How to to put a cat among pigeons, in classical music, Star Wars and other birds

Reading interviews of Valery Gergiev, a famous conductor, who plays the best orchestras of the world (this position is always interesting : these guys are intense, constantly trying to improve things, and they work with the best musicians – I love their problematics).

He says that each time big orchestras have to play classical classics, like symphonies of Beethoven, he tries different little things, to prevent the bore, to discover things, etc.

This can be pushed very far – the question of interpretation is fascinating. He tells that one day Leonard Bernstein were in Russia in front of young people, an orchestra made of beginners. And it was amazing because he tried many things with them, for example in the pace, for the reasons you are pleased to imagine (to keep the team focused, to try things, to push limits, to impress, to experiment?). Swell!

Turning dials and pulling levers, that’s interesting, and it’s two aspects :

  1. Which lever will you pull or push? Intensity? Complexity? Speed?
  2. How much will you do that? Slightly or risky? Too far? Too shy?

The infinite pleasure of classical music has many sources, but one of them is to compare interpretations. Take Beethoven : gorgeous as Karajan, as one man as Fürtwangler, feline as Kleiber, slow, transparent, baroque?

I’m interested here in this pattern : When something is “too well known” and you have to put the cat among the pigeons.

– we say in French : to throw a cobblestone in the pond, or to shake the coconut tree, does it make sense?

In big mainstream movies like Star Wars or Marvel, you feel they… are aware the problem too.

If you want to maintain something (interest thus money), you have to “increase something”, each time.

  1. A reboot : you redo it (three times for Spiderman)
  2. More vulgarity, peepooing the worst : Deadpool
  3. Bigger : Avengers
  4. Going wildly exuberant : Thor Ragnarok

Relaunching Star Wars was a good source of fun. Read the forums’ comments. The new films are “too respectuous” and “too shy”, or in the last one “too far from the basis”.

Whatever you do, you’ll find millions haters. Creators probably don’t care.

They try things, and that’s fun.

In the last one (The Last Jedi), they did something very smart. Instead of being funnier, or bigger, or wilder, they just sewed maturity in the middle of this mess. They constantly say in the movie : “Hey, fantard, don’t be so serious!”.

Therefore the key of the movie became Luke throwing the saber over his shoulder. Smart move, Luke, thank youuuu!

You can also read :

A Matter of Levers

“Reorganizing from the Night” : Comparing Versions in Classical Music

A little pattern in Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi (Spoilers!)

Thanks for reading!



“What’s bitten him?”


If you like to explore knowledge and history of men, you probably, like me, from time to time choose a field and dig it completely with excitement – you draw maps, you read, you try to find your own gold nuggets.

What’s bitten him?

John Ford’s cinema, or Kurozawa, or Brian de Palma. Or a painter : Hopper or Da Vinci, or Monet. Music ? Ravel or Shostakovich? Churchill, Lincoln, a French king? An architect, a poet? Faulkner?

Exploring is a joy. Books, conversations, documentaries, Internet. It’s like a map or a puzzle you complete little by little.

At one moment, “vous avez fait le tour”, as we say in French, you finished to turn around it : all angles. You have your little trunk, full of treasures. From time to time you like to complete it, to add a book…


But some fields, some characters are continents, it’s too much, too complex to examine all angles… Why?

  • Because the subject is too big. Choose Puccini or Orson Welles, you’ll be OK. But study the US Revolution, Napoléon, or the Italian Renaissance, and you’re dead.
  • ..
  • Because the subject has too many links. It happened to me with the US Civil War. I read about Lincoln, slavery, battles, Indian natives, daily life at this time, consequences in Europa, “just after the war”, black problems in the XXth century…
  • ..
  • Because a personality or his art is too complex to understand completely. Manet in painting (a constant flow of paradoxes and possibilities), Mahler in classical music (not that “hard” to listen, but with so many facets and complexities), probably Proust in literature…
  • ..


All this is a bit fractal, too : you can pick up a very tiny subject and explore it very well and so precisely that it becomes… infinite.

  • A tiny subject can be an “dot”. One movie director from Norway. The diary of your grandmother. An unknown painter from Provence.
  • It also could be a slight slice of a big event. One day in Germany during the WWII. A single battle of the Revolutionary War.
  • Something besides. You like Stravinsky? Then you could study his influence.
  • A much less known artist, or political man, or geographic place. Try Koechlin in French music. Or the guy who helped Lincoln with trains during the war. Study the city of Baku, in Azerbaijan.
  • Choose another angle. Instead of exploring Tolstoï, read about his wife. Don’t study Communism, but the Mccarthysm againts movie makers, the life of John Reed, or daily life in USSR’s during collectivization.
  • Move a cursor : don’t read about the Russian Revolution but how was the daily life there twenty years before.

There’s a danger of being stuck for your whole life : the subject your chose is so enthralling that you’ll never quit it.


What subject(s) did you choose? Why? Did it end quickly or did you stay for years? Do you wait to have more time to attack a big one?

Thanks for reading!


Albert Marquet, French painter

Albert Marquet (1875 – 1947) was a French painter. They call it (we need boxes, right?) “Fauvist” or “Post-Impressionist”.

Well, OK for “Post-Impressionist”. This guy is interesting, because he knows light and color so well that he can plunge the viewer into a place’s mood with so little brush strokes…

Each painting, I’m like “Awwweeee”. And look at his cute face, with his small glasses and the impossible moustache. I want to be a woman in dress, in 1900, able to see these hidden eyes, and falling in love with this little man. Take off your hat, will you?


Have a nice day! Come to France!


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Simon Bisley, British comic book artist

Simon Bisley is pushing the levers. Comics with monsters and heroes are exaggerating, right? He exaggerates MORE. Bim. Voilà. So there!

Like : “OK, take this”.

I love exaggerators, they’re playing with limits. There’s a childish pure joy in this crazy art. Therefore, it makes me smile and sometimes I foreheadpalm laugh, OMG.

When Wolverine fights Hulk, come on : let’s do this…

His Slaine books are splendid.

Have a nice day. Google him, there are plenty more!..


Here are a few, grrrrr :


Artists Unawareness & Prolificity

The single idea of “How we all create” and invent in art is fascinating. It’s a territory, where we can discuss about genius, work, inspiration, ideas, seeds, growing, building, speed, movements, failure, discoveries and bliss.

I could invent a whole blog about this – but it seems I like my “constantly random” thing. My French Toolbox is not a blog about this or that, but a state of mind…

I just read a Simenon interview (he’s a Belgian writer) who talks about “states” he crosses when he’s about to write a novel. He says that the story and the characters grows and simmers in himself for days, weeks, until he can’t restrain anymore and has to write.

Then he has to stay in that state for days, without interruption. He says that he has to be the more empty possible. Not thinking. As if he had to “receive” the story, without using his intelligence.

Simenon is considered as a master of crime novels. He wrote almost 200 books, and was said to be able to write 60-80 pages a day.

Well, prolific artists (like Picasso or Victor Hugo) are maybe linked to this fast-non-thinking process, a trance. I have also often seen the other side : where “inspiration” is like a necessary wind which have to be used, criticized, canalized and judged during the whole process of creation. The critic inside the writing poet, says Baudelaire…

Also, we all confusedly know something else : there can be no start, in creativity, without a little burst, a little rush of EMOTION.

Thanks for reading!



Herb List / Todd Hido

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a painter who liked the Roman Empire (and togas)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was a Dutch painter. It’s a guilty pleasure, right?

Wiki : “A classical-subject painter, famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea and sky”.

It’s too much, OK. It’s classicism. And it’s fascinating, right? So much work… I love him!!!

It’s exactly the contrary of adventure. Precise, gorgeous, well done. And marble! Imagining stories about this people. This first woman, awaiting (who, a lover, a father?). This last woman, the readhead : what does she do?

Have fun!

Thanks for reading!


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