August 1991 Putsch

Last August was the 20th anniversary of the short-lived revanchist coup in the USSR, which led directly to the break up of the Soviet Empire.   That the coup was ultimately unsuccessful was due in large part to the bravery of Boris Yeltsin and the citizens of Moscow who protested publicly against the coup.  Their bravery was shared by sections of the Soviet military, particularly the Air Force, who also informed the plotters of their disapproval.   I understand that the main reason why the plotters did not bombard the White House, the Russian Parliament which Yeltsin and his supporters had occupied, as they had threatened was that the Air Force had promised to retaliate with an attack on the Kremlin.
A fact reported at the time in the IHT, but little-known since was that the leadership of the Soviet ballistic missile command signaled to the USA their disapproval of the coup.  They did this by moving their mobile ICBMs into their storage hangars, thereby preventing their use.  Only the USA with its satellite surveillance could see all these movements;   CIA and George Bush, aided perhaps by telephone taps, were clever enough to draw the  intended inference:  that the leadership of the Soviet Missile Command was opposed to the coup.
Here is a report that week in the Chicago Tribune (1991-08-28):

WASHINGTON — During last week`s failed coup in the Soviet Union, U.S. intelligence overheard the general commanding all strategic nuclear missiles on Soviet land give a highly unusual order.  Gen. Yuri Maksimov, commander-in-chief of the Soviets’ Strategic Rocket Forces, ordered his SS-25 mobile nuclear missile forces back to their bases from their battle-ready positions in the field, said Bruce Blair, a former Strategic Air Command nuclear triggerman who studies the Soviet command system at the Brookings Institution.
“He was defying the coup. By bringing the SS-25s out of the field and off alert, he reduced their combat readiness and severed their links to the coup leaders,”  said Blair.
That firm hand on the nuclear safety catch showed that political chaos in the Soviet Union actually may have reduced the threat posed to the world by the Soviets’ 30,000 nuclear warheads, said several longtime U.S. nuclear war analysts. The Soviet nuclear arsenal, the world’s largest, has the world’s strictest controls, far stricter than those in the U.S., they said.  Those controls remained in place, and in some cases tightened, during last week’s failed coup-even when the coup plotters briefly stole a briefcase containing codes and communications equipment for launching nuclear weapons from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.”

And here is R. W. Johnson, in a book review in the London Review of Books (2011-04-28):

One of the unheralded heroes of the end of the Cold War was General Y.P. Maksimov, the commander in chief of the Soviet strategic rocket forces during the hardliners’ coup against Gorbachev in August 1991. He made a pact with the heads of the navy and air force to disobey any order by the coup plotters to launch nuclear weapons. There was extreme concern in the West that the coup leader, Gennady Yanayev, had stolen Gorbachev’s Cheget (the case containing the nuclear button) and the launch codes, and that the coup leaders might initiate a nuclear exchange. Maksimov ordered his mobile SS-25 ICBMs to be withdrawn from their forest emplacements and shut up in their sheds – knowing that American satellites would relay this information immediately to Washington. In the event, the NSA let President Bush know that the rockets were being stored away in real time.”

R. W. Johnson [2011]:  Living on the Edge. London Review of Books, 33 (9):  32-33 (2011-04-28).

Why draw?

Why do we draw?
Here is a first list of reasons for drawing:

  • To observe
  • To record some real phenomenon, such as a scene or a person’s face
  • To play
  • To explore, to follow a line
  • To think
  • To capture some essence of an object being drawn
  • To become one with the object being drawn
  • To communicate something, for example, an emotion, a mental state, an idea, a thought, an inference, . . .
  • To express some prior internal emotion or mental state
  • To express some internal emotion or mental state concurrent with drawing, something that arises in the act of drawing
  •  To invoke some emotion in the drawing
  • To provoke some emotion or mental state in the viewer of the drawing
  • To inspire viewers to action, as, for example, in political posters or satirical cartoons
  •  To achieve some internal emotion or mental state by drawing –  for instance, to seek to become calm, to seek to enter a trance, to seek to be in the moment
  • To better know oneself
  • To seek mastery of the skills and arts of drawing, to train oneself in these arts, to undertake a practice (in the Zen sense of that word)
  • To pray
  • To communicate with non-material (spirit) realms
  • To achieve or to progress towards religious salvation
  • To provide soteriological guidance to others, as Shitao and his Buddhist contemporaries believed they were doing in China of the early Qing Dynasty (See:  Hay 2001).
  • To pass the time.

More on drawing-as-thinking here.  For comparison, some reflections on the purposes of music here, and on music as thought here.
Jonathan Hay [2001]: Shitao: Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China. New York: Cambridge University Press, Research Monograph Series.

Musical Genealogies

Thinking recently about tradition, I compiled genealogies for the lessons I have had in musical composition and in learning to play various instruments.

In composition, I once had lessons on serialist composition with James (“Gentleman Jim”) Penberthy, who in turn had had lessons from Nadia Boulanger. Although every mid-western American city was said to have had a music teacher who’d once been a pupil of Boulanger, the same was not true of Australia. As best I can determine the genealogy is thus:

  • James Penberthy (1917-1999)
    • Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
      • Gabriel Faure (1845-1924)
        • Louis Niedermeyer (1802-1861)
          • Emanual Aloys Forster (1748-1823)
            • Johann Georg Pausewang (1738-1812)
        • Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)
          • Fromental Halevy (1799-1862)
            • Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)

I am greatly pleased to find myself a composition student descendant of Cherubini, whose sublime string quartets influenced and were influenced by those of Mendelssohn.

For piano, I was very privileged to be taught by nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, initially Sr Claver Butler RSM (ca.1930-2009), and then later Sr Clare Castle RSM (ca.1920-2000). Sr Claver enabled me, unlike all her previous students, to encounter music first through an understanding of theory rather than through practice, which (we found through trial-and-error) suited far better my top-down mode of thinking, evident, apparently, even as a child. Sr Clare, with an articulate self-confidence that intimidated others but which enlivened me, left me with the thought that nervousness in performance was to be welcomed, since “placid people never achieve anything.” Although not taught by her, I was also given valuable advice and help by fellow-organist Dot Crowe (ca.1915-1975), a pianist and organist who had led her own swing jazz band in the Northern Rivers of NSW in the 1940s, Dot Crowe and the Arcadian Six.

For tuba, I was taught by my trombonist father and by trumpeter Frederick Wedd (1891-1972). Wedd had been one of the trumpeters selected to play a fanfare for the arrival in Australia in May 1920 of the future King Edward VIII on his 1920 Royal Tour of Australia. For saxophone, my teacher Sig. Leopoldo Mugnai is a great-grand-pupil of Marcel Mule (1901-2001), so that makes me Mule’s great-great-grand-pupil. In violin, I once had some lessons from Mr Leo Birsen, whose genealogy was:

  • Leo Birsen (1902-1992)
    • Jeno Hubay (1858-1937)
      • Joseph Joachim (1831-1907)
        • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
          • Eduard Rietz (1802-1832)
            • Johann Friedrich Ritz (1767-1828) (ER’s father)
            • Pierre Rode (1774-1830)
              • Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824)

Subsequently, I have had lessons from two fine teachers whose genealogies are as follows. My first teacher Ms Gisela Soares was taught by:

  • Philip Heyman
  • Ryszard Woycicki
    • Stefan Kamasa (1930 – )
      • Jan Rakowski (1898-1962)
        • Karola Wierzuchowskiego
      • Tadeusz Wronski (1915-2000)
      • P. Pasquier

And my second teacher Dr Claudio Forcada was taught by:

  • Goncal Comellas Fabrega (1945- )
    • Joan Massia i Prats (1890-1969)
      • Alfred Marchot (1861-1939)
        • Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931)
          • Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
          • Henry Vieuxtemps (1820-1881)

Here, parallel indents show a student of multiple teachers. Thus, Ysaye was taught by both Wieniawksi and Vieuxtemps.
As it happens, Wieniawksi was also a pupil of Vieuxtemps.

Note: This post has been updated several times, most recently on 2023-03-01.