In the meantime, I am listening to the first act of Philip Glass's opera Orphée. The CDs arrived the other day, but I haven't had a chance to put them on. And sliding the CD into the Mac — for I have no other functioning CD player these days — I look at my desktop photo once again, a photo I took last May in Siracusa, during a holiday in Sicily.
The photo always looks just a little odd to me, because I know it has been altered. The original
I look on the hard drive in vain for the original photo: I must not have saved it. It's permanently altered — a phrase whose absurdity is difficult to deal with. But then I remember a discussion I had with a fellow in a photography shop years ago in Berkeley, when I asked him something about Lindsey's photos, made with the then-new ”panorama“ option on her very early-generation digital Elph camera. ”They're just cropped that way,“ he said, ”they're not really panoramas, it's an optical illusion.“
”But isn't that what all photographs are, when you think about it,“ I replied, ”just optical illusions?“ He didn't seem to understand, or want to understand, or want to think about it.
That photo up there — perhaps because of the artificial skewing, it looks like a stage-set: forced perspective. I think too of certain Vermeer paintings, but that may be not so much because of perspective as because of the stillness: the few people, arrested in the action of motion; the hard edges of the stucco walls against the softer sky; the empty expanse of pavement.
The photo strikes my eyes, and through them my mind, much the way the CD strikes my ears, and through them my mind. There's something so vulnerably and pathetically two-dimensional about all this, when we all know Orpheus and Sicily are four-dimensional at the least. Width, height, depth, time: and then the extensions of those four dimensions: Embrace, Aspiration, Resonance, and Change. The photo recalls the experience to me, of course; I feel again the sun, the moving air, the hunger and thirst, the gratitude at simply being there: impressions no one else can have save perhaps Lindsey, who was at my side at the time.
Perhaps the cast of this Portland Opera recording of Orphée can have a similar rush of recollection when listening to these CDs. I hope so. They worked very hard, and did a fine job. But a recording is not an opera, as a photograph is not a city. Something has been skewed. Perhaps it is only the skews that remain, that ”mean“ anything; perhaps these skews are what Epicurus had in mind when proposing his clinamen.