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  • Works on Paper and Piano

Theater: Reality, Rituals, and the Human Imagination

Altamira, Spain – Before the Common Era

Perched high on the edge of the cave wall, small reddish-brown bird watches with curiosity from its nest and observes the outline of twelve silhouettes huddled around a smoky but tender fire.  The smoke from the fire rises, softens the angular light of the sun setting in the distance, as the intense, and rich color of the sunlight mixes with light from the fire, exposing the inside of the cave walls, illuminating with animal drawings of rich ochre yellows, burnt reds, charcoal black lines, and carefully articulated shapes.  Slowly, the group of twelve congregates in half circle in front of their sacred wall of animal drawings, and unlike the static drawings, the evening barn swallows fly in a swirling spiral column in and out of the cave’s opening, filling the cavern with echoes of their songs.  Two of the members of the group begin to animate their arms, body movements, modulate their vocalization, and include the animal drawings into the theater of their making.  Here, at this moment, humans refer to the reality of their experiences to form a ritual of an instinctive and intuitive nature to explore the unknown world of the human imagination.

History: The Second Sibling of Reality

Our human DNA has a long memory, rich in ritual experience.  The most notable rituals are from the historical records of classical Western civilization where the ritual experience merged into what was the early Greek ritual-theater.  The ritual-theatrical experience was stable discourse, and embraced as a tradition in ancient Greek society, as participation was an important part of citizenship of the city-state.  The nature of the ancient Greek theater included many types of social threads and could be festive, religious, political, musical, poetic, athletic, marriages or funerals.  The theater was part of everyday ancient Greek society’s communion with life, as they understood it.  The Hellenization of the theater, and of culture, has had an indelible mark over the ages as the theater has since transmuted into rivers and tributaries of imaginative works about the ritual experience, defining the human story, changing cultures, religions, and politics.

In Aristotle’s literary work of Poetics, dramatic theory expanded and defined the theater to include spectator participation in contrast to the rituals of the sacred mysteries.  In Poetics, Aristotle sets the rules, similarities, and limitations for comedy, tragedy, satyr plays, poetry, and epic poetry.  The Greeks believed that the similarities between the ritual and theater, both brought purification and healing to spectators by means of an imaginative experience.  The Greek poet, Arion, transformed the Greek theater or the dithyramb with the use of the literary composition to incorporate the beauty of words into the performance which gave sophistication to the ritual nature of the theater.

Arion is best remembered for his ability to play the kithara, and as legend has it, he was kidnapped by pirates for his prize money.  The pirates gave Arion two options, to commit suicide, and have a proper burial on land or tossed out into the sea to perish.  Arion gave the pirates offer some thought, so he stalled by playing his kithara, and began singing praises to Apollo, the god of poetry.  The singing attracted many dolphins to the ship, and at the end of his song; Arion threw himself off the ship into the sea rather than to face the certainty of death at the hands of the pirates.  One of the dolphins came up to Arion and carried him to safety to the sanctuary of Poseidon at Cape Tainaron. At the end of the heroic journey the dolphin sadly expired and died, but Apollo the god of poetry did not forget the dolphin’s heroic kindness and gave the dolphin a place in the stars.  Delphinus is a constellation in the northern sky, close to the celestial equator.

Spiritualism or Contempt of Reality

The story of Arion is a myth but yet historically part of the fabric of the human narrative in that many of the elements of the story are not impossible or out of the mathematical probability of occurring.   But here in the story of Arion, as like all imaginative narratives the lines between reality and imagination start to blur, the relationships of reality and the ritual narratives as interpreted by the human imagination then become synonymous when presented to the recipient through the lens of the past, present, and future tenses.  As humans, we are curious by nature, and our imagination may be analytical, convergent, deductive, divergent, destructive or purposeful, and allows humans to deviate from the sphere of the real or empirical worlds into the sphere of the imaginable, in which all things are possible.  The long twisting road of human history is one of many inhumane, cruel, and barbaric episodes; yet, we as humans manage to find opportunities in struggles, and conflicts, to imagine new patterns of human migration, and culturalization that sometimes produces seeds of momentous ideas throughout the human narrative.  Out of conflicts and struggle, the human imagination can overcome the obstacles hindering humans from being free, productive, and contributing to the betterment of all humanity.

Such was the case in the Elizabethan period in which the human imagination produced the power of words capable of painting images.  The distinguished historian Simon Schama cites the birth of the Protestant Reformation and the changes it brought to Great Britain in the 1500s. The visual imagery and vestiges of Catholicism whitewashed away with the Protestant Reformation transforming the Catholic ritual use of visual imagery into the sacrosanctity of the word, the absolute word of the scriptures.  The human imagination looked for new venues to fulfill the gaps of the missing rich imagery of the Catholic ritual experience with what it knows best, sensory perception, and imagery, restrained during the reformation’s engagement and the institution of the Protestant ritual.  As a result, the Elizabethan Catholic ritual experience of imagery transmutes into the development of a new theater of a secular nature, such as the birth of the modern theater.  From this theater, the literary works of Greene, Kyd, Marlowe, and Shakespeare came to life into the flesh invoking images, emotions, and thoughts into our collective imagination, and beyond the world of the theater, forevermore.

Religious rituals and theater of the secular are one of the same when it comes to appropriation of believers and spectators alike in that each shares more similarities than differences in the art of theatrics but depart, and divide sharply in cultural purposes.  As religion is about socialization, fraternalism, and spiritual order of the individual, where the theater of the secular is more a fleeting, and poetic space, emulating life, and the nature of human character to tell a narrative about human follies or consequences, in rare instances, may reach the level of high art of significant socialization, and cultural change.  Works of Shakespeare and Cervantes are easy reaches.

Yet, the theaters of religion, and of the secular, must both seek an audience for validation; both must compete for their audience’s minds and imaginations.  Here in this reclamation of the spectator’s imagination, the theater in all its all forms, social, political, religious, poetic, and literary uses all the faculties of persuasion at its control to suspend the spectator’s moment of reality with vignettes, sketches, manipulations, replications or retreaded realities.  The human mind knows the differences between real, and what is not but can accept that both can coexist for what they are; which is the mechanism that allows ritual and secular narratives to be plausible, part of the fabric of culture, where one requires faith, while the other requires suspension of reality, or sometimes both.

The mingling of factual circumstances and imaginable intent can distort the optics of reality, and we can observe it as in social-political propaganda, mass media, television, movies, books, and so on.  The effects can either have calculated risks or unintended consequences, seeping into societies or cultures, mutating the perception of social values, critical thinking, and emotional acumen.  The outcomes can be contemptuous of reality, dangerous, misleading, hurtful, deadly, or life-embracing, celebratory, spiritual, heroic, or reciprocal of the entire spectrum of the human imagination in a world that evolves into light and darkness among the heavens and constellations.


The Theater of Machine and Artificial Intelligence

The theater and evolution of technological history are like a red wing blackbird flying over the long line of fence posts that run across a pasture with each post representing a new milestone of technological change then disappearing out of view into the distance of the horizon line.  With history at our side, we know technological changes will happen but we do not know when and how technological change will emerge, and what the ethical, and legal ramifications of humanity are.  Today, at least six countries are at the crossroads of significant technological change in the theater of machine and artificial intelligence.  The impact on the rest of the modern and emerging countries alike will be of a sea change that the world has never witnessed historically.  Machine and artificial intelligence will influence every institution from physical and digital infrastructures like manufacturing, banking, medicine, military, aerospace, and mass media.  The human imagination resides in all tenses, past, present, and the future but the most intriguing are the imaginative sensibilities that lie in the future tense.

Autonomous not Anonymous  

Everybody wants to rule the future but let us hope Google (Alphabet) lives up to its unofficial motto, ‘don’t be evil’ as one of, if not the most technologically powerful entities shaping the future.  Google is spending its billions on the theater of the future; putting its money to work from gathering social data to the machine and artificial intelligence to deep learning, through tactical triangulation, and Return on the Future to define their stake, and place forward.  The road forward so far with Google’s investment in autonomous automobiles is led by Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.  This is the start of the next technological revolution but not be fooled, it is not so much about Google’s Chauffeur future concept car but the rich intellectual capital of patents of machine source codes and algorithms.

The predictive data suggest that autonomous technology introduced into the markets will evolve more quickly as more players such as Apple, Google, Tesla, and Uber, enter the machine and artificial intelligence space.  This is more than just another trend in that some of the brightest artificial intelligence talents have migrated to the private sector as the likes of Regina Dugan of Google, and Gill Pratt of Toyota with the ambitions to continue the development of the theater of machine and artificial intelligence.  The largest automobile maker, Toyota has recently announced U.S. $50 million R&D Artificial Intelligence collaboration with Stanford and MIT.  It is true that some polls portray a skeptical public, and outlook about autonomous technology with some research suggesting that about twenty percent of the population in the U.S. is fearful of artificial intelligence.

Nonetheless, autonomous technology and automobiles will happen.  The first phase will not be fully autonomous but most industry experts agree in building a safety framework around autonomous machines and artificial intelligence to augment enhanced automobile safety will be the first required step forward.  This safety framework will be the key for obvious reasons, in that new federal and state regulations must be developed, and rendered to necessitate a regulatory foundation on behalf of the autonomous industry, and the public trust.  California has already begun autonomous machine legislation, and most likely will serve as the model of such legislative framework for the rest of the nation.  There is still the unfinished business of early adopter’s acceptance, product liability, and risks assessments requirements before autonomous automobiles can go to market, but nonetheless, your children’s children will inherit an autonomous future only now imaginable.

The Theater of Warfare

The first shot of the electronic technological war was not a weapon but an artificial satellite named Sputnik.  In 1958, President Eisenhower created DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with the purpose of expanding the frontiers of technology, and science.  DARPA has a more serious role in the Artificial Intelligence with security, defense, and warfare in mind.  So serious in fact are the efforts, and scientific accomplishments, it has prompted the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, in signing an open letter calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.  Warfare and intelligence gathering will never be the same again, more computational, and predictive then logistical.  The Pentagon has a long historical involvement with advanced technology and is no stranger to the digital age.

Earlier this year, CIA Director John Brennan, announced a major reorganization to embrace the digital age.  Brennan is creating a fifth directorate, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which will focus on the new world of computer networks.  Now changing the way in which intelligence gathering is conducted with digital sensing, staging, and appropriation.  Imagine digital teams having the ability disrupt both digital, and physical infrastructures, creating selective disinformation, accessing, and tagging targets, using disruptive bots, viruses, micro-robotics, performing digital swarming, creating honeypots, using both digital and physical brute force strategies, and all augmented programmatically by source code as cyber warfare.  Warfare has, and will always include human side of diplomacy but staging in the future warfare will be programmatic, computational, still thematic, but scalable, then logistical, with concepts like supercomputing analyses, behavioral science, deep learning, and digital delivery with little human intervention, other than specialization.

The Terminator concept is not far from becoming a reality in the theater of warfare; expect to see more highly advanced propelled stealth robotics that can quickly take an offensive position, and easily adapt by air, sea, and rough terrain, remotely programmable controlled with precision in neutralizing targets while keeping soldiers and civilians safer. Research and development platforms are currently investigating both source code, and electro-mechanical engineering to develop robotic that can learn, and understand behavior science.  Concurrently, there is research to investigate if artificial intelligent machines or networks programmed to protect it from being deprogrammed, can indeed be deprogrammed.

DARPA is intellectually rich and with a deep portfolio.  Here are few of the publicly known projects; Atlas Project-Humanoid, Remote-Controlled Insects, Mind’s Eye Project, and there are many more technologically advanced systems to numerous to list but point made.  Here is our future tense, where the human imagination forges a path with the most eloquent technology of demise will evolve into the ritual and theater of warfare.  Only in the human imagination, can such eloquent, and deadly machines evolve and transpire in a way that only Leonardo da Vinci could appreciate, and Francisco Goya could despise as historical references of the collective consciousness of the technology of warfare, and humanity.

The Theater of Healing and Medicine

The theater of healing arts has a long path back in the human story.  The human imagination has almost been fascinated with the nature of healing as long as human’s fascination with the supernatural, spiritual, and afterlife, as such power to heal, resolve or manage diseases, injuries, wounds, dislocations, tumors, and perform surgeries are gifts unparalleled, and extraordinary acts of the human imagination.  To make a comparative contrast between the theater of healing and medicine it is important to make the distinction of healing as pseudoscientific, and medicine as scientific, as this epilogue will survey the past as it relates to future of the theater of medicine.  The oldest cultures to delve into the ritual of healing began with the early Egyptians, Babylonians, Indians (India), Chinese, and Greeks, here in the past tense lays our basis, history, and imagination of the healing.

The Egyptians introduced healing as a practical art as early as 3000 BCE.   The earliest recorded surgery was in 2750 BCE.   Most of the information we know about the Egyptian’s knowledge about healing comes from the medical treatise known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus, named after the antiquity dealer who bought the Egyptian artifact.  The document describes the details of 48 cases of injuries, fractures, wounds, dislocations, tumors, and surgeries.  Mainly focuses on surgery and trauma detailing patient’s cases with the type of the injury, examination of the patient, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.  The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus is the oldest medical description of any kind, and specifically focusing on women’s medical complaints and treatments.

The oldest Babylonian texts on healing date back to the first half of the second millennium BCE.  The most extensive Babylonian medical text is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the ummânū, who was the chief scholar of the Babylonian King Adad apla iddina between 1069–1046 BCE.  The Babylonians, as the Egyptians used the same logical approach to healing as they too, practice of use of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and remedies.  The Diagnostic Handbook was an in-depth logical set of clinical rules and assumptions based on the patient examination and inspection as they relate to patient’s complaints.

The Indian tradition of early healing practices can be characterized using empirical thought, and along with imagination in that early Indian healing, concepts dealt with both logical observations and magic. The Susruta Samhita, written by Sushruta, and dates back to the period of 6th century BCE.  This text is distinguished for describing procedures on various forms of surgery, and procedures.  Notable for scientific classification as the medical treatise consists of 184 chapters, 1,120 conditions, including injuries, illnesses relating to aging, and mental illness.  The Sushruta Samhita describes 125 surgical instruments, 300 surgical procedures, and classifies human surgery in eight categories.  It is one of the foundational texts of Ayurveda healing along with its eight branches.

Traditional Chinese medicine consists of a broad range of healing practices developed over 2,000 years ago, with various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise, and dietary therapies.  The historical traces of therapeutic activities in China date from the Shang dynasty during the 11th and 14th centuries BCE.  Many of the traditional Chinese healing concepts are imagination based such as the concept of vital energy channeled through meridians, which is not proven by logical observations or scientific methods but philosophical in approach.  There was not much emphasis placed on the anatomical structures but on breathing, digestion, and aging.  Traditional Chinese approach would measure the pulse, inspection of tongue, skin, and eyes.  Investigate eating and sleeping habits of the patient, and look for attributes of disharmony.

The European Western tradition of healing like theater traces back to early Greeks.  An early account of the theater of healing comes from the ancient epic Greek poem by Homer, The Iliad, where Eurypylus asks Patroclus,“to cut out this arrow from my thigh, wash off the blood with warm water, and spread soothing ointment on the wound.”  The Greeks created temples of healing, and as such were dedicated to the healer-god Asclepius.  These healing temples known as Asclepieia, became centers of medical advice, prognosis, and healing for the early Greeks.  Patients seeking treatment would be induced into a sleep-like state by sleep-inducing substances.  Patients would ask for help from their deity or if required have surgery in the Asclepieia while in a dream-like state.

In the Asclepieion of Epidaurus, preserved are the names, case histories, complaints, and cures of patients.  Surgical details are at the opening of an abdominal abscess or the removal of traumatic foreign material date back to 350 BCE.  The first known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BCE.  The theater of the healing would not be complete without Hippocrates of Kos, considered the father of Western medicine, and the first to describe many diseases such as lung and heart diseases with their symptoms.  Hippocrates also created much of the terminology or language around illnesses such as acute, chronic, endemic, epidemic, exacerbation, relapse, resolution, crisis, paroxysm, peak, and convalescence.  Many of the findings of Hippocrates are still valid today from pulmonary medicine to surgery to the Hippocratic Oath.

Throughout the ages, the theater of healing has progressed tremendously and has transformed into the science of medicine in all its forms such as in investigations, classifications, and implementations of managing diseases, illnesses, and trauma.   The future of the theater of medicine will transition from human-based findings of science to the technological-based science of precision medicine.   From all the lessons of the past, the future of the theater of medicine will accumulate the physical, material, and biological sciences with the computer sciences as never before outcomes such as of advanced rDNA technology, 3-D Bio Printing, transfer, and surgical precision implants on a cellular molecular scale.

To gain a glimpse of the future theater of medicine, the work of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles based surgeon, physician, medical researcher, and business executive is one of medicine’s leading innovators, at best, his work is a vignette of the future.  To get an idea of Soon-Shiong penchant for innovation, Soon-Shiong performed the world’s first full pancreas transplant in 1987.  He invented the nation’s first FDA approved protein nanoparticle delivery technology for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, improving the patients’ response rate.  His resources to innovate come from in that he has successfully developed, and sold two multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, American Pharma Partners and Abraxis BioScience.  Soon-Shiong’s current companies are NantHealth and NantWorks, started in 2007 and 2011. Both companies utilize a number of IT technologies such as fiber-optic, cloud-based data infrastructure to share healthcare information.  Three years ago, Soon- Shiong announced NantHealth’s supercomputer-based system, and a network is able to analyze the genetic data from tumor samplings.  The intent of developing such infrastructure and digital technologies are to share the genomic information among sequencing centers, medical research hubs, hospitals, and advanced cancer research.  Soon-Shiong had Blackberry build the first DNA browser based on his design and data requirements.

Expect in the future advanced DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and rDNA (recombinant Deoxyribonucleic acid) technology to help augment patient’s family histories of diseases, and most important help determine the most effective use of pharma therapy to treat diseases.  Today pharmaceutical companies are working closely with DNA,  rDNA, and 3-D Bio Printing research companies to beta test drugs, and pharmaceutical efficacy.  The goal is to determine the effectiveness of drugs, the patient’s response to drug therapy based on specific discrete DNA sequencing, and mutations.  Mutations or SNPs are in essence, signatures or fingerprints of who we are, and such mutation markers become created along the way during our historic lineage over time.  The patient’s genome map will help determine what drugs to use with more precision based on such research, and this type outcome becomes paramount with the population of patients with very short cycle times with terminal diseases.  The theater of medicine will become synonymous with input, signal processing, and output as time goes on.  The medical establishment will transition to more centralized hubs and spokes, to embrace the technological and economic change of advanced medical input capture technology, signal analytics, and precision output plans with the outcome of the next stage of medicine, the technological science of predictive health.

Imaginable Rituals

Although as humans, we cannot escape our ritual past or counteract the future, like our ancient ancestors of the past, we embrace our collective imagination to create and live in the theaters of our making.  Now in this age and time, we as humans refer to the reality of our experiences to form a technological ritual of an instinctive and intuitive nature to explore the unknown world of the human imagination, such an earthly sphere of luminous light amongst veiled shadows of human capacity.


All Rights Reserved, Theater: Reality, Rituals, and the Human Imagination ©  Richard Anthony Peña 2015

Beethoven and the Revolution

It was time, not the time kept by a clock or pocket watch but time kept for eternity.  Underneath the landscape’s horizon line, the hills and valleys around Vienna appeared like a romanticized painting with soft rich greens, golden brownish reds, and luminous beige hues.  The view was speckled with bare trees anticipating the touch of the sun.  The stormy grey skies of March seemed somber with winter’s last hold before the changing of the seasons from winter into spring; the sobriety of the coldness of winter mixed with the longing of warmer days to come along with the blossoms of early spring flowers.  Such was the feeling in Vienna in the late winter of 1827, and indeed seasonal change was in the air.  A young lady riding in a carriage was overheard describing the change in seasons like the transition between symphonic movements.  It was the kind of change that all of God’s creatures on earth intuitively know, the seasonal life cycle; the entry of newborns into the world, and the passing of the living inflected by age, sickness or fate into the finality of silence.

Vienna on March 26, 1827, the morning air was still and calm, sweeten with dust from the fields mixed with moisture in the air that created a kind of earthy fragrance.  Dark and towering pillars of thunderstorm clouds began to build outside of town and then slowly marched in like French revolutionary guard ready to battle over the souls of Vienna.  The rumbling of thunder could be heard in the distant from Beethoven’s room.  Beethoven was in immense discomfort and had taken a turn for the worst.  Days before Dr. Wawruch performed a common medical procedure on Beethoven to relieve the swelling of the stomach by puncturing the abdomen to remove the excess liquid.  One of the four puncture wounds became infected.

There laid Beethoven in his deathbed, the man who inspired his generation and generations to come, suffering, in immense human discomfort and pain, cast in silence from his deafness.  Nearly alone spiritually, only two people and God were present to witnessed Beethoven’s death.  To this day, it is still unclear to scholars of the final passing of Beethoven and if he had last words if any, but lore.  We are only left with our imagination; as the lighting and thunder from the storm approached closer, the flashes of light and thunderous rumble of vibrations drew Beethoven further inward, remembering the instances from his life with each flash of lightning illuminating his room, then slipping away as the thunder rumbles away into silence and the vibrations into stillness.  Ludwig Van Beethoven died on March 26, 1827. Three days later, Beethoven’s funeral procession marched through Vienna attended by twenty thousand people to pay tribute to this heroic figure.

The Flame

Long before Beethoven was born, a flame flickered in the Age of Enlightenment and which later grew into a revolutionary and intellectual fire in the 18th and late 19th centuries, in that European cultural and intellectual thought emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism rather than the age-old lines of authority based on ancient and feudal power structures. The light from the flame of enlightenment came the writings of Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Locke, Mendelssohn, Newton and Voltaire to name more than a few and such thoughts inspired both the American and French Revolution’s ambitions to set men free from the chains of a feudal caste system.  While the American Revolution from the start became a shining light of the world, the French Revolution became a digression into terror and then Bonaparte.  In spite of this historic French digression, French society and culture changed, forever.  French society progressed forward since the days of the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Napoleonic Code and established Constitution.  Now France is considered one of the shining lights of the modern and free world.  However, the fight against the chains of political tyranny and corruption, religious intolerance and terror, racism and cultural discord, misogyny, poverty, disease, crime, and injustice still continues around the world and the flame still burns.

The Artist as Hero

Ludwig (Luigi, Louis) van Beethoven was baptized on the 17th of December 1770 in Bonn, Germany of the Holy Roman Empire.  His parents were Johann van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich.  Beethoven was fortunate to have a mother like Maria.  Beethoven described her as, ‘kind, loving mother to me, and my best friend’.  Maria was a genteel, serious, and deeply moralistic woman and it is her values which formed Beethoven’s worldview on life and music.  Beethoven witnesses his mother’s sorrows in marriage and she suffered dearly from a dreadful bloody disease.  Maria died at the age of 40 of consumption on 17th of July 1787.

Beethoven’s father, Johann came from Flemish stock as the van in his name indicates, as the Beethoven men were proud of their Flemish heritage.  Johann van Beethoven was considered a mediocre court singer with a reputation as an alcoholic more so than having musical ability or talent.  However, Beethoven’s grandfather, godfather, and namesake, Kapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven, was Bonn’s most prosperous and eminent musician, a source of endless pride for Beethoven.  It is true, Johann taught his son to play the piano but from all accounts, he was brutal, cruel, and violently dogmatic in his methods that it affected and changed Beethoven for the rest of his life.  Johann attempted to provide for his family but descended into the despair and lost himself in alcoholism to the point of being an incapable soul.

If Mozart is considered the child prodigy, the boy genius, mentored by his father Leopold Mozart and Papa Joseph Haydn, then Beethoven is the artist’s hero, brooding, challenged, confident, and imaginative innovator.  Beethoven as a child was not a prodigy nor mentored musically by his father but one can say he was indeed disciplined in music.  Beethoven was mentored by Christian Gottlob Neefe in Bonn and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Antonio Salieri, Joseph Haydn in Vienna.  However, his relationship with Haydn, who was considered the best composer in Vienna at the time, was short, perhaps of the differences in personality and chemistry.  Although the aristocratic class of Vienna as of the likes of Count Waldstein, Prince Lobkowitz, Prince Lichnowsky and Baron Gottfried van Swieten accepted Beethoven socially, in fact, it was their patronage that enabled Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven for the betterment of Vienna as the center of music in Europe.

Beethoven was never a servant to the high born.  He held the deposition that the artist is equal in nobility as the high born in that the artist’s gift of creativity ennobles all of humanity, regardless of the artist’s social caste, therefore, is noble in the truest sense of the word.  In the values instilled in him by his mother, Beethoven believed music moralistic imperative was to lift the human spirit from the evil and darkness into the divine and light.  Beethoven succeeds in his art against all odds that life and God laid before him, wrestling with the angels and demons to eventually write Symphony No. 9 D Major completely without the ability to physically hear a note.  The heir apparent to Mozart, Beethoven single-handedly expanded the symphony to new heights and bridged the Classical and Romantic periods in music while carrying the crescendo of the enlightenment.

The Genesis of the Eroica Symphony

Like all works of creative expression have an uncanny way to imprint and present the artist’s psychological self-portrait to the observer.  Beethoven’s art is a true self-portrait, his use of the musical language paints his emotions and expresses the joys and sorrows in a way that every human can relate to in universal time, so goes Rembrandt, so does Beethoven.  When Beethoven expanded the tradition of Haydn and Mozart, he stated he was not satisfied with his work thus far and needed to take a new path through the woods.  At the turn of the 18th century, Beethoven could not escape the revolutionary flames in politics or the grand ideas of the time nor could he reconcile the internal conflicts of his personal life.  Beethoven had been an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and there was great enthusiasm throughout Europe in the hope the old ways of governance would collapse.  Napoleon appeared to champion the cause.  Beethoven became enraged when he learned of Napoleon’s true intentions and declared himself Emperor.

From Biographische Notizen über Beethoven, F. Wegeler and F. Ries, 1838:  

In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul.  At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome.  Not only I but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Luigi van Beethoven” at the very bottom.  Whether or how the intervening gap was to be filled out I do not know.  I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal!  Now, he too will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!”  Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor.  The page was later recopied and it was only now that the symphony received the title ‘Sinfonia Eroica.’  

Heiligenstadt Testament

Beethoven was troubled about his financial future, commoner status, ability to marry and above all his health was frightening him.  In the late 1790s, Beethoven started to hear the ringing and buzzing in his ears.  In 1801 and 1802, he sought the consultation of a new physician, Johann Schmidt, which the recommendation was given to take some rest away from Vienna.  Beethoven decided on a restful place on the outskirts of Vienna in the village of Heiligenstadt.  His time in Heiligenstadt gave him the rest he needed but his ability to hear was deteriorating further.  One can only imagine the thoughts and emotions running through Beethoven’s head.  In the autumn of that year, he was compelled to draft of his last will and testament.  This document came to be known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.  The document is considered a confessional and psychological record of Beethoven’s state of mind, he writes in length of his illnesses, reveals that he has contemplated suicide to overcome the pain and despondency of the illness that haunts him but his art keeps him from taking his life.  Beethoven kept this document hidden for the rest of his life and it was never revealed to anyone until after his death.  The document has been linked to the creation of the Eroica Symphony because it gives an explanation of Beethoven’s psychological state and why his compositional style changes so drastically.  Some scholars have noted both the Heiligenstadt Testament and Eroica Symphony are indeed linked confessional documents; recognizable moments of truth.

Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major “Eroica”, Op. 55

Beethoven completed the composition in early 1803 and the first public performance of Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major was on 7 April 1805 in Vienna.  The innovative work of Eroica expanded the scale of the symphony on many levels, exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda became reapportioned to equivalent scope, specifically the development and coda; a departure from Haydn and Mozart.  Beethoven expands the sonata form as never before.  For the first time, three horns are used in a symphony.  Although like most masterpieces, at first, there are divided opinions on the merits of the work and some critics praised it was a masterpiece while other critics of the day attacked the length of the symphony as being exhausting, disjointed, and lacks rounding out.  After 210 years, the Eroica Symphony has heroically endured as one of the most innovating, exciting, challenging symphonic works recognized and accepted as an important turning point in music with considerable historical, political, and biographical optics.

Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony:
The Four Movements:
Allegro Con Brio (Heroic Life)
Marcia Funebre adagio assai (Death, Sorrow, and Realization)
Scherzo Allegro Vivace (Resurrection of the Hero and Humility)
Finale Allegro Molto (Hope and Triumph)

“Ever thine, Ever mine, Ever ours”


All Rights Reserved, Beethoven and the Revolution  © Richard A. Peña 2015

Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity

Book Review:

Title: Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity
Book Release Date: July 2015.
Dimensions: Large Format Landscape Book and eBook, 28 Plates, 58 Pages.

The book entitled, Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity is a continuation and extension of the explorations and findings from the series Flora Nocturne.  Specifically, focusing on the abstract, unreal, and imagination of organic form itself.  While organic forms can be beautiful and powerful in nature, the investigation of Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity is purely visual and imaginative.  Simply reverting back to the essence of mark making, where line quality, texture, color field, and luminescence can invoke a wide range of emotional triggers and cognitive relationships to space within two-dimensions.  The book is available in both in a tradition of hard/soft cover formats and e-book.  Ultimately, only seven out of twenty-eight images will be selected for the suite of large format chamber prints on high quality 100% cotton textured substrate.

All Rights Reserved © Richard A. Peña 2015

Digital Panopticon

Arestor looked down at his newly born son with wonder, and with fatherly pride.  As for his newborn son was beyond the size of any human baby imaginable.  Arestor wiped all the tears from his son’s crying eyes, all one hundred of them and decreed to all, from here forth, my son will be called Argus Panoptes. Hear me now, he shall be the greatest watchman of all of Argos, and for all ages.

Panoptes comes from Greek mythology and translates to, the all seeing.  Argus Panoptes was a giant of a man born with a hundred eyes, not two.  Panoptes was a great watchman, and observer of all things, as in that some of his eyes would close to sleep while the other eyes would always remain open, awake, watching, observing and always seeing.   He was the watchful brother of his sister, the nymph Io, and the servant of Hera, the wife of Zeus.  In the end, he was a victim of Hermes’s deadly trickery.  To commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had a hundred eyes of Argus Panoptes preserved forever, in a peacock’s tail.

The English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century conceived of an architectural design, Panopticon.  The name of the architectural design is in reference to Panoptes of Greek mythology.  The design allows a single watchman to observe occupants of an institution without the occupants being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.  Although it is impossible for a single watchman to observe all the occupants at once, it did establish a effective social behaviorism that all of the occupants acted as they are being watched at all times, in essence, the occupants constantly controlled their behavior within the environment.

The symmetrical notion of the observer and the observed has long been an idea of antiquity but more ever so relevant in the digital age, and modern life.  Almost every human interaction with digital technology require some level of authentication of either one’s surrogate identity or demographic identity, whether it is billing accounts, social media, credit cards or mobile devices, we live in a constant ebb and flow of, “to authenticate” or “to be authorized.”   Welcome to the Digital Panopticon my friends, leave your libertarian credentials behind, now your manila folders of John Q. PUBLIC and Jane Q. PUBLIC are now a binary data set.

The benefits and convenience of the Digital Panopticon are indeed addicting and necessary to participate in the modern digital world but there is a price to be paid, which is the currency of your privacy.  Never mind about being worried about being physically chipped, a soft chip will do and it is mostly under control with watchful eyes.  Your surrogate information tracked, and in some cases, your demographic identity will be stored in secured databases.

So it should come as no surprise that the mass-media analytics are the most successful purveyor of demographics and market data, first with the advent of newspapers, radio, television, internet and now the digital age.  The old economy was ZIP code demographic analytics but today it includes Nielsen digital-on-line analytics in defining who you are in demographic terms, real-time, GPS and worldwide.

Perhaps the most intrusive but legitimate Panoptes of mass-privacy are Facebook, Google, Twitter and the makers of smart devices.  Every aspect of these Panoptes seek, observe, and measure who you are by your online habitual disposition.  Although the Big Social Media are legitimate they are prone to manipulation by third parties with nefarious intents. Read the privacy and data policies.  Of course, there is the other kind of Panoptes to beware of, in that their nature can be illegitimate, cowardly, political and socially nefarious.  With a criminal disposition targeted towards the privacy of individuals to disrupt the integrity to authenticate individuality within the bureaucracy state, enterprises, and institutions.

Sometimes illegitimate and nefarious entities use hundreds of eyes or bots to see and crawl throughout the WebSphere to target their disruptive end to privacy and individual freedoms.  Such is the hidden and veiled darkness of the world wide web.  Along with the cover of darkness, Tor ‘onion router’ networks are sometimes used by sophisticated intelligence, state, political, organized crime, and hackers, to avoid electronic traffic fingerprinting, and the transparency of their electronic identity.

It is also necessary for segments of the global populations living under repressive regimes to use Tor networks to conceal their web privacy from electronic surveillance exposing internet content deemed social or politically subversive and to hide the locations of the hosts, and nodes.  Nonetheless, what is most important to all Panoptes of the world is the future to come.

Population Shifts:  
The world population by 2027 will reach 8 billion. Currently, 54% of world’s growth is occurring mostly in urban areas.  66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050.  By 2050, the urban population in the developing world will top 5 billion with 1 billion of that will come from Africa, rising from 13% to 20% of the world’s population.

Digital Life:
Nearly 3 billion people are currently online, which is 40% of the world’s population.  80% of Twitter and Facebook activity is happening outside of the U.S.  More than 1.35 billion people log into Facebook each month.  500 million tweets are sent per day.  71% of global consumers own a SmartPhone.  85% of U.S consumers use a mobile device while watching TV.  The world’s largest mobile payment company processes 45 million transactions daily.

Social Mobility:
By 2030 2 billion people will join the middle class.  In Africa and the Middle East, the middle class is projected to double and in Asia will rise to 3 billion.  In the next 4 years, women will control the US $28 trillion in annual consumer spending.

The next phase of digital life will result in instinctive, creative, and destructive processes, such are the fabric of change, as adaptation becomes the ways and means of both natural and disruptive selections.  In a nutshell, digital life or the Digital Panopticon will be the catalyst for future social, political, and economic changes to come.

Essentially, the future of both physical and digital communities will be more urban, more digitally connected and synchronous, with a segment of the population growth with middle-class affluence.  But see through the digital midway distractions as the growing technological loss of our privacy is like the troublesome bite of the gadfly that we must not ignore.


All Rights Reserved, Digital Panopticon © Richard A. Peña 2015

Statistical Sources: Nielsen, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Twitter, UN and Facebook

The Rite of Spring 1913

The Adoration of the Earth
Augurs of Spring
Ritual of Abduction
Spring Rounds
Ritual of the Rival Tribes
Procession of the Sage: The Sage
Dance of the Earth

The Sacrifice:
Mystic Circles of the Young Girls
Glorification of the Chosen One
Evocation of the Ancestors
Ritual Action of the Ancestors
Sacrificial Dance

It was cool Parisian evening walk down the Avenue Montaigne to Théâtre des Champs-Élysées that only a Russian like Diaghilev could appreciate.  In 1913, Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company gave birth to truly the modern.  It was a night that the world changed, and never turned back. The Rite of Spring not only changed the classical worlds of dance and music but it was more than that, it seemed to call out the source of our anthropologic primitive heritage and notions why humans dance along with the inner pulse of our basic communal instincts and rituals.  As like Stravinsky and Nijinsky, channeled the primitive impulses, then translated the code into new time and space signatures for the inhabitants of the modern world.

The conceptualization of the Rite of Spring was a journey that began in 1908 with Stravinsky setting to music two poems from Sergey Gorodetsky’s collection “Yar”.  Another poem in the anthology that may have influenced Stravinsky, is “Yarila”.  Many of the elements in Yarila were similar to Rite of Spring.  In his 1936 autobiography, Stravinsky described the origin of the work in 1910, “I had a fleeting vision that came to me as a complete surprise.  I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite with sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring.  Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps”.  It was when Stravinsky collaborated with Nicholas Roerich, the foremost Russian expert on folk art and ancient rituals in which the ideas for Rite of Spring started to solidify.  Roerich was known as an artist and mystic, provided the set and costume design for the Rite of Spring.

Vaslav Nijinsky was born in Russia to ethnically Polish parents, both were dancers.  In 1900, Nijinsky joined the Imperial Ballet School in which he excelled, and was recognized early on for his dancing abilities.  When Nijinsky joined the Ballets Russes it proved to be a turning point in his career.  The Ballets Russes gave him the opportunity to use all of his creative ability as a dancer, and most important his impact as a choreographer.  His ballets of notable accomplishments were L’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), based on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1912), Jeux (1913), Till Eulenspiegel (1916), and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, with music by Igor Stravinsky) (1913).

Igor Stravinsky was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, also of Polish lineage. His father was Fyodor Stravinsky, a bass singer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.  Stravinsky studied piano and music theory as a young boy but was not considered an exceptional talent.  It was until he met, and studied with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov later in life as an adult that his talent was developed.   Stravinsky continued lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov until 1908, the year of Rimsky-Korsakov ‘s death.  In 1909, Stravinsky received his first notable commission.  It was at this time Diaghilev was sufficiently impressed by Stravinsky’s work on Fireworks which prompted Diaghilev to commission Stravinsky to perform some orchestrations that led to composing a full-length ballet score, The Firebird (1910) then followed by Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913).  These three ballet scores are perhaps Stravinsky most notable symphonic works.

Since that fateful evening of May 29th, 1913, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring now has taken its place as a standard symphonic masterpiece which never has been rivaled.  As for Nijinsky, he leaves us with a legacy of a haunting and brilliant passage of the poetics of form and space, in the art form we call dance. One can only imagine Nijinsky’s creative courage and vision to choreograph Stravinsky’s time signatures where there was no historical references, count or form in ballet. The choreography Nijinsky developed in the Rite of Spring became the foundation of modern dance and gave birth to choreographers as the likes of Martha Graham to Pina Bausch to Hofesh Shechter.

Hundred and two years later Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky, Marie Rambert and Nicholas Roerich are still triumphal in telling the story about of our ancient pagan ancestors and their driven instinctive nature for social rituals; the belief that terrible destructive and creative forces of nature must renew its self in order to create the fabric of change, beauty, and adaptation to life itself.  Events such as death we cannot escape or completely comprehend.  What we do know about the past and human mortality, scientifically, human genetic markers can trace our existence and traits thousands of years back in time to haplogroups made up of ancient clans or tribes that gave birth to our ritual heritage.  Such an indelible mark is the Rite of Spring.

All Rights Reserved, The Rite of Spring 1913 © Richard A. Peña 2015  (except embedded YouTube Video of Millicent Hodson 1987 reconstruction)

Elements of Innovation

In the thirteenth year of the twentieth century, technological innovations were like buds on a flower ready to blossom.  The Ford Motor Company introduced the first large-scale moving assembly line, the first successful recipe to make stainless steel came about in 1913, but there was another discovery that was so small, it could not be observed by the human eye but would indeed change our perception to come.  Danish physicist Niels Bohr introduced the Bohr model of atomic structures in 1913.  The science of atomic structures opened up the notion to the imagination that smaller, not bigger, was the gateway to industrial and commercial innovations; the perception that complete and efficient systems could involve on a much smaller scale or with a leaner footprint.

Long before there were smaller digital devices like today’s digital cameras or mobile phones, there was the introduction of the Leica camera proto-types in 1913 by Oskar Barnack of Leitz.   Although Leica production models were not realized until 1924, nonetheless, the Leica camera introduction was an innovation that exemplified forward thinking about scale in such a way that it became an advantage that drove change how people captured life and environments.

What are the elements of innovation?  One way to think about innovation is as an outcome of divergent thinking, the same sensibilities found in the creative processes in the visual arts, theater, dance, music, architecture, and literature.  What is observed as elements in life and the arts can be symbiotic with innovation; the distillation of scale, form, speed, and abstract random outcomes.

Take Oskar Barnack’s 1913 camera concept for example, and rethink innovation for the twenty-first century.  Such a camera innovation would have both macro and telescopic optical capabilities, with separate CCD layers of luminance, red, green and blue, gain amplifier with excellent noise to signal reduction, enhanced encoder, with an overall physical footprint 10x smaller in scale, manifest as a wearable unit.  The remote control, viewfinder, and microphone also manifest in a separate but second unified wearable unit, which voice command inputs can execute shooting mode algorithms, and output commands along with language translation capabilities coupled with cultural and GPS mappings.  Such a camera innovation can deliver all captured images and voice data to a removable medium or a secured cloud-based storage or satellite feed at will.  Rendering software allows various output templates such as 2D, 3D, 3D-Printer, time, motion, language translations, and discrete secured metadata.

What was once a static twentieth-century camera apparatus now becomes a dynamic and fully integrated global networked remote device, allowing cross-cultural communication for business, commerce, education, and information gathering in the twenty-first century. All based on the innovation of scale, form, and velocity of operation.  This leaves the last element of innovation as an abstract random outcome to determine value, predictability, adaptation, and of course, the next steps.

#Elements of Innovation

All Rights Reserved, Elements of Innovation © Richard Anthony Peña 2014

Flora Nocturne – Still Lifes

Flora Nocturne is an analysis that compares and contrasts two visual constructs; Objective Poetic Transformation and Abstraction.  Objective poetic transformation is not a new idea and derives from photographic statements and criticism from the twentieth century.  Practitioners from Alfred Stieglitz to Edward Weston to Minor White were pursuant to purity, objective observations and gateways.  The visual construct of abstractions came from painting and influenced not only photography but the art world as a whole in the twentieth century.  The theme of this collection explores the tension between representation and abstraction, real and unreal, reality and imagination, leaving the viewers to question, reconcile, and manifest.

Who is enjoying the shadow of whom…

In the year 1889, Oscar Wilde looked out the window of his London flat, as the fog rolled in, pondered about the great discourse of human observations, the iconic values of civilizations; beauty and truth. Taking on the Aristotelian constructs, and changing the dialogue of existing thinking about aesthetics and image making. Firing a shot across the bows, warning all, that the rules are about to change with the assertion, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life” in his essay, The Decay of Lying.  What was unforeseen in the late eighteen hundreds, and about to unfold in the future were technological changes that would control how subject matter will be imitated, rendered, and trend as social norms.

By 1889, photography was still in its infancy, although, the principles of optics were known as far back as to the fifth century, the camera obscura was derived as an imaging appliance prior to 1839, the year photography was announced to the world.  Yet, photography as a technically advanced imaging process for the age was not recognized as an art form in the late eighteen hundreds and nor it would not be recognized as an art form until the twentieth century.  Nevertheless, the prospects of imaging technology were going to change not only human societies but to enable new industries to control the perception of reality on a mass wholesale level unparalleled to any other age.

The power and propagation of images have never been more prevalent, we are now experiencing the pixelization of the world, whether it’s Google maps or image capture via the mobile camera of information worthy events.  The rapid transformation of picture information now allows our perceptions of the world to be rendered, imitated, and manipulated as a historical record, brand or propaganda, all in real time. Most accept the notion that our contemporaneous lives evolve on some level of sophistication and artfulness, but as the lines between reality, and personal expression blend and smudge as soft delineations, sometimes with authenticity, sometimes with a sense of truth, and sometimes sublime.

All Rights Reserved, Who is enjoying the shadow of whom… © Richard Anthony Peña 2013