsies have always done for centuries, they will have to take to the road again.

Indignados / Indignez-vous (2012):  Gatlif abandons the world of Gypsies temporarily, to dedicate himself to Indignados, a documentary and freestyle film about the global protests in Europe, Middle East, and around the world including Chile, France, Greece, Israel, Japan, Mexico, UK, and North American occupy movements, all inspired by the book by Stéphane Hessel,”Indignez-Vous!” or “Time for Outrage!”   Stéphane Hessel (b.1917 – d.2013) was a diplomat, ambassador, writer, concentration camp survivor, French Resistance member.  Born in Germany, became a naturalized French citizen in 1939.  He became an observer of the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.  In the last years of his life, he was still active and focused on economic inequality and the injustices of European society.  The Spanish title of Indignados is from the movement of the “Indignados” in Spain.

Geronimo (2014): A film about the universe of Gypsies which takes place within the urban Paris landscape or backdrop.  The film, which is rhythmic in dance, deals with themes related to the world of the street, in which young people seek freedom. Gatlif draws inspiration from his personal story. The story setting takes place in the South of France. Enters Geronimo, a young social educator, she attempts to ease tensions between the youngsters of the St Pierre neighborhood, but tempers flare up with the heat of the summer when Nil Terzi, a teenage girl of Turkish origin, rejects an arranged marriage, flees to the arms of her Gypsy lover, Lucky Molina. Their plan to run away results in hostilities between the two clans and manifests into jousting and the musical battles.  Geronimo is left with the struggle to manage the conflicts and ensuing chaos around her.  French actress, Céline Sallette plays the role of Geronimo.

Film Chronology:
2017 Djam
2014 Geronimo
2012 Indignados
2008 Liberté
2007 Vertiges – Du flamenco à la transe
2005 Transylvania
2004 Visions of Europe
2003 Exils
2001 Swing
2000 Vengo
1998 Je suis né d’une cigogne
1997 Gadjo Dilo
1995 Lucumi, le rumbero de Cuba
1995 Mondo
1993 Latcho Drom
1990 Gaspard et Robinson
1989 Pleure pas my love
1985 Rue du départ
1982 Canta Gitano Court métrage
1982 Les Princes
1981 Corre Gitano Court métrage
1978 La Terre au ventre

Sources: Festival De Cannes, Mubi.com, AlloCine, IMDb, YouTube.com, Facebook.com,Tonygatlif.Free.Fr, and Wikipedia

All Rights Reserved © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Antonio Gil Y’Barbo – Pioneer, Deal Maker, and Father of Nacogdoches


Antonio Gil Y’Barbo, known as the Father of Nacogdoches, Texas, was born in 1729 in Los Adaes Presidio, New Spain.  His parents, Spanish colonists, Matheo Antonio Y’Barbo (b. 1698) and Juana Luzgarda Hernandez (b.1705) both born in Spain, were early arrivals to the Los Adaes Presidio, located on the northeastern frontier of New Spain from 1729 to 1770.  Serving in the Spanish military, Brevet Lieutenant Matheo Antonio Y’Barbo was deployed by the Spanish Royal Crown to Los Adaes to defend New Spain against French expansion.

The Los Adaes Presidio also included a mission, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes.  Now a historic national monument, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes is located in present-day Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.  The marriage registry of the mission church of San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) documents the date of marriage for Matheo Antonio Y’Barbo and Juana Luzgarda Hernandez as April 28, 1723.

Following his father’s example, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo served in the Spanish military, yet also became involved in cattle ranching, where he established a cattle ranch near Lobanillo Creek, located in present-day Sabine County, Texas.  Antonio Gil Y’Barbo married Maria Davila Padilla, his first wife, having four children.  Antonio Gil Y’Barbo stated in his will dated May 19, 1800:

“I had two male children and two female children by my first wife, namely Mariano, Marcos, Maria Antonia, and Maria Josefa, of the following, are now dead; the first two, and the last, who have a legitimate issue as she is still living.”

The Los Adaes Presidio, established initially to counter French intrusions into Spanish territory.  At the close of the French and Indian War, 1767, the Los Adaes outpost became nonessential.  Louisiana then ceded to Spain in terms included in the Peace of Paris in 1763 which terminated the Seven Year’ War.  In the same year of the 1763 Peace of Paris agreement, the Marques de Rubi then appointed to oversee the inspection of the northeastern frontier of New Spain and executed the Royal Order of 1772 by the King of Spain, the closing of the presidios and missions of northeastern frontier.

With little time to prepare, the military garrison, their families, and other colonists, numbering around 500 at the time, ordered by the Spanish Royal Crown to abandon the post, and relocate to San Antonio de Bexar.  Antonio Gil Y’Barbo, emerged as the de facto leader of the colonists even before the departure from Los Adaes, as he had the confidence of Baron Juan Maria Vicencio de Ripperda, Governor of Tejas, who entrusted him with the administration of government funds for purchasing supplies for the Presidio of Los Adaes.

In the summer of 1773, the departure to San Antonio de Bexar posed extreme hardships for the colonists and their families.  Lieutenant Jose Gonzales, the commander, leading the expedition back to San Antonio de Bexar, died on July 30, 1773, from such hardships of harsh three-month walk imposed upon the colonists. The colonists at this point appointed Antonio Gil Y’Barbo to lead them for the remainder of the withdrawal back to San Antonio.  By summer’s end, after harsh conditions, exposure to famine, and fatigue, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo successfully led 167 disheartened, tired, and health broken colonists into San Antonio de Bexar.

The arrival of the Los Adaes colonists was just the beginning of their discontent with their new location, and Antonio Gil Y’Barbo made repeated efforts on behalf of the colonists petitioning authorities at Bexar to allow their return to the northeastern frontier.   Baron Juan Maria Vicencio de Ripperda, Governor of Tejas, suggested to Antonio Gil Y’Barbo to carry their petition to Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Bucareli, for approval.  As a result, the Viceroy approved the colonists to move to a new site on the Trinity.

The Trinity site appeared to be a reasonable location for a new outpost.  Trinity provided a way station between Bexar and the then-Spanish presidio at Natchitoches, and would provide a base for relations with friendly Bidai Indians in the area, also providing the disenchanted colonists a haven, as it would serve as a checkpoint against illicit trade. Potentially, this was also a strategy to prevent the British freebooting Spanish ships from the upper coastal bend of Texas.  A factor that loomed, however, was Spain’s alignment with the American Revolutionaries’ cause against Britain, which had developed.

During this period of the American Revolutionary War, Spaniards like Y’Barbo raised cattle in East Texas for feeding the army of Bernardo de Galvez (b.1746).  General Galvez was instrumental in support of the American Revolutionaries and provided food provisions, and other necessary supplies delivered up the Mississippi River to feed and arm the American Revolutionaries in the East.

Without the support of the Spanish as a silent partner in American Revolutionary War by providing much needed provisions, bankrolling trade, and the Spanish military and navy numerous engagements to fight the British on behalf of the American Revolutionaries, the outcome of the American Revolutionary War would have been bleak for American Revolutionaries in Yorktown and Southern region.  The American Revolutionary War battles fought under General Bernardo de Galvez;  Capture of Fort Bute, Battle of Baton Rouge, Battle of Fort Charlotte, and Battle of Pensacola. Galvez’s Louisiana army was made up of Native Americans, Free Slaves, Red Bones, and Spaniards.

In the August of 1774, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo and the colonists left San Antonio, arriving in their new settlement location six months later in February 1775.   By June of 1775, fifty wooden houses with corrals, fields, roads, and improved river crossings came to fruition at the Bucarelli settlement.  This new settlement, according to the Spanish census, at the time,  recorded 347 inhabitants.  All went reasonably well until 1779 when a series of Comanche Indian raids and a devastating Trinity River flood significantly diminished the opportunity to occupy the settlement any longer.

Sometime in late Spring of 1779, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo again seized the initiative, reasserted his leadership abilities, and set out for East Texas without official sanctions.  Captain Antonio Gil Y’Barbo led 300 to 350 weary former Adaesanos into the little valley between two flowing streams in East Texas, which later became known as Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Nacogdoches.  It was here the former Adaesanos found a sense of place among the pines of East Texas.  Antonio Gil Y’Barbo’s persistence, action, and diplomacy succeeded in mitigating the Royal Order of 1772.

With the establishment of Nacogdoches, a new page was created in the history of Spanish settlements in Texas, as Nacogdoches became the center of trade rather than Los Adaes.  The request for trading with the Indians now granted, and Y’Barbo quickly became among the Indians of Northeast Texas the most influential Spaniard of the day. The officials in San Antonio de Bexar and Mexico City recognized his unique talents in holding the colonist together during the difficult transition, established successful relationships with the Indians of the region, and keeping useful diplomatic correspondence with the French, and the Americans to the East, which led to his promotion to Lieutenant Governor of Nacogdoches.

Antonio Gil Y’Barbo quickly went to work in the region, establishing a commodity-based economic system with the Indians, establishing a blueprint of a civil design of Nacogdoches with blocks and streets following traditional Spanish pattern of a central plaza surrounded by religious, government, military, and other centers.  Nacogdoches became a viable trading center point on the El Camino Real, a vibrant town, and culture, on special occasions, residents,walked around the square speaking an assortment of languages, and wearing clothing designating a variety of ethnic backgrounds.”  By the beginnings of the 1800s, Nacogdoches became the second largest Texas settlement.

Antonio Gil Y’Barbo governed Nacogdoches for ten years after Antonio Gil Y’Barbo tendered his resignation as civil Governor in 1790.   In 1791, formally accused of smuggling contraband, and trading with the Indians for horses stolen from the Spanish, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo was found acquitted and cleared of all charges brought against him.  In his eightieth year, about 1809, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo died at Rancho La Lucana and buried in the Old Spanish Cemetery in Nacogdoches.  The distinguished historian of Spanish Texas, Carlos E. Castaneda, describes Antonio Gil Y’Barbo as one of those remarkable leaders of men which pioneer communities sometimes engender.”

Credits and Primary Sources:

  • Carolyn Reeves Ericson and Linda Ericson Devereaux, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo, The Father of Nacogdoches, 1995, pages i-xv
  • Linda Ericson Devereaux, Y’Barbo and Mora Families, (Nacogdoches, Ericson Books, 1994)
  • Frederick C. Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio, (San Antonio; Privately Published, 1937)
  • Carlos E. Castaneda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas – 1519 to 1936, (New York, Arno Press, 1976, reprint edition, seven volumes, Vos. IV and V).
  • Robert Bruce Blake, B. Blake Research Collection, Texas History Center
  • W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, 85 volumes
  • Shirley Seifert, By the King’s Command, (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott Company).
  • Bexar Archives, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the University of Texas at Austin
  • Barbara A. Mitchell, America’s Spanish Savior: Bernardo de Gálvez, HistoryNet

All Rights Reserved, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo – Pioneer, Deal Maker, and Father of Nacogdoches © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Genetic Genealogy: Children of the Sun


In the night sky, the stars form patterns of mythical shapes, and twisting outlines, like a jeweled crown of thorns, with points of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Sirius, and Venus.  As the stars and constellations move across the darkness of the night sky, the starry crown twists, and turns, and forms a ladder leading us into the depths of the heavens, from where all heavenly resources of earthly elements originated from.  All that makes life possible such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus, along with all the earthly elements connects us, in turn, unifies all of life with the heavens, the constellations, and even to our own sun.  As these chemical elements are the bonds between earthly life, and to the rest of the universe, in which the physicality of deoxyribose nucleic acid could not be possible without its rich heritage to the rest of the universe, as it is this heritage, which is the physical Genesis, the fabric of human, animal, and plant life.

Children of the Sun

We are the children of the light.
The crimson sun guides us.
Remember us for we lived for beauty.
Remember us for we lived for love.
Remember us for we lived for originality.
As the light of time leaves us behind,
Remember us.

We are the children of the darkness.
The moonlight so blue guides us.
Remember us for we lived for discord.
Remember us for we lived for hate.
Remember us for we lived for revolution.
As the darkness of time leaves us behind,
Remember us. 

Children of the Sun © Richard Anthony Peña 

The Code of Life

The code of life begins with cells that are the basic building blocks of all living things. The human body in its formality, composed of trillions of cells, and provides structure for the body, take in nutrients, convert those nutrients into energy, and carry out specialized functions.  It is here, in the cells that contain the body’s hereditary material, called DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the hereditary chemical material in humans, and in almost all living organisms.  Most of all DNA is located in the cell nucleus (nuclear DNA), but also there is a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

The Cellular Structure

   Cytoplasm:  Within cells, the cytoplasm is made up of a jelly-like fluid (called the cytosol) and other structures that surround the nucleus.

  Cytoskeleton:  The cytoskeleton is a network of long fibers that make up the cell’s structural framework. The cytoskeleton has several critical functions, including determining cell shape, participating in cell division, and allowing cells to move. It also provides a track-like system that directs the movement of organelles and other substances within cells.

∃   Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER):  This organelle helps process molecules created by the cell. The endoplasmic reticulum also transports these molecules to their specific destinations either inside or outside the cell.

∃   Golgi Apparatus:  The Golgi apparatus packages molecules processed by the endoplasmic reticulum to be transported out of the cell.

   Lysosomes and Peroxisomes:  These organelles are the recycling center of the cell. They digest foreign bacteria that invade the cell, rid the cell of toxic substances, and recycle worn-out cell components.

∃   Mitochondria:  Mitochondria are complex organelles that convert energy from food into a form that the cell can use. They have their own genetic material, separate from the DNA in the nucleus, and can make copies of themselves.

∃   Nucleus:  The nucleus serves as the cell’s command center, sending directions to the cell to grow, mature, divide, or die. It also houses DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the cell’s hereditary material. The nucleus is surrounded by a membrane called the nuclear envelope, which protects the DNA, and separates the nucleus from the rest of the cell.

∃   Plasma Membrane:  The plasma membrane is the outer lining of the cell. It separates the cell from its environment and allows materials to enter and leave the cell.

∃   Ribosomes:  Ribosomes are organelles that process the cell’s genetic instructions to create proteins. These organelles can float freely in the cytoplasm or be connected to the endoplasmic reticulum (see above).

i.) U.S. National Library of Medicine
ii.) The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah offers an interactive introduction to cells and their many functions.
iii.) Arizona State University’s “Ask a Biologist” provides a description and illustration of each of the cell’s organelles.
iv.) Queen Mary University of London allows you to explore a 3-D cell and its parts.
v.) The Biology Project: University of Arizona

DNA Structure:

Doxyribose nucleic Acid consists of two parts; Deoxyribose is a ribose sugar without oxygen element, and Nucleic Acid makes-up the rest of the molecule. The DNA backbone is made-up of a sugar (deoxyribose) phosphate, and the bases attach onto the sugars and stick out almost at right angles into the center of the helix. The bases contain C, H, O, and N.

Double Helix Structure:

  • Right-handed Double Helix
  • Four bases which specifically base pair in a Watson and Crick formulation.
  • AT (Adenine – Thymine always pair together)
  • G-C (Guanine – Cytosine always pair together)
  • There are two Purine bases (single rings) – A and G
  • There are two Pyrimidines (double rings) – T and C
  • The helix is the same width all the way down (about 2 nanometers) due to Purines and Pyrimidines bases paring.
  • DNA sequence is listing the bases along either one of the two sides. For example, one side might read as T G T T C G T C, etc.
  • There are minor and major grooves caused again by the different sized bases. The major grooves are allowing enzymes to probe the bases, and to bind.

                         DNA Double Helix

A segment of DNA contains the code used to synthesize protein, chromosomes contain hundreds to thousands of genes. Every human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes, the total of 46 chromosomes.  Human traits are gene-determined characteristic, and often determined by more than one gene. There are traits caused by abnormal genes, which are inherited or are the result of new mutations occurring during one’s lifetime.  Proteins are the most important class of biomolecules in the body. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, connective tissues, skin, and other biological formations. Proteins also are needed to make enzymes.  Enzymes are complex proteins, which carry out nearly all chemical processes, and reactions within the body.  Your body produces tens of thousands of different kinds of enzymes, in which these types and amounts of proteins govern your entire body.  The syntheses of proteins are controlled by genes, which are contained in chromosomes.  An important characteristic of DNA is that it can replicate, or simply make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix serves as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is important when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.

Genetic Genealogy: Today, we are fortunate that the science of Genetic DNA now has evolved into consumer-based testing, which now is more accessible, and has opened up a new and growing field of genetic genealogy.  Genetic genealogy is the marriage of both traditional genealogy and genetic DNA findings.  One might say, “who cares” or “my family so messed up, I don’t want to know” but in time, you will.  In some point in your life, you will have deeper questions, why you are the way you are or why I was born with these traits?  The sum of the DNA code and mutations that make you unique are the historical biological markers, and coded keys to your bloodline, Y-DNA Adam, and mtDNA Eve.  Your bloodline and pedigree are important, they are the road-map back into genealogical time, where your bloodline migrated from, and not only a genealogical map of your forebears but your relationship to the world you live in (who you are), and legacy to human history.

Traditional Genealogy:  The word Genealogy derived from the Greek word gena and logos (generation knowledge).  Genealogy is the study of generations of families through time or what is called “genealogical time” with such methods as genealogical charts or family trees based on supporting documentation of family surnames, vital records, church records, and U.S. Census Records (1800-1940).  Traditional genealogy is simply providing proof of your pedigree with legitimate and accepted records such as birth records, death certificates, church records, books, newspaper citations or any accepted forms of records. Nothing more required than good and valid research. Genealogy alone is the most difficult puzzle to solve in that there are many sand traps along the way such as surnames can change over time, confusion  of birth names, out of wedlock births, adoptions, erroneous vital records, lost or destroyed records,  Y-DNA line termination, collapse family tree, family lore verse facts, are indeed the most common challenges.

DNA Genealogy:  At the center of this discipline, there are three common types of tests when it comes to DNA Genealogy, Y-DNA, mtDNA, and Autosomal DNA.  Each test has a specific function, for example, Y-DNA tests are for your paternal line, which is confirmation of your Father’s direct line (Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, GG Grandfather, and so on to your Adam).   mtDNA tests are for your maternal line, which is confirmation of your Mother’s direct line (Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, GG Grandmother, and so on to your Eve).  The Autosomal  DNA test confirms your distant DNA cousins and can be resulted regardless of one’s birth sex.  With DNA Genealogy, there are broader and finer degrees of relationships, in that there are relationships that are only associated with broader Haplogroup family, but not with a finer degree of relationships in your family tree, and vice versa.

One receives twenty-three pairs of chromosomes from one’s Father and twenty-three pairs of chromosomes from one’s Mother or forty-six chromosomes from both parents. The twenty-two of the twenty-three pairs of the chromosomes are Autosomal  DNA.  The twenty-third pairs are the sex chromosome that delineates between females and males.  Females have two copies of the X-chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.  With this said, keep in mind that you will only inherit 50% of your parent’s Autosomal DNA, and your parents only inherited 50% from their parents, and so on.  So the farther you go back in genealogical time, the percentages of inherited Autosomal DNA decreases from your ancestors, however, your direct Y-DNA and mtDNA will remain constant over genealogical time.  DNA testing alone is not absolute, as like traditional genealogy, it can be tricky, as there is variability between labs, specimen quality, source references, algorithms, therefore, good, and valid paper research is necessary to go together with the DNA digital data.

DNA Testing Services

(Source: ISOGG)

Types of Genetic DNA Tests

The Family Tree:  Autosomal DNA (maternal and paternal DNA relatives, deep ethnicity)  Twenty-two of the twenty-three pairs of chromosome are Autosomal  DNA.  The twenty-third pair are the sex chromosome that delineates between females and males.  Females have two copies of the X-chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.  Again, an important reminder; you inherit 50% of your parent’s Autosomal DNA, and your parents only inherited 50% from their parents, and so on.  So the farther you go back in genealogical time, the percentages of inherited Autosomal DNA decreases from your ancestors.  You are a result of probability of all who came before you.

Father’s Direct Line:  Y-DNA (12 markers, 25 markers, 37 markers, 67, markers, 111 markers)  The sample STR Results without SNP tests below illustrates how to interpret your DNA results on Y-DNA 12 Marker Test.  The values listed in the fig. 1 Y-DNA 12 Marker Result represent each sequence on location on the Y-DNA chromosome.  Let’s take the location of DYS#426 based on the sequence below:


As you can see from the DNA sequence above, there are 12 sets of GTT, and this value counted under DYS# 426 in fig.1.  The same concept would apply to the 25, 37, 67, and 111 Y-DNA Markers Tests as well.  As a rule of thumb, the higher the Y-DNA Marker test, the more confidence is placed on the matches as a direct relationship to your paternal line.

fig. 1 Y-DNA 12 Marker Result:



























**Also known as DYS#394

Mother’s Direct Line:  mtDNA (HVR1 and HVR2, Full Sequence)  The standard for mtDNA genome based on the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS). All the differences between your mtDNA and the CRS returned as the results. These results are predictive and used to estimate one’s mtDNA Haplogroup.  Roughly, estimates the amount of time to which individuals share a most recent common ancestor (MRCA).  The alphabet letter designation represents the DNA code of the Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine.




















SNP Testing:  SNP (Single-nucleotide polymorphism) tests can reveal the changes in the single nucleotide within the DNA sequence.  Over time, the DNA makes copies of itself, and this process can result in errors known as mutation or polymorphisms.  SNP tests can determine a person’s exact haplogroup, and subclades if available or in other words, one’s deep ancestry.

Haplogroups:   From the Greek word haploûs, one fold, single, simple. The definition of a haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor either on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations to specific population sets.   Please keep in mind, that Haplogroups have very broad trees and branches of human migration over tens of thousands of years.  DNA and Y-SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing can define the specific haplogroup that you inherited from your mother and father.  The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) maintains current ongoing research of both Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups and subclades.

In some cases, like Family Tree DNA’s Big Y Test result can pinpoint one’s paternal haplogroup to a specific subclade, predictive region, and age.  My example, R-Y23968 is a haplogroup that is estimated to be 4,200 (YBP) years before present. This specific haplogroup R-Y23968 which is a subclade of R-DF27 originated in Europe, since an ancient specimen from Quedlinburg, Germany from about 4246-4156 years ago tested positive for R-DF27.  The general consensus among genetic genealogists, the population set specific to the Americas with Haplogroup R-D27 is generally thought of as an ancient Iberian group, which left Spain after 1492. However, R-DF27 is a very common Y-chromosome clade of paternal lineages in Western Europe, and a specific subclade for Spain will be a future possibility as more data is acquired over time.

Y-DNA Human Migration (Haplogroups) – Source: FTDNA 
Thousands of Years Ago

A 60 G 20 O3 35
B 50 H 30 P 35
CT 50 I 25 Q 20
D 50 J 25 Q1a3a 10
E 50 K 40 R 30
E1b1a 20 L 30 R1a 10
E1b1b 20 M 10 R1b 25
C 50 N 10 S 10
F 45 O 35 T 10

mtDNA Human Migration (Haplogroups)  – Source: FTDNA 
Thousands of Years Ago

A 30 J 40 R 50
B 50 K 25 R0 30
C 20 L0 >100 T 20
D 25 L1 >100 U 50
F 50 L2 80 V 15
H 30 L3 70 W 20
HV 30 M 60 X 30
I 15 N 50 Z 30


DNA Tools: ISOGG Autosomal DNA_tools


Credits and Sources:  Arizona State University, Blaine Bettinger (www.thegeneticgenealogist.com), Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), 23andme, Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, Queen Mary University of London , The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), University of Arizona, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Wikipedia

Rights Reserved  Genetic Genealogy – Children of the Sun © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Elegy: Children of the Sun


In the night sky, the stars form patterns of mythical shapes, and twisting outlines, like a jeweled crown of thorns, with points of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Sirius, and Venus, that shine beyond the horn of the imagination.  As the stars and constellations move across the darkness of the night, the starry crown twists and turns, forming a ladder leading us into the depths of the heavens, far beyond our time. Oh, Children of the Sun, remember us.

We are the children of the light.
The crimson Sun guides us.
Remember us for we lived for beauty.
Remember us for we lived for love.
Remember us for we lived for originality.
As the light of time leaves us behind.
Remember us.

We are the children of the darkness.
The moonlight so blue guides us.
Remember us for we lived for discord.
Remember us for we lived for hate.
Remember us for we lived for revolution.
As the darkness of time leaves us behind.
Remember us. 

Alas, there may be fire, Alas there may be ice, codes of heaven and hell.
Oh, fiery Venus, cold distant warrior of Mars, and hungry Saturn will.
Everything falls in between.
We are the children of beauty and discord.
We are the children of love and hate.
We are the children of originality and rebellion.
Remember us.
We are the Children of the Sun.

All Rights Reserved, Children of the Sun © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes: Looking through the darkly painted mirror; Disasters of War, Witches’ Sabbath, and the Colossus


Madrid, Spain 1793:               

 The chill of the night air was thick with the sweet smell of burning wood, smoky leaves, and the familiar aroma of roasted vegetables, black pork, and paella, which hung in the air like a veiled fog in the Spanish autumn evening.  The stars cut through the night sky, reveal their beauty, not of daylight but all things imaginable, luminous, and unseen by the human eye, like a trick of the light. From afar, a single candle flickers and illuminates the house window of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.  The calm of the night air becomes anxious by sounds of gasping and coughing from inside the house where Goya is facing down in his cot, suffering from the heat of fever, soaked in sweat, and it is here, Goya experiences feverish and delirious dreams.  Whispering to himself softly, and repeatedly, “My name is Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, the greatest painter of all the Kingdom of Spain,” once more Goya begins to dream, again, and again.

Starry, starry night, mysterious sprites, dancing as muses throughout the night, with the moon so bright, oh Iberian moonlight, call the ancient ones and show them all that is not of daylight.

Goya laughs in his sleep and whispers; “Spain the crossroads of enchantment, my homeland of superstitions, has she not learned anything from the years of the enlightenment?  I Goya, the greatest painter of all of Spain will paint them for what they are; I will paint them their world, a world of ignorance, superstitions, fear, and terror.”

 Goya continues to dream and finds himself walking down old and ancient Roman Hispania country road in the middle of the night with a mere candle lantern, stars in the night, so bright.  As Goya approaches the steep of a hill, rubs his eyes in disbelief; he suddenly drops to his knees not to be discovered, as at the top of the hill, three witches in flight, floating in mid-air, hovering high above the peak of the hill, holding their victim in the night, feasting on a poor soul’s life.  The victim’s body was as if draping silk cloth in their embrace.  Goya could hear crying, and his hands began to shake as the crying becomes louder and louder.

 Below the hovering witches, a dark silhouette formed, an old peasant appeared, hunched down, head covered only to see the narrow path ahead down the hill, and signs with his hands to ward off the evil eye.  The witches and their victim dissipate into thin air and are no longer reality.  The peasant and his crying donkey are obvious now in the candlelight as they come down the hill.  Goya stops the old peasant and asks, “What is your donkey’s name, old man?” The peasant replies,” his name is Ignorance, my friend, and yours?” Goya shakes his head and then grins widely while wiping his eyes.

 The old peasant turns his head back towards Goya, and calmly states, “I cannot hear your answer, I cannot hear you, my friend.”  Goya whispers back to the old peasant, “I sense something unnatural, something haunting.”  Goya wakes up out of his dream with sweat beaded on his forehead, and stumbles frantically around the room, banging tin cups, plates, or anything he could get his hands on to make noises, but only detects an unnatural and haunting silence.  The haunting silence was not a dream but a muse of a deep and dark human truth.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (b. 1746 – d.1828)    Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Spain, a village slightly south of Zaragossa in the providence of Aragon.   Goya’s parents were Jose Francisco de Paula Goya, he was a tradesman, a master gilder.  His mother, Gracia Lucientes, and she would also mother Goya’s siblings, Rita (b.1737), Jacinta (b.1743), Mariano (b.1750) and Carmilo (b.1752).  Later Goya’s family moved to Zaragossa, and there at age 14, he studied under José Luzán y Martinez (b.1710 – d. 1785).   Goya, before long moved to Madrid, in 1763 joined the studio of the brothers of Francisco (b.1734 – d.1795) and Ramón Bayeu y Subías (b.1746 – d.1793) where he met Josefa Bayeu (d.1812), their sister.   For a brief two-year period, Goya visited and studied in Italy in 1770, after two failed attempts in drawing competitions at the Real Academia des Bellas Artes in San Fernando.  In 1773, he married Josefa, and their life together characterized by a series of pregnancies and a number of miscarriages.  Her nickname was “Pepa”, and she gave Goya seven children to him, only one of which lived past infancy and into adulthood; Xavier Goya (b.1784).

 Goya artistically matured under later reign of the House of Bourbon of King Charles III and King Charles IV during the Spanish Enlightenment, and then under Ferdinand VII, with the exception of the brief five years (1808 – 1813) of the House of Bonaparte of Joseph I.  In 1786, Goya became a court painter to the Spanish Crown; portrait commissions by the Spanish aristocracy mark these early works.  Also during this period 1774, Goya developed a relationship with Anton Raphael Mengs (b. 1728 – d. 1779) through the Royal workshops.  Mengs asked Goya to create a number of Rococo style tapestry cartoons designed for the royal palace.  Throughout his life and career, Goya was a secretive man, although letters and writing survived, we know comparatively little about his external and internal thoughts, other than his paintings and prints, and these are powerful biographical artifacts of the man, as we come to know as Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.

Into Silence of Darkness:

 In 1793, Goya suffered a severe and unknown illness, which left him completely deaf.  However, the onset of deafness was not an obstacle in Goya’s ability to social climb, in 1795, appointed to Director of the Royal Academy, and in 1799 Goya became Primer Pintor de Cámara, the highest rank for a Spanish court painter.  However, his works became progressively darker and pessimistic about the world around him, his canvas works, mural painting, printmaking, and drawing began to reflect bleak outlook on the psychological and social-political level.   The onset of deafness also had a deep physiological impact on Goya, as deafness would be life-changing.  From this point, his work evolved into a dichotomy of light and dark works of art.  Like a two-sided coin, where one side of the coin is external, representational, commissioned works of portraiture of royals and of the highborn, while the other side of the coin, portrayed a darker, internalized, emotional, intellectual, imaginative, and social-political works of art.

Goya, Napoleon, and the Peninsular War:

 In 1807, Napoleon invaded and occupied Spain.  Goya remained in Madrid during the Peninsular War, and the terror of the war changed Goya’s work and his outlook on human behavior.  Goya was perceptive enough to stay out of the politics of harm’s way, by holding his cards to his chest, and only displayed cards that were in his best interest.  Goya pledge allegiance to Bonaparte, and painted for the French power elite and highborn.  In 1811, Goya was awarded the Royal Order of Spain.  In the autumn of 1814, Napoleon’s grip on Spain was brought to an end, and a new King was installed, Ferdinand VII, who was unlike his father Charles IV, who was a true believer in the Enlightenment.  Ferdinand VII was the complete opposite of his father and became an absolute monarchy during the reign, which set the stage between two political adversaries, it was the Liberals versus the Monarchist, a political struggle that dominated his time.

Ferdinand VII reign was one of terror, as he revoked the Constitution and brought back the Inquisition.  Ferdinand VII reportedly once told Goya, “You deserve to be garroted, but you are a great artist, so we forgive you.” Such a statement would not be taken so lightly from the King, as to be garroted was a horrific and barbaric act, as many others were not so lucky in their pursuit for a constitutional state and freedoms. When Goya was questioned about his loyalty to the French occupiers, Goya demonstrated his allegiance by commemorating Spain’ uprising against the French regime with two paintings. In 1814, Goya answered his allegiance to House of Bourbon, King Ferdinand VII, by producing two powerful paintings about the French occupation, The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808; as the dates are synonymous with Goya, and the history of painting.

  During the same period, Goya produced “Disasters of War” along with other works from his mid-career period includes the Los Caprichos and Los Disparates print series, and a variety of paintings depicting insanity, mental asylums, witches, fantastical creatures, religious and political corruption, all that were private observations, anxieties, and fears of a culture of ignorance and superstition.  Not to mention, the fate of Goya’s own physical and mental state to endure.  Toward the end of his career and life, Goya continues to produce boldly with the so-called, Black Paintings of 1819–1823, applied oil on the plaster walls of his house the “Quinta del Sordo” (house of the deaf man) signifying his isolation, and disillusion with the Spanish political and social life.  In 1824, Goya leaves Spain for the French city of Bordeaux, accompanied by his maid and companion, Leocadia Weiss.  There he completed his last and final series, La Tauromaquia.  Soon after, Goya suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed on his right side and failing eyesight.  Goya died in Bordeaux, France on April 16, 1828, at age eighty-two.  Spain would never forget one of their greatest artists, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes; his body re-interred in Spain in 1901, moved beneath the floor of the Royal Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid, Spain.

 Before the life and times of Goya, Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450 – d.1516) and Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c.1525 – d.1569) both Renaissance period painters, also come to mind into the historical window of view, as they dealt into the subject matter of imaginative, otherworldly, and unsavory depiction of hellish human landscapes as social-religious acceptable doctrines of their day.  However, this was not the case with Goya, his subversive works without a doubt put his life on the line with the Spanish Inquisition more than once.  If it was not for his royal and aristocratic connections to pull strings, one can only speculate the outcome from the judicator of the inquisition, and the impact of such an adjudication of the inquisition on the life and physical works of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.

 Critics and historians alike often described Goya’s works during his black period as journey into his private madness and psyche of deafness, but his canvas work, murals, printmaking, and drawings speak of another truth of ages, a deep, dark human truth of ignorance, superstitions, corruption, slavery, fear, war, and terror.  Goya was artistically matured master of iconic imagery; he used the ideals of the enlightenment as the symbolic framework or the iconology in his dark paintings, murals, printmaking, and drawings.  Goya was indeed recognized as a great artist by both the Spanish and French aristocracy of his day for his portrait work.  However, what ultimately transports Goya’s artistic reputation over historic time, are the continued and collective interests of his darker masterpieces, and his ability to transport his most inner thoughts of the social-political world around him, in a unique and highly personalized visual form, with cryptic, iconic, and subversive symbolism of the enlightenment. Goya’s critical and moral eye paints an age of colossal turbulence, disasters, and ignorance, reminding future generations to come; they too are not exempt from deep and dark human truths.

Disasters of War:

 Long before the age of photography and the development of war photography, there was Goya’s master plates and prints, Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra), a series of 82 prints created between 1810 and 1820, which never were published during his lifetime. The original name for the series derived from his own handwriting from the proofs, “Fatal consequences of Spain’s bloody war with Bonaparte, and other emphatic caprices (Fatales consequencias de la sangrienta guerra en España con Buonaparte, y otros caprichos enfáticos).”  The series of plates portray Goya’s persistent memory of the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1814, and the subsequent setbacks to liberal causes following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814.  At age 62, Goya began work on the plates, and the series of Disasters of War divided into three thematic grouping; war, famine, political-cultural vignettes.  The final plates kept in safe storage and not published until 35 years after his death, in 1863.

 Some surmise the protracted gap in publishing the series only then, after his death was considered politically safe for distribution, with public exposure to criticizing both the French, and restored Spanish monarchy of the Bourbons.  Goya’s true intention to publish the series is indeed unknown but the rationale of the protracted publishing date seems as reasonable counsel, considering the possible risks to Goya, and his patrons.  The Disasters of War represents a deep, dark, human truth about human aggression and its terror. The human narrative of human aggression and its associated outcomes has shaped the human genome, transformed human migration patterns throughout history as we know it today, including our humanity of ethnic, cultural, religious, political, and national identities. The theater of human aggression becomes more complex in the role it plays, as the facts are played out over time in transforming the world of humans. Such aggression and counter-aggression become the collective mark in our DNA, and human consciousness.  Like the natural world, we swim in a Darwinian ocean of natural selection, leaving survival of the fittest, for the better or worse.

Seeds of Conflict:

 Embedded in Human DNA are small amounts of Homo neanderthalensis Mitochondrial DNA, and such findings are based on the research performed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Joint Genome Institute in 2006.  The published findings and evidence point to Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis life cycles overlapped, and interbreeding occurred.  No one knows exactly what led to the extinction of the Homo neanderthalensis. What we do know that Homo neanderthalensis came out of Africa into Eurasia, and then migrated from Eurasia to the far reaches of Western Europe into mostly the regions of France and Spain, then succumbed to extinction.  In many ways, Homo neanderthalensis was equally or more prepared for survival than their counterpart Homo sapiens.  Homo neanderthalensis had short, robust stocky build, were courageous, and fearless hunters.  They exhibited the ability to use tools, made clothes, jewelry, hunting apparatuses, took care of their sick, wounded, and buried their dead.  Their cave art in France and Spain are legendary powers of observations.

 So why did Homo neanderthalensis succumbed to extinction? There are two primary hypotheses debated in the scientific community as to the demise of Homo neanderthalensis, failure in adaptation to climate change, and the other, competing for resources along with Homo sapiens in an ever-changing environment. Although, there is no significant evidence in the fossil record linking climate change directly to the demise of Homo neanderthalensis, however, climate change is indeed considered one of the usual suspects, and contributing factors, over longer periods of time.  If human history is any indication, the latter of natural selection and survival of the fittest for competing resources appears more plausible for Homo neanderthalensis extinction.  As competition between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis for resources such as water, food, reproduction, safe habitats, and from the elements, all become the catalyst for conflict, leading to other risks, such as the dangers of migration and the challenges of adaptation, where if unsuccessful in migration and adaptation, the probability of extinction of the genetic line becomes a reality.

 Competition is no stranger in the natural world for all other species, so why would Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis be exempt from the successes and failures of natural selection? Aggression and counter-aggressions are elements required for incremental evolutionary change and adaptation; sink or swim.  Could have not the traits of aggression and counter-aggression thinking have given our early Homo sapiens ancestors an edge over Homo neanderthalensis? Along with Homo sapiens’ instincts to take fewer risks relative to Homo neanderthalensis, by lowering Homo sapiens’ mortality rates comparatively?  There is a lot said about Homo sapiens’ ability to adapt to changing environmental resources as both hunters and gathers but could have Homo sapiens been more successful procreating at much higher rates, in the end, overcame Homo neanderthalensis by the numbers?

 The narrative of Homo neanderthalensis is one comprised of both facts, and conjecture, simply because we do not know if the extinction of Homo neanderthalensis was by climate change, disease, genocide, starvation, cannibalism, or inability to adapt to dire changes over time.  The correlation of the human haplogroup migration patterns over thousands of years along with the historic record mirrors the story of human struggles, conflicts, and branches that terminated with extinction.  The same human narrative or algorithms appear cycling over, and over again; aggression and counter-aggression, habitat change, migration, adaptation, competition for resources, and the inevitable disasters of war. Goya’s disaster of war is a reminder, an allegorical vision, of all that humans are capable of that is basic or primal in our nature, embedded as inherited markers that come along in time, and recorded in our (SNP) single nucleotide polymorphism through our human genome.  If not Goya, art, or history satisfies the question, and then look no further but to the present.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the Levant:

 For some, the loss of art, culture, and history, is inability to view the present or even visualize the future, for others, the art, culture, and history are threats to their control, and ability to force their covenant upon others, as facts, and empirical thinking can be critical to all religions and governing bodies.  If the terror, and madness of the disasters of war can be put into a contemporaneous view, not as art, but as historic significance, then take an empty vessel, add the mixture of religion, ignorance, malice, and desire for power.  Stir violently, and you have the current nation-states of Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, with complicity to fuel regional conflict and civil war from Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United States, Russia, and Turkey.   In the cradle of the Levant and surrounding regions, the birth of Abrahamic religions began and developed into the religions of the scripts, the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Quran.

 Today, the internal struggles within, and between the Abrahamic religions, and more specifically to the more isolated and smaller demographic segment populations within the sects of Islam, has transpired into a sadistic amalgamation of terror, and what can only be described as a disaster of war in Syria, and the greater Levant region.   Religious righteousness combined with acts of amorality, reckless brutality, murderous cowardliness, intolerance, and disdain of human life as precious and God-given, are the precise words that come to mind describing of Muslim violence against other Muslims, Christians, Jews, Kurds, and other ethnicities. Such barbaric acts we are witnessing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the greater region, are categorically acts of terror, and to a finer degree, genocide.  Here in this region, are the sins of disasters of war.  As the deliberate intent of religious and ethnic cleansing by the perpetrators that pretentiously use the mantra of the defenders of an Abrahamic sect of religion, by malice, senseless acts of murdering of innocent and defenseless civilians of all ages, regardless of Abrahamic code.

 The perpetrators of these acts are demographically young to middle-aged men with no legitimate economic future prospects, but turn to crime and declension, creating disasters of war on all that oppose their power, and control, all for a paycheck or the love of money.  Acting with a sense of false bravado with their murderous acts in places like Aleppo, Mosul, Al-Raqqah or wherever, to perpetuate their unholy terror.  They peculate their own religion, stealing and taking scripts out context to justify their crimes, with acts of terror such as murder, suicide bombings, torture, starvation, thievery, slavery, and prostitution, all with the intent to create a pseudo nation-state.  No legitimate followers of the Abrahamic tradition or eastern religion for that matter condone such sins; such is the murderous and immoral cowardliness in the face of God and the heavens.  Oh wisdom lost in antiquity, in Spain’s Islamic Golden Age, where all three of Abrahamic faiths were unified, Christian Monks, Jewish Rabbis, and Muslim Imams of the Abrahamic scripts were of one mind in Abrahamic code, and together they prayed, collaborated, and respected each Abrahamic faith.  Of this antiquity of Abrahamic union of three, they leave us with this line of code; there are seven levels of ascension or declensions of human will, four sectors of the heavens, one God.

Saladin and Richard I, the Lionheart:

 Long ago in time, paralleled in this same ancient region of the world, An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (صلاح الدين يوسف بن أيوب) or historically known as Saladin to the West (b.1137 – d. March 1193), was born in the city of Tikrit, which now in modern-day Iraq.   Saladin came from a family of Sunni Muslims, and of Kurdish ancestry, served as Emir and Sultan of Egypt, conquered Syria, Yemen, and parts of North Africa.  Saladin considered a legendary and prominent military figure in Muslim, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish, and European histories.  It was during this period in history (11th through 15th centuries), during the age of the Crusades, the first major clashes between the Arab Islamic world and the European cultures began.  It was the Third Crusade (1189–1192), where the fight for Jerusalem, a sacred place of the people of scripts, of the rock, was at the spiritual and emotional heart for all Arab Christians, Copts, Jews, Muslims, and European Christians.  The battles that ensued during the Third Crusade also culminated into disasters of war, both Christian and Islamic armies were far from perfect in the eyes of a divine morality or God, as many lives were lost, with little gained, other than the history of mortals made.

 Richard I, the Lionheart of noble pedigree, indeed, as the King of England (son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine), a shrewd military leader, who led by example in battles, and earned the moniker, the Lionheart, as no man could meet the vigor, strength, and swiftness of his sword in the heat of battle, only to find the silence of death waiting.  Also to his credit, Richard the Lionheart was above average strategic military thinker, and negotiator.  His decision-making was paramount, calm, and calculated, with the ability to size up the terrain, and the situation quickly.   Unlike Guy of Lusignan (c. 1150 – d. 1194) or Conrad of Montferrat (d. 1192), Richard the Lionheart used his wits, and ability to leverage military know-how with negotiations to create outcomes that his enemies had settle for compromise or choose more painful situation that would result in a greater loss of freedom, control, resolve, and at times unacceptable ruthlessness, beyond Abrahamic code.  It was of an extraordinary time, extraordinary place, where Saladin and Richard the Lionheart exhibited moments of legendary leadership under inconceivable political, ethical, human, and mortal challenges, with an unparalleled use of the military power of the era.

 When Saladin captured Jerusalem (Siege of Jerusalem -1187), he followed the Abrahamic tradition of kindness and cleansed the city of Jerusalem with rose water, not with the blood of Christians, Copts or Jews.  Saladin’s act of cleansing the city with rose water was not only a powerful and epic Abrahamic metaphor but also perhaps a well-informed use of power.  Saladin often showed kindness to the populations he conquered regardless of the differences in faith.  During the Battle of Arsuf, Saladin observed Richard the Lionheart fall off his horse and sent two of his horses to him so he could continue to fight as a noble or when Saladin heard that Richard the Lionheart sick with fever, he sent fruit and snow for water to drink.  It was not only an act out of admiration of Richard the Lionheart as a leader but Saladin keenly understood the power and greatness of Abrahamic kindness as a real and practical use of power; as such a power, will influence the future to come.

 In the end, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin both realized the sobering realities of the conflict; the battles were beginning to take a toll on their armies, and degrading their power, and control.  For Richard the Lionheart trouble was brewing back home in England, his brother was undermining his power as King of England, while the conquest of Jerusalem was becoming unsustainable reality.  For the first time, Saladin began to face the slipping away of the control and respect of his army.  In September 1192, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin signed the Treaty of Jaffa, a three-year truce between the two armies.  The treaty guaranteed safe passage of Christians and Muslims through Palestine, stating that the Christians would hold the coast from Tyre to Jaffa, however, the rest of the lands of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and the Levant region, including Jerusalem was left to Muslims’ control.  Despite Jerusalem’s stormy historical past with the ebb and flow of religious control of the city between the Abrahamic faiths, it is the legacy of Saladin and Richard the Lionheart where precedence was set (September 1192).  In that conflict can be negotiated and managed under the Abrahamic code, and today the world recognizes the City of Jerusalem as the rightful home to all three Abrahamic faiths, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Back to the Future to Syria:

 It is here in Syria and the Levant region, 725 years or more since the Crusades; we see age-old conflicts with improvident deaths, and destruction, along with a mutative twist of disasters of war.  In Syria, the war raging on is a civil war, complicated with a multitude of competing for political-religious factions, and outside global interests.  To better, understand contemporaneous political and religious schism among the Arab, Persian, and Turkish states, one must turn the page back, to the historic and spatial context of five centuries of the Ottoman Empire, with the overlap with European culture, in which 19th century Orientalism became the narrow imperialistic European lens of all cultures Middle Eastern, East Indian, and Asian.  Edward Said’s notable critique of Orientalism as an imaginary occidental view of Islamic culture resonated with many in the Islamic world long before Said’s book of the same title in 1978.

 After World War II, the Islamic world in the Middle East was fluid and search of an Arab-Islamic identity, which led to the development of Arab-Islamic nationalism in the mid-twentieth century with the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser (جمال عبد الناصر حسين) of Egypt.  Nasser became the architect of 1952 Revolution, and in 1954 assumed Egyptian leadership to bring a socialist style government to replace archaic Ottoman style monarchy as a form of a modern governing institution.  Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, which became to be the victory-rallying point for Arab-nationalism in the region.  This began new threads of Arab socialist-style governments led by Ba’ath Party such as in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and in Syria under Bashar al-Assad.  Now in the twentieth-first century, the complex threads of Arab Nationalists, Socialists, and Islamists have weaved a bloody tapestry in the Syrian civil war, where realities of death, torture, rape, cruelty, and inhumanity are beyond Abrahamic code and human comprehension.

Theater of the Syrian Civil War:

Total Casualties in Syria Based on Minimum Estimates: 
•    Estimates range from over 100,000 to 150,000 killed (the Year 2014)
•    Over 9 Million humans displaced
•    Chemical weapons attacks on civilian areas
•    Barrel bombing civilian areas
•    Widespread use of rape as a weapon of war
•    Summary executions of prisoners, including children
•    Mutilation and display of corpses, including crucifixion
•    Torture, including of children

Bashar al-Assad Regime
Military forces fighting for President Bashar al-Assad are Syrian Armed Forces, Al-Quds Force, Basij Militia, National Defense Forces, and Hezbollah.   Assad’s core Syrian supporters are from the Alawite minority.
Ideology: Baathist, Secularist, Arab Nationalist
Supporting States: Russia, Iran
Goals: Preserving Assad’s regime

Syrian Armed Forces:
Commander: Fahd Jassem al-Freij
What: The National Armed forces of the state of Syria
Goal: Preserving Assad regime
Side: Regime
Component Groups: Infantry, Artillery, Tanks, Air Force
Estimated Strength: 220-280,000, Artillery, Air Power (Russian MiGs)
Strengths / Tactics: Dropping barrel-bombs on civilian areas

Additional Information: Syrian Armed Forces have complete domination of the air, and have perpetrated human rights abuses. The Syrian Air force mostly consists of Russian supplied MiGs.

Al-Quds Force and Basij Militia (Iran)
Commander: Qasem Soleimani
What: Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Special Forces and Paramilitary Support Units
Goal: Iranian regional hegemony
Side: Assad Regime
Ideology: Shiite Islamist, Iranian Nationalist
Component Groups: Al-Quds Force, Basij Militias
Estimated Strength: Quds Force 15,000 total, Basij Militias unknown
Strengths / Tactics: Elite infantry force, superior training, and military intel

Additional Information: The Al-Quds force is the elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, set up after 1979 to safeguard the Islamic Republic. The Islamic State of Iran has sent IRG unit to secure Iranian interests in propping up Assad.  Aside from battlefield support, Iran also supplies weapons, intelligence, training and strategic advice. They do not merely serve as soldiers, but have input on a higher strategic level, to what extent are their strategic activity is unknown about the secretive force, but its strength is estimated at around 15,000 men in total, how many are in Syria is generally unknown. What is known the Basij supports them, fiercely loyal paramilitaries that serve under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

National Defense Forces (NDF) and Allied Paramilitary Groups:
Commanders: NDF unknown, Others: Mihrac Ural
What: Militia groups supporting Assad’s regime. NDF is the best known and largest.
Goal: Maintaining Assad’s regime
Side: Regime
Ideology: Shiites, Alawites, Baathists, Sunnis, Communists, Christians
Component Groups: NDF, Ba’ath Brigades (BB), TSR, Others
Estimated Strength: 100,000 for the NDF, BB 10,000
Strengths / Tactics: Brutal, guerrilla tactics

Additional Information:  The NDF militia groups are units that have been organized and formed into the National Defense Force in support of Assad.  These militias provide infantry to support the army. Due to fears over the loyalty of the army and the risk of defections, Assad typically sends regular units into battle alongside loyal militias such as Suqur al-Sahara (The Desert Falcons). An assortment of other militias and paramilitary organizations utilized as auxiliaries in the field.  Pro-Assad militias come from a variety of sects and political strands. The Baath Brigades, the military wing of the ruling Baath Party formed Assad’s core power base.  Estimated strength of the National Defense Force stands at around 100,000 men.

Commander: Hassan Nasrallah
What: Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group formed to fight Israel
Goal: Supporting Iran/Assad strategic alliance
Side: Regime, Iran
Ideology: Shiite Islamism
Component Groups: None
Estimated Strength: 20,000-30,000 (25% full-time active)
Strengths / Tactics: Well-trained, disciplined fighting force that turned the tide for the Regime at Qusayr and Yabroud battles

Additional Information:  Originally founded to fight Israel in Southern Lebanon, the Shiite militia force joined the conflict in 2013. Its name translates to “Party of God.” Assad, a long time backer of Hezbollah, and allows Iran to ship weapons to the terrorist group through Syria.  Hezbollah forces provided much-needed reinforcements that have been instrumental in recent regime gains, in particular in recapturing the strategically important town of Qusayr in 2013, and recently Yabroud. It is widely regarded as being more powerful than the Lebanese army is. There are fears that Hezbollah’s involvement will drag heavily divided Lebanon into the war. The US State Department has classified the group as a foreign terrorist organization.

The Rebels:
Who:  Collection of unrelated militia forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which consists of Sunni Islamists, secularist forces, Kurdish, and other militias.
Supporting States: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, (to a lesser degree the USA and European countries)
Goals:  Removing Assad from power is their central goal.  The Sunni Islamist aim in the Syrian Civil War is the creation of an Islamic state, while Kurds aim for complete autonomy.

Islamic Front:
Commander: Ahmed Issa al-Sheik (from Suqour al-Sham)
What: A coalition of Islamist brigades
Goal: The removal of Assad and later creation of an Islamic State, Jihad
Side: Rebels, Islamists. Cooperates with Jabhat Al-Nusra
Ideology: Sunni Islamism
Component Groups: Ahrar as-Sham, Suquor al-Sham Brigades, The Tawhid Brigade, The Haq Brigade, The Ansar al-Sham Battalions, The Islam Army
Estimated Strength: 40,000 to 70,000 (March 5th)
Strengths / Tactics: Syria’s most powerful insurgent bloc, slightly more moderate Salafi Islamism than Nusra or ISIS

Additional Information:  “Syria’s most powerful insurgent bloc” formed as a merger between various Islamist factions that share the goal of establishing an Islamic State. A coalition of Islamist brigades has a semi-unified command. Tensions have existed between the Islamic Front and ISIS Groups were rankled by ISIS’s brutal application of Islamist principles and extreme violence. In particular, a series of high profile murders, especially the murder of a commander from Ahrar as-Sham and seizures of weapons depots by ISIS fighters provoked fellow Jihadis. The coalition fights variously against ISIS, Assad’s force and factions of the Free Syria Army (FSA). On and off it has cooperated with FSA banner coalitions such as the Syrian Revolutionary Front. Frequently, however, battalions have refused to fight their fellow Jihadis in ISIS, and have allowed FSA banner brigades such as those in the SRF to endure the most of the fighting.

Jabhat Al-Nusra:
Commander: Abu Mohammed al-Joulani
What: Al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian conflict
Goal: Global Islamic caliphate, Jihad
Side: Rebels, Islamists.
Ideology: Sunni Islamism
Component Groups: None
Estimated Strength: 15,000-20,000
Strengths / Tactics: Suicide bombings

Additional Information:  Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian Civil War, Nusra is one of the most effective and feared fighting forces in the war. They swear loyalty personally to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Zawahiri. They have (officially) prioritized defeating the regime over creating an Islamic state, leading to disagreements with ISIS, which does the opposite. It still maintains the long-term Islamist goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in the Levant. Their fighters are a combination of guerilla fighters from Iraq with experience fighting American soldiers and local Jihadists. Better funding and resources allowed Nusra to gain recruits at the expense of them cash-strapped Free Syria Army. ISIS and Nusra split in mid-2013 when Zawahiri called on ISIS to disband and they refused. They are allied with the Islamic Front and work together occasionally with FSA units such as the SRF.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (AKA: ISIS, ISIL, DAESH):
Commander: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
What: Terrorist group establishing the state, formed from the Islamic State of Iraq
Goal: An Islamic state in parts of Iraq and Syria, Global Islamic caliphate
Side: Rebels, Islamists
Ideology: Sunni Islamism
Component Groups: None
Estimated Strength: Reliable estimate unavailable
Strengths / Tactics: Brutality, implementation of sharia

Additional Information:  The most notorious of Syria’s many factions, this Sunni Islamist group seeks to establish an independent state in western Syria and northern Iraq.  Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, called the Islamic State of Iraq, they initially entered the Syrian Civil War to support the Islamist cause there. Extreme violence and brutality in enforcing Sharia law have been the hallmarks of its presence. Recently they displayed the crucified bodies of their enemies in Raqqa.  Its Emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had a personal dispute with the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra and with al-Qaeda head Sheik Zawahiri which resulted in the group being expelled from al-Qaeda. ISIS then stopped providing Iraqi oil revenues to Nusra.  It is currently engaged in fighting Kurdish militias, Nusra and other brigades flying FSA banners. ISIS is comprised mostly of foreigners and very few ethnic Syrians.  It has been accused of betraying the revolution to further its own ends and of collaborating with the regime.  ISIL (Daesh), propped up by a local ‘ansar’ network (helpers) that provides logistical and local support.

Free Syrian Army (FSA):
Commander: Various, officially Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir. Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF)- Jamal Ma’aruf
What: Umbrella of broadly secularist rebel forces formed mainly from Syrian army deserters
Goal: End of the Assad regime, democratic state
Side: Rebels
Ideology: Broadly secularist, some Islamist elements/sympathies
Component Groups: Supreme Military Council, Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), Euphrates Islamic Liberation Front, others
Estimated Strength: Reliable estimate unavailable
Strengths / Tactics: Western-backed official opposition, comparatively poor funding (under National Coalition of Syria).

Additional Information:  The oldest of the Syrian rebel factions, formed in the early days of the war primarily out of defectors from the Syrian army. They do not operate as a unified army rather they are a loose group of battalions and coalitions that fight under the broad banner of the FSA. They have suffered heavy losses both to regime forces and ISIS, whom they have been fighting but still remain a central component of the rebel forces. Their exact numbers are unknown. Fresh defections from the Syrian army have bolstered their ranks over the course of the war. Defections are estimated in the ‘tens of thousands.’  Some FSA brigades swear loyalty to the Supreme Military Council. They have received limited aid from the west. In response to the merger of the Islamic Front, a loosely western aligned coalition called the Syrian Revolutionary Front formed under the FSA banner, commanded by Jamal Ma’aruf. The Euphrates Islamic Liberation Front is another FSA banner coalition. On occasion, these groups have fought the Islamic Front and Jabhat al-Nusra and have joined both against ISIS and the regime.

Popular Protection Units (YPG) and Allies:
Commander: Sipan Hemo
What: Kurdish and allied militia groups in northeastern Syria, some Christian allies
Goal: Kurdish autonomy
Side: Against Islamists, aim for autonomy from Assad regime and Turkey
Ideology: Kurdish Nationalist, Christian Syriac Military Council (SMC)
Component Groups: YPG, Syriac Military Council
Estimated Strength: 40,000-50,000
Strengths / Tactics: Re-opening schools, driving out ISIS and Nusra

Additional Information:  Kurdish militia groups such as YPG have been fighting to protect their areas in the north of the country from both the ravages of war.  YPG recently joined by the Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia group that predominantly has focused on driving out ISIS, who enforced brutal Sharia law under their control, as well as kidnapping local leaders, and vandalizing Sufi mosques. They have also fought Nusra and other groups from the Islamic Front. YPG’s goals are to unifying and protecting Kurdistan that is affiliated with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that operates in Turkey.   Yet, no calls have been made been for an independent Kurdish state.

Source and Credits: The Clarion Project  http://www.clarionproject.org/factsheet/whos-who-syrian-war

Oh, Gabriel, Where Does Beauty Lie?

 No one knows how long or what the outcomes will be of the disasters of Syrian Civil War.  What the future holds for the Mid-East, and the Levant will indeed be significant in many ways, either for better or worse, as we are now beginning observe the initial transformation.  Will there be a road to Damascus moment, is hard to say with the given the current stalemate in place.  As history is our guide, absolute authoritarian institutions or entities are not sustainable in the longer view, and even less so in the future, as the likes of Bashar al-Assad and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, will come to pass, and perish, in time.  As for both Bashar al-Assad and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, they have forgotten the values of Saladin, by cleansing their homelands with hate, retaliation, blood, and not with rose water, charity, and the Abrahamic codes of kindness, mercy, pity, grace, forgiveness, gratitude, refuge.

 Over four million Syrian, Iraqis, and Afghanistan refugees have clearly rejected ISIL (Daesh) and Sharia Law, with millions wanting to emigrate to the West where they have more freedoms, and economic opportunities for their families.  Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees. Russia the state sponsor of the Assad regime has also offered zero resettlement places for Syrian refugees, and their humanitarian aid pales to their military assistance to Assad in the Syrian civil war, counted in innocent civilian deaths.  Although the United States has contributed more than $5.1 billion in Syrian humanitarian assistance, however, the United States under the Obama Administration could have provided the essential diplomatic and military leadership in the Syrian region much sooner.

 The concepts of Sunni-Islamic states and Shia-Islamic states in the Middle East will not be going away as Egypt, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, are all such examples.  As tragic as the Syrian Civil War is, there are opportunities to transform the Middle East region where Shiites, Sunni, Kurds, Copts, Christians, Jews, other religious ethnicities, can all thrive economically and peacefully together or in some cases exist autonomously in the region but this will require the extraordinary political imagination, moral strength, courage, and intellect of many.  Post Script: What the Assad Regime, Russian State, Islamic State of Iran, and Hezbollah bring in terms of brutality to the Syrian people; the Trump administration is equally morally inept in intellect, historical, and cultural understanding.  Oh Gabriel, where does beauty lie?

in sha’ Allah – ان شاء الله

New Works on Paper 2016: Five Variations on the Disasters of War  © Richard Anthony Peña

Witches’ Sabbath:

 In the late seventeen hundreds, Goya began a series of paintings of witches as social-political protest and commentary against the Spanish Inquisition, the Church-State, Royalist, populist values, and belief in superstition. During the Spanish Inquisition, and in the rest of Europe, the Church-State was active in witch hunting, such as the Basque witch trials, and elsewhere in Europe. The Duchess of Osuna, Doña María Josefa Alonso-Pimentel y Téllez-Girón (b.1752 – d.1834) who was a Spanish aristocrat, known for her patronage of artists, writers, and scientists, commissioned the series of the witchcraft paintings in 1798.  The Duke and Duchess of Osuna were one of Goya’s most important patrons and supporters of the Spanish Enlightenment.

 The superstition of witches and witchcraft has been around as long as the time of classical antiquity, where witchcraft historically, has been defined as necromancy to paganism to heresy throughout the ages, and along the way, many innocent women have suffered greatly and died at hands of this terrible ignorance, and superstition. This terrible ignorance and ancient superstition of witchcraft in many ways became an archaic form of social control and persecution of women.  A more contemporaneous and universal form of this terrible ignorance is the transformational state of misogyny.

 The fight against misogyny has been long and historic one, but the fight continues for womankind around the world; developed and developing countries.  Women in developing countries around the world face contemporary slavery and forced-labor, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage, human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, lack of access to education, and healthcare.  Many women and specifically girls under age 15 in developing countries face years after years of giving birth, a situation similar to the constant cycle of animal husbandry, which put them at higher risks of maternity mortality.  Major complications account for 75% of all maternal deaths in developing countries; bleeding, infections, high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), and complications from delivery.  One mother dies every 2 minutes in the world.  It is no surprise; the death of a mother has a devastating effect on her children, her family, and her community.  The implications of a mother’s death for girls are particularly great, often leading to a continued cycle of poverty and poor health.  Children without mothers are unlikely to receive proper nutrition, healthcare, and education.  Women are not only the caretakers of the world, but the superglue of the human family, and from a world cultural perspective, women have played a role in the shaping of modern culture’s refinement, from classical antiquity to twentieth-first century.

Sappho, Cleopatra, Mary Magdalene, Boudicca, Hildegard of Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Mirabai, St Teresa of Avila, Gracia Mendes Nasi, Elizabeth I, María Josefa Alonso-Pimentel y Téllez-Girón, Catherine the Great, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Marie Curie, Helena Rubinstein, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Frank, Annie Besant, Simone de Beauvoir, Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosa Parks, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Amelia Earhart, Raisa Gorbachev, Sophie Scholl, Wangari Maathai, Rosalind Franklin, Betty Williams, Mother Teresa, Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, Jane Goodall, Shirin Ebadi,  Aung San Suu Kyi, Benazir Bhutto, Zaha Hadid, Malala Yousafza

 The underlying influences of the feminization of culture in predominant patriarchal societies around the world often become nuanced and understated, then acknowledged.  In some developing countries, where there is suppression of feminization as a form of social-political control, dormancy takes place but the feminine narrative is still very much alive and well with the spirit of life itself.  The struggle for global feminization faces many challenges for cultural, social-political, and economic parity in both developing and developed countries.  Only when patriarchal cultures transform to realize the value and importance of feminization in becoming highly developed, educated, technologically advanced societies, is an imperative and futuristic necessity.

 Why is the global feminization of culture important?  From the beginning of history and along with the unfolding of the human narrative, the loss of art, culture, and history prevents us from truly understanding who we are as a species with X chromosome, it prevents us to view the present or even visualize the future with resolve.  The feminization of culture has elevated the arts, literature, science, as well as social-political changes, creating stable societies that embrace the ideals of beauty, truth, justice, liberty, and such ideals are major pillars of advanced societies with representative forms of democracies, whereas these ideals are well-known feminine personifications and representations of vision.

 As one day in the future may present the human race with a catastrophic crisis that will challenge the very existence of the humans; such as pandemic diseases, biological and radioactive contamination, asteroid impact, or other unforeseen threats to the stability of civilized humanity.  When more women around the world become educated in the arts, sciences, and social-political sciences, we increase our overall global intellectual capacity to innovate, create solutions, and solve problems or threats; increasing our odds and probabilities of having more Marie Curies of the world thinking of new ideas and solutions to not just global problems but to a means of a higher quality of life by lowering birth rates in over-populated countries, reducing maternity mortality, malnutrition, disease, poverty, and slavery. Yes, there is more to the global feminization than the morality and cultural impact of it all; there is a significant economic and productivity impact as well.  Should such a sea change fully occur, we will see a global economic expansion in the likes we have never measured before as the majority of women around the world become educated, monetarily independent, politically, and technologically free to contribute to the global economy, nevertheless, this time, all of humanity will benefit.

The Colossus:

 A painting traditionally attributed to Goya, which goes by several names such as El Gigante (The Giant), El Pánico (The Panic), La Tormenta (The Storm), and more popularly known as El Coloso (The Colossus).  Art experts estimate The Colossus was painted between the years of the Peninsular War (1808 – 1812).  The provenance of work begins with the estate inventory of Josefa Bayeu, Goya’s wife, where after her death, the painting awarded to Xavier Goya, their son in 1812; the markings of a white X and the number 18, painted by Goya as a way to inventory and distinguish paintings for his son’s inheritance.  It is not clear how Miguel Fernández Durán de Pinedo y Bizarrón became the owner of the painting, which inventoried in his estate, however, the painting was passed on to his great-grandson.  The painting became the property of the estate of Pedro Fernández Durán and his mother, Paula Bernaldo de Quirós.  The painting entered the ownership of the Prado Museum in 1931 as part of the important legacy and collection of Don Pedro Fernández Durán estate.

 There are a number of interpretations of this painting called Colossus, however, the conventional knowledge and analysis references the Peninsular War and the Napoleonic occupation; describing the Colossus walking through the valley, with his legs obscured behind the mountainous horizon line with his fist elevated towards the sky in defiance, and eyes closed, blind like the Philistine giant Goliath.  In the shadow of the Colossus, lies the valley foreground, the villagers are in a panic, complete chaos breaks out, rape and violence left to the human imagination.  The horses and the bulls run out and away from the center of the paintings, giving a sense of the fear, while the donkey remains calm and still.  Nigel Glendinning (1930-2013), noted authority on the history of Spanish art and, in particular, the works of Francisco de Goya, references Goya’s painting to a poem written by Juan Bautista Arriaza, called Pyrenean Prophecy, published in 1810.  The poem represents the Spanish people as a giant arising from the Pyrenees in order to oppose the Napoleonic invasion.  However, Goya created a number of works that were thematic of giants like the burnished aquatint etching with the same name, El Coloso (1814-1818) and the lithograph, Gran Coloso Dormido (1824-1828).

Very few artists and works of art that can transcend the values and analysis of their time, capable of a meditation of intrinsic and timeless values that haunt the past, present, and the future.  Goya’s Colossus is indeed one of those masterpieces, as there is another interpretation, which is a deep, dark, secret to behold, for the Colossus is real my friends, not real in physical presence but in spirit. The Colossus quietly sits at the edge of the horizon, brooding, pondering, and waiting to walk the lands, where the winds of his spirit stir up chaos, anger, and senseless violence in the hearts of men.  The Colossus, the great provocateur, willingly employed, witnessed tens of thousands of battles and the great disasters of wars from antiquity to the present; Colossus encouraged and nurtured Homo sapiens to endure hardships of pride. If you still do not believe that Goya’s Colossus is real, then look again my friends, to Syria, Iraq, and the Levant, to see the Colossus’ handy work, where chemical weapons attacks, barrel bombing, use of rape as a weapon of war, executions, mutilation, display of corpses, crucifixion, torture, and killing of innocent civilians and children.  It is here in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Levant, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, the world; the Colossus makes men intoxicated on their arrogance, hate, ignorance, and misogyny, where the Colossus knows no religions or God.

#Goya “The sleep of reason produces monsters”

Sources:  BBC, Harvard Divinity School, Maternity Worldwide, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Times, Prado Museum, The Clarion Project, The Global Slavery Index, UN Refugee Agency, Walk Free Foundation, Wikipedia

All Rights Reserved, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes: Looking through the darkly painted mirror; Disasters of War, Witches’ Sabbath, and the Colossus © Richard  Anthony  Peña 2016

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Gentle Genius of 20th Century British Classical Music

Northern France, World War I, 1917

Ralph Vaughan Williams finally woke up out of his early morning slumber after a restless night as it was the chill and the dampness of the place, along with the sounds of gunfire punctuating the French night that kept his body and soul at unease.  Vaughan Williams briskly stood up as a man in his forties, and embraced the morning, rubbed his eyes, and began to survey the French countryside while the dawn light began to spill over the horizon line defining the hills, meadows, and rolling pastures.  As Vaughan Williams looked out over the landscape, he thought how beautiful the natural world is, how truly divine.  Does not such beauty validate a divine love for us all?  His head began to fill up with thoughts of his father that he never knew, his mother Margaret, and the beautiful women in his social circle but mostly the music running through his head that he wanted to put down ink to paper.

If the early morning could not be any more beautiful, a chorus of the birds began singing songs filling the countryside.  As the daylight slowly became luminous, the morning light painted the pastoral landscape, and there high above the misty meadow below, a solitary lark hovers in the air, vacillating up and ascending high in the air, as to state to the entire sphere; this is a world of both wondrous and horrific beauty measured in fleeting cadence of time.  Such is the nature of the divine beauty, a heighten order of life itself one cannot possess, apprehend, or anticipate, as existence itself is never promised or with requital.  The lark suddenly darts up high in the blue sky once more, flies away into the distance, and disappears.

Lost in his thoughts about the lark, reminiscing about a poem he once read about a skylark, Vaughan Williams turned around to hear a voice coming from behind him, Sir, telegram, Sir telegram, he opens the envelope that is handed to him and reads each line twice, then whispers, George Butterworth.  Vaughan Williams then sits down putting his face into his hands trying to comprehend the death of his friend in both the Great War and life in music.  The powerful sounds of cannon fire start to mark the beginning of another day of the war, interrupting the peaceful French countryside, stealing away the divine and momentary beauty of the lark, of a time, never forgotten.

From Down Ampney to Leith Hill Place

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born on October 12, 1872, at Down Ampney, Gloucestershire.  Vaughan Williams was the third son of Reverend Arthur Vaughan Williams and Margaret Wedgewood.  On his father side, the Vaughan Williams line were mostly lawyers and judges.  From his mother’s line, his forbearers were of the Darwin-Wedgewood family.  His mother was the niece of the renowned naturalist Charles Darwin and great-granddaughter of Josiah Wedgewood, founder of Wedgewood Pottery.  The Darwin-Wedgewood family was wealthy, influential, and socially progressive as Josiah Wedgewood was a prominent abolitionist, and is remembered for creating, “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” anti-slavery medallion. Vaughan Williams’ father, AV Williams died when Vaughan Williams was about three in 1875, and the family moved from Down Ampney to his mother’s family Wedgewood home in Leith Hill Place.  There Vaughan Williams lived there for twenty years.

Life in Music

Vaughan Williams was educated at the Charterhouse school and then went on to the study composition at the Royal College of Music with Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.  In 1892, Vaughan Williams entered Trinity College, Cambridge to study church music and history with Charles Wood.  In 1899, he earned his Doctorate in music from Trinity College.  From 1899 to 1907, Vaughan Williams worked on many projects that will come to define his him in the history of British music, editing the English Hymnals, and setting English folk songs from around the eastern counties north of London into classical form.  Vaughan Williams in his lifetime composed nine major symphonic works among notable and significant smaller works of music and choral.

Notable Works before 1907:

Serenade in A minor (1898)
Bucolic Suite (1900)
Willow Wood (1903)
In the Fen Country (1904)
Songs of Travel (1904)
Norfolk Rhapsodies (1905-1906)

Serenade in A minor (Romance Andantino-Appassionato): Written in 1898 and first performed in April 1901 at Bournemouth under the baton of Dan Godfrey.  By this time, Vaughan Williams had left the Royal College of Music and been married to his first wife, Adeline Fisher.  It was the Rev. W.J. Spooner, of Spoonerism fame, that married Ralph Vaughan Williams and Adeline Fisher.  They honeymooned in Berlin, where Vaughan Williams also studied with Max Bruch.  It was in Berlin where Vaughan Williams began writing Serenade in A minor.  Early works like Serenade in A minor exhibited his talent and sensibilities in creating an atmospheric symphonic landscape with a harmonic balance of emotional and rationale spheres.   Serenade A minor, starts out with pulsing strings and searching winds and asking questions along the way, then recapitulate with the strings and horns with longing intensity and majestic tones.  Then a crescendo with violins in a high answer and soft rolling phrases with horns, drums, and violins to the end.

Bucolic Suite:  The suite is also pastoral in nature. Bucolic is an archaic English word for rural.  The work initially completed in November 1900, however, Vaughan Williams revised the work again, in 1901, which proved to be more of a refinement of the work.  The Bournemouth Orchestra under the baton of Dan Godfrey performed the Bucolic Suite on March 10, 1902, for the first time.  Bucolic Suite is sometimes paired up in performance with cantata published in 1951, Sons of Light. (mixed chorus and orchestra, text by his second wife, Ursula Vaughan William).

The Suite consists of four movements:
Intermezzo (Allegro)
Finale (Allegro)

Willow-Wood: The cantata Willow-Wood was written in 1903 and the revision in its orchestral version first premiere in 1909.  The composer sets the cantata for baritone, wordless female chorus and orchestra of four sonnets, which Vaughan Williams turns into a tableau on love divided by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, House of Life.  The chorus mostly supplies the pre-Raphaelite color.  Vaughan Williams remained fond of the piece throughout his life and tried to get the score republished just three years before his death, in which is evident in his regard for the work.

In the Fen Country:  An orchestral tone poem by Vaughan Williams, however, the composer described it as a symphonic impression.  Vaughan Williams had completed the first version of the work in April 1904, followed by a second, and third revisions, respectively in 1905 and 1907.  The first premiere was under the baton of Thomas Beecham in 1909.  Vaughan Williams’ musical evocation of the English countryside, portraying eastern England, a region sometimes referred to as the Fens, includes parts of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire.  An eloquent meditation and building up emotions with the subtlety of the violins, winds, and defining horns as like waiting for a thunderstorm to arrive with growing anticipation of the summer storm.  Reaching the intensity of the musical storm and release, the rain comes sweeping across the fields and pastures, soaking the earth and all who dwell in it.  The storm passes into the distance and strands of sunlight start to break through the clouds. Highlighted are the top of the trees with a golden crown of light contrasted with cyan and blue tones of the dark clouds canvassing the sky.  The lower tones contemplate the same questions, phrasing, and re-phrasing, finding ease, with this good earth of England.  Then recapitulation back to the melancholy tones of the passing of time and a soft exit from the Fen country with a long turning note of the violin into silence.

Songs of Travel: Song cycles composed by Vaughan Williams based on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. Written for baritone voice but was originally written for a piano and voice.  All song cycles also have a second key version for tenor.  Vaughan Williams orchestrated, The Vagabond, Roadside Fires, and Bright is the Ring of Words, while Roy Douglas who was Vaughan Williams’ music assistant, finished the other six song cycles with the same orchestration and is a co-orchestrator to the work of Songs of Travel.  Songs of Travel, written between 1901 and 1904 and these song cycles are Vaughan Williams’ first major introductions into songwriting and the quintessential British version of the wayfarer.

The Eight Song Cycles of Songs of Travel:
1. The Vagabond
2. Let Beauty Awake
3. The Roadside Fire
4. Youth and Love
5. In Dreams
6. The Infinite Shining Heavens
7. Whither Must I Wander
8. Bright is the Ring of Words

Norfolk Rhapsodies: A series of three symphonic folk songs developed by Vaughan Williams around 1905-1906.  Specifically the collections of folk songs are from Norfolk County, King’s Lynn fishing port.  Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor is the only Rhapsody that survived in its entirety and which Vaughan Williams revised in 1914.   The second Rhapsody is incomplete and is in a fragmented form but reconstructed by Stephen Hoggers.   The third Rhapsody is lost completely since 1920.  Vaughan Williams intended the three Rhapsodies to form a symphonic folk song; the first Rhapsody as the first movement, the second Rhapsody combing the second and third movements along with a scherzo.  The third Rhapsody was to form the final, a quick march and trio.  Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor is indeed the essence of Englishness and life on the sea.

Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor
Norfolk Rhapsody No. 2 in D minor
Norfolk Rhapsody No. 3

In 1907, Vaughan Williams arranged to study in Paris with Maurice Ravel. It was writer and critic Michel de Calvocoressi who convinced Vaughan Williams to study with Ravel.  The three months spent studying with Ravel influenced Vaughan Williams’ compositions and use of color.

“I learned much from him.  For example, that the heavy contrapuntal Teutonic manner was not necessary. ‘Complexe mais pas compliqué'(Complex but not complicated) was his motto.  He showed me how to orchestrate in points of colour rather than in lines.” 

“His own music was ‘tout à fait simple, rien que Mozart’ (quite simple, nothing than Mozart). He was against development for its own sake – one should only develop for the sake of arriving at something better.”

Some observers of the time thought Vaughan Williams’ music had more depth and developed a distinct signature of music after 1907. Vaughan Williams produced six powerful symphonic works during this time from 1907 to 1914.

Notable Works 1907-1914:

On Wenlock Edge: (1909)
Aristophanic Suite: The Wasps (1909)
Sea Symphony (1910)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910)
Five Mystical Songs (1911)
London Symphony (1913)

On Wenlock Edge: The first symphonic work Vaughan Williams developed after his Ravel experience.  A song cycle composed of six poems by A. E. Housman, ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (1896).  Although the works are for voice, violin, and piano the composition reflect his Paris experience with the use of simplicity and points of color.

Taken from A Shropshire Lad:
 XXXI “On Wenlock Edge”
 XXXII “From far, from eve and morning”
 XXVII “Is my team ploughing?”
 XVIII “Oh, when I was in love with you”
 XXI “Bredon Hill” 
 L “Clun” 

Aristophanic Suite: The Wasps:  In 1908, the Cambridge Greek Play Committee invited Vaughan Williams, while at Trinity College as an undergraduate to create an incidental score for the play, “The Wasps”.  His mentors at Cambridge, Hubert Parry, and Charles Villiers Stanford supported Vaughan Williams’ nomination and both taught Vaughan Williams his craft of scoring and composition.  The play “The Wasps” authored by the ancient Greek playwright of Athens, Aristophanes, and the Old Comedy play satirizes the love of litigation by ancient Athenians.  The Wasps considered Vaughan Williams’ foray into incidental but it is the Wasp Overture that is widely known and the most popular out of the suite today.  The March Past of the Kitchen Utensils is also quite a gem out of the suite as well but lesser known.

Sea Symphony: Considered Vaughan William’ first major symphony, sometimes referred to as Symphony No.1.  Vaughan Williams worked intermittently on the chorus and orchestration between 1903 and 1909.  The Sea Symphony began a new era of symphonic and choral music.  The Sea Symphony was one of the first symphonies in which a choir is an integral part of the musical texture and words of the choir come from Walt Whitman’, Leaves of Grass.  This was the first time British audiences heard Whitman’ poetry sung or alone exposed to Walt Whitman’ poetry.  First performed in 1910 at the Leeds Festival on his 38th birthday and received critical acclaim in Britain.   Hugh Cobbe, editor of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ letters stated, “He was already 38 that is a late composer, was not Mozart already dead at that point.  He was a late developer and he kept on developing to the end of his life.”  Vaughan Williams’ final and last symphony was composed from 1956–1958 and completed when he was 85 years of age.  During the period (1903-1909), an informal narrative or story went around about his struggle with creating the work of the Sea Symphony; Vaughan Williams went to a disserted beach near Yorkshire, Robin hood Bay to take a swim in the sea and found himself in a dangerous position, the sea waves were rougher than he thought, and he could not get back onto the rocks for a prolonged period.  Vaughan Williams struggled to a point where he was exhausted and was about to give in to drowning in the sea, when a fluke of nature happened, a large wave lifted him out of the sea up onto the rocks.  Vaughan Williams went on to create eight more symphonic works to the end of his life.

Sea Symphony Structure:

Movement 1 – Fast introductory – “A Song for All Seas, All Ships”
(baritone, soprano, and chorus)

Movement 2 – Slow – “On the Beach at Night Alone”
(baritone and chorus)

Movement 3 – Scherzo – The Waves –  “After the Sea-ship”

Movement 4 – Finale – The Explorers – “Passage to India”  
(baritone, soprano, semi-chorus, and chorus)

The first movement lasts roughly twenty minutes; the inner movements approximately eleven and eight minutes, and the finale lasts roughly thirty minutes.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis:  A String Orchestra based on Thomas Tallis, one of England’s greatest composers in British history of music.  Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia captures the spirit of the period music but still carries Vaughan Williams harmonic signatures that uniquely are Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis performed and conducted for the first by Vaughan Williams in September 1910 in Gloucester Cathedral for the Three Choirs Festival.  The composition proved to be a major success for Vaughan Williams.  The Tallis Fantasia proved to be a game changer as well that year with its cathedral sound, which left some composers attending the concert that night wandering the streets of London all night reflecting what they heard at the Gloucester Cathedral concert, with a work of astonishing originality.  Tallis Fantasia song is one of the most spiritual interpretation without a religious context in the early half of the twentieth century.   The composer revised Tallis Fantasia score in 1913 and again in 1919.

Five Mystical Songs:  Written between 1906 and 1911 by Vaughan Williams, and like many of Vaughan Williams’ works, poems or literary texts are set to music.   This work sets four poems by George Herbert (1593–1633), a seventeenth-century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest.  First performed on 14 September 1911, at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, with Vaughan Williams conducting, and considered a critical success.  The work was written for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment:

• Piano only.
• Piano and string quintet.
• TTBB (Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Bass 1 (Baritone), Bass 2) chorus, a cappella.
• Orchestra with optional SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) chorus. This was the choice used at the premiere.

The first four song cycles, Easter, I Got Me Flowers, Love Bade Me Welcome, and The Call, are all sober, introspective, meditations on life with the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text.  A baritone soloist like Sir Thomas Allen can turn notes, hence, providing consistent and strong foundation and structure throughout the suite.  Vaughan Williams masterfully integrates the voices of the instrumentation, soloist, and chorus providing the organic unity of the suite.  Antiphon is perhaps the most different out the five-song cycles, cheerful and upbeat anthem; “Let all the world in every corner sing”.

1. Easter – from Herbert’s Easter
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise without delayes, Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise with him may’st rise; That, as his death calcined thee to dust, his life may make thee gold, and much more, just.  Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.  The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same. His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key is the best to celebrate this most high day. Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long; Or since all musick is but three parts vied and multiplied.  O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, and make up our defects with his sweet art.

2. I Got Me Flowers – from the second half of Easter
I got me flowers to strew thy way; I got me boughs off many a tree: But thou wast up by break of day, and brought’st thy sweets along with thee.  The Sunne arising in the East. Though he give light, and th’East perfume; If they should offer to contest With thy arising, they presume.  Can there be any day but this, though many sunnes to shine endeavour?  We count three hundred, but we misse: There is but one, and that one ever.

3. Love Bade Me Welcome – from Love
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back. Guiltie of dust and sinne. But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning if I lack’d anything. A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here: Love said, You shall be he. I the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare, I cannot look on thee. Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I? Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve. And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?  My deare, then I will serve. You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat: So I did sit and eat.

4. The Call – from The Call
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life: Such a Way, as gives us breath: Such a Truth, as ends all strife: Such a Life, as killeth death. Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength: Such a Light, as shows a feast: Such a Feast, as mends in length: Such a Strength, as makes his guest.  Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart: Such a Joy, as none can move: Such a Love, as none can part: Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

5. Antiphon – from Antiphon
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing: My God and King. The heavens are not too high, His praise may thither flie; The earth is not too low, His praises there may grow. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing: My God and King. The Church with psalms must shout, no doore can keep them out; But above all, the heart must bear the longest part. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing: My God and King.

London Symphony: This symphony sometimes referred to as the Symphony No. 2 but was not designated as so. The symphony was composed from 1912 to 1913.  Vaughan Williams dedicated to his friend and fellow composer George Butterworth (1885–1916), killed during the Great World War I.

George Butterworth had first encouraged Vaughan Williams to write a purely orchestral symphony:

“We were talking together one day when he said in his gruff, abrupt manner: ‘You know, you ought to write a symphony’. I answered… that I have never written a symphony and never intended to… I suppose Butterworth’ words stung me and, anyhow, I looked at some sketches I had made for… a symphonic poem about London and decided to throw it into symphonic form… From that moment, the idea of a symphony dominated my mind. I showed the sketches to George bit by bit as they were finished, and it was then that I realized that he possessed in common with very few composers a wonderful power of criticism of other men’s work and insight into their ideas and motives. I can never feel too grateful to him for all he did for me over this work and his help did not stop short at criticism.”

First performed in 1914, the four-movement symphony was lost shortly after the first performance and reconstructed by Geoffrey Toye, George Butterworth, and the critic E. J. Dent.  From the program notes from a concert in 1920, Vaughan Williams said that while the title may suggest a programmatic piece but intended as absolute music and suggested that Symphony by a Londoner might be a better title.  Vaughan Williams did allow conductor Albert Coates to provide elaborate descriptions for the 1920 performance.  Vaughan Williams continued to make changes to London Symphony, between 1914 and 1933 accumulating approximately 3,724 changes to the score with the final version more than twenty minutes shorter than the original.

London Symphony – Four Movements:
1. Lento-Allegro Risoluto
2. Lento
3. Scherzo (Nocturne)
4. Finale – Andante con moto – Maestoso alla marcia – Allegro – Lento – Epilogue

Notable Works of the 20s and 30s

The Lark Ascending (1914-1921)
Pastoral Symphony (1922)
Mass in G Minor (1922)
Hugh the Drover (Opera) (1924)
Job – A Masque for Dancing (1931)
Piano Concerto (1931)
Symphony in F Minor No.4 (1934)
Five Tudor Portraits (1935)

The Lark Ascending: In 1914, Vaughan Williams was inspired to write a composition and musical work based on a poem by the English poet George Meredith about the song of the skylark, The Lark Ascending.  Originally, Vaughan Williams composed The Lark Ascending in 1914 for violin and piano.  Vaughan Williams continued to work the composition until the first public performance in 1920.  Later the composer re-scored it for solo violin and orchestra with the help of violinist Marie Hall, which premiered in 1921.  The Lark Ascending is perhaps the quintessential transcendental symphonic work of the twentieth century.  A symphonic meditation upon life itself through the motif of the lark (violin) as the personification of the natural world, human spirit, and gentleness, in contrast to harsh realities of the human narrative.  The lark takes us on a musical journey where we learn of what the love of life means with all of its vicissitudes but through this journey, we experience evocation, simplicity, and of the beauty of the natural world as the divine gateway.

Pastoral Symphony: Also known as Symphony No. 3, but published as A Pastoral Symphony in 1922, and numbered later. The inspiration to write this symphony came during World War I, Vaughan Williams once commented, after hearing a bugler practicing and accidentally playing an interval of a seventh instead of an octave,” this said to inspired the trumpet cadenza in the second movement. The Pastoral Symphony gained the reputation of being a subtly beautiful elegy for the dead of World War I and a meditation with an evocative spirit.  The Pastoral Symphony first performed in London on January 16, 1922, under the baton of Adrian Boult.  Vaughan Williams emphasized, however, that the work is “not really Lambkins frisking at all as most people take for granted”.   The frame of reference for Vaughan Williams was the fields of France during World War I, where Vaughan Williams served in the Royal Army Medical Corp.

The work consists of four movements:
1. Molto Moderato
2. Lento moderato – Moderato maestoso
3. Moderato pesante
4. Lento

Mass in G Minor:  A choral work was written in 1921; a distinctly English style mass.  The City of Birmingham Choir performed the Mass in G minor on December 6, 1922.  Although the first performance was in a concert, however, the composer intended the Mass in G minor to be performed in a liturgical setting.  Ralph Vaughan Williams dedicated the work to his good friend, Gustav Holst. Gustav Holst and the Whitsuntide Singers.

The work consists of five movements:
1. Kyrie
2. Gloria in Excelsis
3. Credo
4. Sanctus Osanna I – Benedictus – Osanna II
5. Agnus Dei

Hugh the Drover:  An opera in two acts based on an original English libretto by Harold Child. Vaughan Williams worked on the operatic work for a number of years; before and after World War I.  The opera’s first performance was on July 4, 1924, at the Royal College of Music, London and the “professional premiere” was at His Majesty’s Theatre on July 14, 1924. The opera’s first U.S. performance took place on February 21, 1928.  Also, the opera was performed by the professional Canadian Opera Company in Toronto in November 1929, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, which included a live radio broadcast from the Royal York Hotel on November 13, 1929.  Vaughan Williams continued to revise the libretto and the opera over the remainder of his life. The final version was performed in 1956 and published in 1959.

Mary (soprano)
Aunt Jane (mezzo-soprano)
Hugh the drover (tenor)
John the butcher (baritone)
Sergeant (baritone)
Constable (bass)
A cheap-jack (tenor)
Shellfish seller (bass)
Primrose seller (soprano)
Showman (baritone)
Ballad seller (tenor)
Susan (soprano)
Nancy (mezzo-soprano)
William (tenor)
Robert (baritone)
Turnkey (tenor)
Fool (tenor)
Innkeeper (baritone)

Time and Place: Year 1812 – The Cotswolds

Act 1

The outskirts of the town, a fair is taking place; the people of the town have turned out; vendors hawk their wares. A showman presents an effigy of Napoleon Bonaparte and rouses the crowd to a fever-pitch of patriotic zeal. Mary, the daughter of the local constable, appears with her aunt. Her father wants to marry her to John the butcher, a crass, overbearing man whom she does not love. When John roughly takes Mary’s arm to walk through the fairgrounds with her, she resists. He threatens her in turn, but when a troop of morris men passes through, the crowd follows along and John is pulled along with them, leaving Mary alone with her aunt.  As Mary sings of her dreams of freedom, a young man appears and tells her of his life on the open road. He is Hugh the Drover, a driver of animals, who makes his living by providing horses for the army. Mary is fascinated by his words, and Hugh tells her that he was fated to love her. The two declare their love for each other and embrace. The crowd returns and the showman organizes a prizefight, inviting all the men to challenge John the butcher. Hugh agrees to box, but only if the prize is Mary herself. He beats John in the match, only to have John spitefully accuse him of being a French spy. The crowd turns against Hugh and he is led off to the stocks.

Act 2

The town square, early morning, a troop of soldiers has been sent to take Hugh into custody.  Meanwhile, he remains a prisoner in the stocks. Mary stealthily comes to rescue him, having stolen the key to the stocks from her father. She frees him, but before they can escape, they hear John and his comrades approaching. Each refuses to leave without the other, and they both get into the stocks (which are large enough to hold two), draping Hugh’s cloak over their bodies. When they are exposed, Mary’s father disowns her and John refuses to marry her.  The soldiers arrive, and their sergeant recognizes Hugh as an old friend who once saved his life. Instead of arresting him, they acclaim him as a loyal Briton – but take John the butcher for a soldier and march off with him. Hugh and Mary reaffirm their love. Hugh asks Mary to join him, and she at first is hesitant, as is Aunt Jane to lose her. However, Mary finally says ‘yes’, and she and Hugh bid the town farewell to begin their life together.

Job: A Masque for Dancing:  Music for a ballet.  The premiere in concert form transpired in October 1930 at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, under the baton of Vaughan Williams.  The world premiere performed on July 5, 1931, at the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End theatre district.  The work called “masque” because Vaughan Williams disliked the word “ballet”.  Vaughan Williams began writing the score after the idea for the ballet was initially proposed to the Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who rejected it.  At first Vaughan Williams had written for a larger orchestra which could be accommodated in a conventional theatre pit and when the ballet was produced, then the music was orchestrated for a small orchestra by Constant Lambert.  The ballet was also performed by the Vic-Wells Ballet, which later became known as the renowned Sadler’s Wells Ballet.  The original concept and libretto for the ballet were proposed by the scholar Geoffrey Keynes, with choreography by Ninette de Valois, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, orchestrations by Constant Lambert and designs by Gwendolen Raverat.  The ballet is based on the Book of Job from the Hebrew Bible and was inspired by the illustrated edition by William Blake, published in 1826.  Geoffrey Keynes who first proposed the idea for the ballet was a respected authority on the work of William Blake.  Vaughan Williams dedicated the score to the conductor Adrian Boult in 1934. Boult made four commercial recordings of the work, including the first recording in 1946 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and his fourth and final recording was taped in 1970 with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The full orchestral version is scored for three flutes (third doubling on piccolo and bass flute), two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets (in Bb), alto saxophone, bass clarinet (doubling on third clarinet in Bb), two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns (in F), three trumpets (in Bb), three trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, side drum, cymbals, bass drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, tam-tam, organ, two harp, and strings.

The Cast
Donald Britton
John Cranko
Leslie Edwards
Julia Farron
John Field
Alexander Grant
Robert Helpmann
Rowena Jackson
Gillian Lynne
Nadia Nerina
Michael Somes

The ballet includes 9 scenes, based upon the sequence of Blake’s illustrations and each including quotations from the Bible.

Scene I: “Saraband of the Sons of God” (“Hast thou considered my servant Job?”)– Introduction
– Pastoral Dance
– Satan’s Appeal to God
– Saraband of the Sons of God

Scene II: “Satan’s Dance of Triumph” (“So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”)
– Satan’s Dance

Scene III: “Minuet of the Sons of Job and Their Wives” (“There came a great wind and smote the four corners of the house and it fell upon the young men and they are dead.”)
– Minuet of the Sons and Daughters of Job

Scene IV: “Job’s Dream” (“In thoughts from the visions of the night….fear came upon me and trembling.”)
– Job’s Dream
– Dance of Plague, Pestilence, Famine and Battle

Scene V: “Dance of the Three Messengers” (“There came a messenger.”)
– Dance of the Messengers

Scene VI: “Dance of Job’s Comforters” (“Behold happy is the man whom God correcteth.”)
– Dance of Job’s Comforters
– Job’s Curse
– A Vision of Satan

Scene VII: “Elihu’s Dance of Youth and Beauty” (“Ye are old and I am very young.”)
– Elihu’s Dance of Youth and Beauty
– Pavane of the Heavenly Host

Scene VIII: “Pavane of the Sons of the Morning” (“All the Sons of God shouted for joy.”)
– Galliard of the Sons of the Morning
– Altar Dance and Heavenly Pavane

Scene IX: “Epilogue” (“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.”)

Piano Concerto in C:  Written in 1926, movements 1 & 2 and movement 3 between 1930-31 . During the years between 1926 and 1931, Vaughan Williams completed, Job: A Masque for Dancing, and began work on his Fourth Symphony.  The Piano Concerto in C shares some thematic characteristics with these works in likeness in their drama and turbulence.  The work was premiered on February 1, 1933 by Harriet Cohen, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of by Sir Adrian Boult.  The concerto was not well received at first, being considered unrewarding by some soloists of the day. The Concerto does provides ample opportunity for virtuosity in all movements, but Vaughan Williams treatment of the piano was percussion like, as did Béla Bartók and Paul Hindemith during this period, with the texture at times heavy.  Vaughan Williams took the advice of colleagues and reworked the piece into a Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in 1946, by adding more texture to the piano parts with the assistance of Joseph Cooper.

Concerto Structure:
1. Toccata: Allegro moderato – Largamente – Cadenza
2. Romanza: Lento
3. Fuga Chromatica con Finale Alla Tedesca

Symphony No. 4 in F minor:  First performed on April 10, 1935, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and under the baton of Adrian Boult.  The United States premiere was given on December 19, 1935, with Conductor Artur Rodziński and the Cleveland Orchestra.  The first recording made two years later, featured Vaughan Williams, himself conducting the same orchestra in what came to be his only commercial recording of any of his symphonies.  Unlike Vaughan Williams’ first three symphonies, the fourth was not given a title, the composer stating, that it was to be understood as pure music, without any incidental or external inspiration.  The fourth symphony displays a more severity of tone.  The composer himself once observed of it, “I’m not at all sure that I like it myself now.  All I know is that it’s what I wanted to do at the time.” The British composer Sir William Walton admired the work greatly, speaking of it as “the greatest symphony since Beethoven”.  Only two symphonies of Vaughan Williams end loudly, No.4 and No.8.

The work consists of four movements:
1. Allegro
2. Andante Moderato
3.Scherzo: Allegro Molto
4. Finale con epilogo fugato: Allegro Molto

Five Tudor Portraits: Written in 1935 at the suggestion of composer Edward Elgar to explore the poetry of Tudor Poet John Skelton, (c. 1460-1529) in which Vaughan Williams enjoyed reading the short erratic rhyming verses, possibly descending from Medieval Latin rhyming prose.  The language is colorful and sometimes crass.  The five Skelton poems set in the work are not connected in any way.  Written between 1490 and 1522 and the length of each sketch varies with “Elinor Rumming” (15 minutes) and “Jane Scroop” (20 minutes) each taking more time than the other three movements combined.  Vaughan Williams takes as much time as necessary to flesh out each character:

Five Tudor Portraits:
Elinor Rumming—innkeeper and ugliest woman in the world
Pretty Bess — the object of the singer’s desire
John Jayberd — a dead priest, beloved by no one
Jane Scroop — a child whose pet sparrow was killed by a vicious cat
Jolly Rutterkin — a cheerful, drunken neighbor

Notable Works between 1936 -1958

Dona Nobis Pacem (1936)
Riders to the Storm (1936)
Serenade to Music (1938)
Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus (1939)
Symphony No 5 in D (1943)
Symphony No 6 in E minor (1948)
The Pilgrim’s Progress (1951)
Symphony No 7 Sinfonia Antartica (1953)
‘Hodie’ This Day (1954)
Symphony No 8 in D minor (1955)
Symphony No, 9 in E minor (1958)

Dona Nobis Pacem: English translation from Latin is, Grant us Peace, and is a cantata written by Vaughan Williams in 1936, a commissioned work to mark the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society.  First performed on October 2, 1936, and considered a plea for peace referring the early twentieth century, first marked by World War I, and later followed by World War II.   Vaughan Williams inserted three poem verses; lines from a Walt Whitman poem, verse from the Book of Jeremiah, and political speech of John Bright formed the vocal lines for the chorus.  Originally scored for large orchestra, and featuring both soprano and baritone soloists.

Riders to the Storm:  A short one-act opera by Vaughan Williams, based on the play with the same name by John Millington Synge.  Vaughan Williams completed the score in 1927, but it did not premiere until December 1, 1937, at the Royal College of Music, London.  The opera remained largely unknown until it entered the repertoire of Sadler’s Wells in 1953.  Vaughan Williams essentially keeps Synge’ text in place with only minor changes.  The vocal score published in 1936; however, the full orchestral score was published in 1973.

Serenade to Music: A signature Vaughan Williams choral work with orchestration written in 1938.  Vaughan Williams once said, But in the next world I shan’t be doing music, with all the striving and disappointments.  I shall be being it.”  Serenade to Music is the quintessential Vaughan Williams style with original orchestration, and choral singing poetic lines, calling out vocal lines of Shakespeare:  “How many things by season’d are.  To their right praise and true perfection!  Peace, ho!  The moon sleeps with Endymion and would not be awak’d.  Soft stillness and the night, become the touches of sweet harmony.”

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus: A work composed for harp and string orchestra and commission from the British Council to be played at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The premiere performance was performed by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall on June 10, 1939, under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult.  The work is based on the folk tune “Dives and Lazarus” and arranged by Vaughan Williams as a hymn tune “Kingsfold,” appearing as “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem,” in The English Hymnal as “I Heard the Voice of Jesus say,” (no. 574 in the original 1906 edition).

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus structure:
 Introduction and Theme: Adagio, B modal minor
 Variant I: B modal minor
 Variant II: Allegro moderato, B modal minor
 Variant III: D modal minor
 Variant IV: L’istesso tempo
 Variant V: Adagio, B modal minor

Symphony No 5 in D: Return to the more romantic style of the earlier Pastoral Symphony written between 1938 and 1943.  Symphony No 5 in D, stemmed from then unfinished operatic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, an opera or morality play in which Vaughan Williams like to refer it to while discussing the work.  Vaughan Williams struggled with his fifth, and at one point doubted the new work, but later changed his mind after hearing orchestrated.   The work was dedicated without permission to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius at the time of the first publishing.  When permission was gained, Sibelius wrote: “I heard Dr. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ new Symphony in Stockholm under the excellent leadership of Malcolm Sargent…This Symphony is a marvelous work … the dedication made me feel proud and grateful…I wonder if Dr. Williams has any idea of the pleasure he has given me?   The composition scored for two flutes (one doubling piccolo), oboe, cor anglais, two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings. It is structured in the four-movement form:  Preludio, Scherzo, Romanza, and Passacaglia.

Symphony No 6 in E minor: Vaughan Williams composed this work in 1946–47, during and after right after World War II.  BBC Symphony Orchestra first performed the symphony under the baton of conductor Sir Adrian Boult on April 21, 1948.  Symphony No 6 in E minor, within a year span gained in popularity with having over 100 performances, which also included the US Premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky on August 7, 1948.  The first New York performance was the following January with the New York Philharmonic under Leopold Stokowski conducting and immediately recorded it, declaring, “this is music that will take its place with the greatest creations of the masters.”  However, Vaughan Williams had struggled and had mixed feelings about the quality of this work and threatened several times to tear up the draft throughout the development of the work.  The program note for the first performance reflected and suggested his discord about the work.

The Pilgrim’s Progress: An opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, based on John Bunyan’ allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Vaughan Williams described the work as a ‘Morality Play’ rather than an opera and with all intent to perform on stage. Vaughan Williams himself prepared the libretto, with inserts from the Bible and text from Ursula Wood, his second wife.  Vaughan Williams also made changes to the original story including altering the name of the central character from ‘Christian’ to ‘Pilgrim’, so to bring universality to the spiritual message.  The opera contains 41 individual singing roles. The first performance was at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on April 26, 1951, with Leonard Hancock as the conductor, whom Vaughan Williams had personally chosen to conduct the premiere.  The opera consists of Prologue, Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Entr’acte and Epilogue.

Symphony No 7 Sinfonia Antartica: Vaughan Williams composed the music for the film, Scott of the Antarctic in 1947, and inspired by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.  A British Royal Navy officer and explorer, who led two expeditions to the Antarctic, the work was started in 1949, and composition completed in 1952.   The first performance took place on January 14, 1953, in Manchester with Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Hallé Orchestra, and with soprano soloist Margaret Ritchie.  Rafael Kubelík conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the first American performance on April 2, 1953.  Sinfonia Antarctica (“Antarctic Symphony”) is the Italian title given by Vaughan Williams to his seventh symphony.  A typical performance lasts around 45 minutes. There are five movements and Vaughan Williams specified that the third movement leads directly into the fourth. The score includes a brief literary quotation at the start of each movement. They are sometimes spoken or read aloud in performance (and recordings), however, the composer did not specify that quotations were intended to form part of a performance of the work.

1. Prelude: To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite, to forgive wrongs darker than death or night, to defy power which seems omnipotent … Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent: This is to be good, great and joyous, beautiful and free, This is alone life, joy, empire, and victory.

2. Scherzo: Moderato: There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.

3. Landscape: Lento: Ye ice falls!  Ye that from the mountain’s brow a down enormous ravines slope amain — Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice, and stopped at once amid their maddest plunge! Motionless torrents! Silent cataracts!

4. Intermezzo: Andante Sostenuto: Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

5. Epilogue: Alla Marcia, Moderato (non troppo allegro): I do not regret this journey; we took risks, we knew we took them, things have come out against us, therefore we have no cause for complaint.

‘Hodie’ This Day: A Christmas cantata by Vaughan Williams and was composed between 1953 and 1954.  The cantata, considered his last major choral-orchestral and the work premiered at Worcester Cathedral under Vaughan Williams’ baton.  It was part of the Three Choirs Festival, on September 8, 1954.  The cantata, in 16 movements, scored for chorus, boys’ choir, organ and large orchestra, and features tenor, baritone, and soprano soloists.

Instrumental elements of the orchestra: Three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets in B-flat, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four French horns in F, three trumpets in B-Flat, two trombones, bass trombone, tuba; a percussion section that includes timpani, bass drum, snare drum, tenor drum, tubular bells, cymbals, glockenspiel and triangle; celesta, piano, organ; strings; one SATB mixed choir and one boys’ choir; and one soprano soloist, one tenor soloist and one baritone soloist.

Hodie is considered a synthesis of Vaughan Williams’ entire artistic tenure, utilizing creative motifs from his other works, Bible texts, quotes are interwoven with poetry, in his cantata. Musically, various movements may suggest kin to different earlier works, unlike many other composers drawing upon their earlier works for inspiration to create new works.  Thematically, Hodie is bonded together by three thrusts, which recur throughout its length. The first is heard on the word “Gloria” in the first movement and recurs when the word is introduced again. The other is in the first narration, reappearing at the beginning of the epilogue. The final setting of Milton’ text uses the same melody as the first song for soprano, with different orchestration.

Symphony No 8 in D Minor: Composed between 1953 and 1955.  Sir John Barbirolli conducted the premiere on May 2, 1956, with the Hallé Orchestra.  Eugene Ormandy gave the Eighth Symphony its U.S. Premiere with the Philadelphia Orchestra on October 5, 1956.  In 1957 on June 30, Leopold Stokowski conducted Eighth Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in the presence of the composer.  The Eighth Symphony is the shortest of Vaughan Williams’ nine symphonies, with a performance clocking typically at just under a half hour. The Eighth Symphony is described as remarkably inventive, with the composer’s exploration in sonority.  The work expanded percussion section, along with three tuned gongs.  The primary movements make use of the winds and strings sections, respectively.  The Eighth Symphony like the Fourth symphony ends with a loud conclusion. Much in contrast with all other Vaughan Williams symphonies that have quiet conclusions or Diminuendo Niente, and such was the Vaughan Williams signature.

The symphony is for a large orchestra:
   Woodwinds: 2 flutes (2nd doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B♭), 2 bassoons
   Brass: 2 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in B♭), 3 trombones
   Percussion: timpani, vibraphone, triangle, glockenspiel, side drum, cymbals, tubular bells,
   tuned gongs, bass drum,  xylophone, celesta
   Strings: 2 harps, and strings

The work consists of four movements:
1. Fantasia (Variazioni Senza Tema)
2. Scherzo Alla Marcia
3. Cavatina
4. Toccata

Symphony No, 9 in E minor: The last symphony composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams composed it from 1956 to 1957. The premiere performance was in London on April 2, 1958, and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Malcolm Sargent. A programmatic symphony based on Thomas Hardy’ book Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The programmatic elements eventually disappeared as work on the composition progressed, however, existing sketches indicate in the early stages of composition, certain passages associate themselves to specific people and events in the novel.  Ralph Vaughan Williams died four months after the premiere, on August 26, 1958.

The work consists of four movements:
1. Moderato Maestoso
2. Andante Sostenuto
3. Scherzo: Allegro pesante
4. Finale: Andante Tranquillo


 The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like an amalgamation of his musical intellect, internal emotional state, life experiences, and personal relationships.  Ralph Vaughan Williams had a natural gift or an intuitive way of incorporating personal and biographical elements into his creative process of composing classical music; so unique and successful, it became a 20th-century musical signature.

The third son of Reverend A. V. Williams, whose early death influenced and changed Ralph Vaughan Williams’ life and religious outlook, and for a while, as a young man he was an atheist, later in life as an adult became agnostic.  Ralph Vaughan Williams was a complex man, who dealt with extraordinary internal conflicts and ironies, so it is not surprising this agnostic’s life work in music played an instrumental role in helping and organizing people of faith sing and pray.  His work with editing the English Hymnals, working with local church choral groups, and of course such masterpiece works such as Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis are not only material evidence but highlights the composer’s deeply spiritual nature and deposition, regardless of his agnosticism.

When it comes to British classical music in the 20th century, composers like Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford, Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, Gustav Hoist, John Ireland, Percy Grainger, and Benjamin Britten are among the pillars and standouts of British classical music history. Then there is the unique mark of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose symphonic style captured the minds and imaginations of the entire country of England, and then the world.  Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music was not only appreciated in the 20th century but his music continues to thrive into the 21st century with orchestras and audiences around the world, at a time, never forgotten.


Sources:  Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, BBC, and Wikipedia

Dedicated in memory of my Grandfather: Elighio (Lee) Vicente Peña, Veteran of World War I (France) 1917-1918

All Rights Reserved, Ralph Vaughan Williams: Gentle Genius of 20th Century British Classical Music © Richard Anthony Peña 2016