Scenes From the Mountain, a score for Purgatorio by Zachary Cheng (2020)

Scenes From the Mountain is a musical score for Purgatorio by Zachary Cheng (DeMatha Catholic High School ’21).

Of his composition, Cheng writes: “This small movement, which is only around six-and-a-half minutes long, was incredibly difficult to complete despite its length. I returned to it many times over quarantine though I could not seem to find any musical ideas that would stick with me. That changed for the better when I returned to the work in late August and decided to shift my approach. Instead of specifically cataloguing the tale of Dante, I decided to use music to describe the general environment of the Mountain of Purgatory. This ended up giving me more musical freedom. I also shifted the orchestration from a traditional orchestra towards something I am much more familiar with, that being the wind ensemble. The specific movement here encapsulates the base of the mountain (Canto I) up to just before the Valley of Princes (Canto VII).”

The score, with Cheng’s interlinear notes, are available to view here. Listen to it on Soundcloud.

Many thanks to Zachary Cheng and his teacher, Mr. Homer Twigg of the Department of Theology at DeMatha Catholic High School, for permission to share the composition.

Cities and Memory’s Inferno Soundscapes (2020)

“To mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s masterpiece The Divine Comedy, more than 80 artists from all over the world have created his vision of Hell through sound – this is the Cities and Memory Inferno.”   —Cities & Memory website (posted November 23, 2020)


Listen also to Cities and Memory‘s soundtrack to Giuseppe de Liguoro’s 1911 film L’Inferno, available on YouTube:

John Took, Why Dante Matters: An Intelligent Person’s Guide (2020)

“The year 2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, a poet who, as T. S. Eliot put it, ‘divides the world with Shakespeare, there being no third.’ His, like ours, was a world of moral uncertainty and political violence, all of which made not only for the agony of exile but for an ever deeper meditation on the nature of human happiness.

“In Why Dante Matters, John Took offers by way of three in particular of Dante’s works – the Vita Nova as the great work of his youth, the Convivio as the great work of his middle years and the Commedia as the great work of his maturity – an account, not merely of Dante’s development as a poet and philosopher, but of his continuing presence to us as a guide to man’s wellbeing as man.

“Committed as he was to the welfare not only of his contemporaries but of those ‘who will deem this time ancient,’ Dante’s is in this sense a discourse overarching the centuries, a discourse confirming him in his status, not merely as a cultural icon, but as a fellow traveller.”   —Bloomsbury

See also the Virtual book launch event held at UCL’s Institute for Advanced Study, November 24, 2020.

“Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,” a Coffee & Cocktails podcast episode (2020)

Podcast-Writing-Righting-your-life-the-Dante-Way“‘Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,’ Or ‘How to awaken your potential, pin-point your goals, and discover a way forward in tough times’ with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski of Kent State University.

“This incredible talk by Dr. Stasiowski speaks to the importance of learning from our past and how historical literature can be a source of inspiration and motivation especially during dark times.”   —The Coffee & Cocktails Podcast with Dr. Ann Wand (November 23, 2020)

Madeleine Klebanoff-O’Brien, drawings of Dante’s cosmos

 

Harvard University undergraduate, Madeleine Klebanoff-O’Brien, ’22, “whose research focused on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, concluded her fellowship by creating a fully image-based research product. She illustrated Dante’s entire cosmos with visual details pulled from Houghton sources, including depictions of Earth’s elements inspired by medieval astronomical texts and drawings of angels based on 14th-century woodcuts. To explain the map’s symbolic elements to an average viewer, Klebanoff-O’Brien also made an image-based commentary…”    –Anna Burgess

See full article with many images, Anna Burgess, The Harvard Gazette, September 23, 2020

Beyond The Inferno by Alex L. Moretti

“What if the fires of ancient love burned so strong you’d traverse three realms of the afterlife in a bid to save mankind from spiritual destruction, for one last kiss with your dead lover? Even if it was she who plunged you into the depths of Hell, the terrifying, blazing Inferno, to witness the punishment of sin in all its barbarity, cruelty and horror. While you were still alive…”   –Beyond the Inferno, Alex L. Moretti, 2020

Alex L. Moretti’s Beyond the Inferno is a novelization of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

See our post on Moretti’s essay here.

Richard Gotch Robinson, “Dante’s Commedia: An Unfinished Introduction”

“Who is there today who would dare bring out a book which covers virtually all aspects of life, and say – this is the way it all works? This is the nature of the universe in which we live, and this is the truth about some of the people in it, and what will happen to them when they die. And, by the way, I am going to show you the hidden structure of humanity and tell you just what your lives are all about. For this is what Dante Alighieri did some seven hundred years ago, when he wrote his great work the Commedia. The word commedia or comedy meant in those days just that it was a story with a happy ending as distinct from a tragedy. Later readers added the word divina, so that nowadays we speak of the Divine Comedy. […]”

See full text here.  See his poem “Dante” here.

Born Bristol, England 1930. In 1948, Robinson studied Dante with poet and Everest climber Wilfred Noyce, then Trinity College Dublin (Icarus Prize for Poetry). He spent thirty-five years publishing and bookselling in London (Robinson & Watkins), designed and published the first issues of Temenos for Kathleen Raine. Publications: Eternity, Time & The Soul (2005); Selected Poems (2009); Ventura County Beginnings (2011); Down to Earth – a novella (pending).

“Re-telling A Classic – Unravelling Archaic Prose for Contemporary Readers”

“Classics endure primarily because their stories explore topics and themes which continue to resonate; think Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Austen. And Dante. But what happens when classics, written in the style and cadence of ancient prose, simply don’t appeal to a contemporary audience thirsty for the story today yet unwilling – or unable – to untangle the archaic language of yesterday?

“Translations can be equally confusing, especially given they are often straight conversions from, in Dante’s case, 14th century Italian prose into 14th century English prose. Yet these classics deserve to live on. They are ripe for rediscovery and should not be abandoned purely because of a reluctance to decode archaic text. Still, it seems, the modern reader is prepared to reject certain bygone classics for that very reason, despite consensus they are considered pivotal pieces of literature; that they are art in themselves.

“So, how then, is today’s bookworm to enjoy classics such as The Divine Comedy without the immediate distraction of deciphering the archaic prose, or constantly referencing a pile of study guides, essays and tutors’ notes? Well, let me tell you…” –Alex L Moretti, Alex L Moretti, 2020

Read the full article here.

See our post on Moretti’s novelization of The Inferno here.

COVID-19 and Dante’s Inferno

“Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is undeniably a timeless classic. Its grand adventure through the nine gates of hell sparks readers with life and interest. It seems like an out-of-place work for a description of our chaotic times, but I believe it is a lot more relatable to us than we might think in the most unlikely of ways. So what can readers take from this classic besides grand allusions to the past?

“Perhaps it is with the old that we can come to better understand the new. Perhaps we can come to a new perspective on the world and its isolated communication due to COVID-19 through this classic. Much like we are now, venturing alone except through the cyberways of technological communication or daily filial visits, Dante with his guide Virgil treaded a path of darkness to the center of hell to understand and experience the dark side of the world. We too traverse a pathway of ‘hell’ not a literal one, of course, but rather a figurative pathway of undiscovered and problematic turmoil for the human condition.”   –Jayden Montalvo, Johns Hopkins Newsletter, 2020

Read the full article here.

Paradise: Dante’s Divine Trilogy Part Three, by Alasdair Gray (2020)

“Published posthumously, the third instalment of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Englishing’ of Dante’s Divine Comedy is a welcome reminder of the brilliant strangeness of the original.”

“It is darkly ironic that this is a posthumous work given that its great theme is heaven. Alasdair Gray died in 2019, and one ought to take account of the phrase ‘De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum’: of the dead nothing but good is to be said. It is not an aphorism that wholly applies to Dante himself, given the glee with which he torments his foes in the first third of the poem, the Inferno. But it is applicable to the Paradiso, the triumphant conclusion.”

[. . .]

“Gray did not call this a translation and it is not. The folksy chumminess of his prosaic verses are all well and good as a crib, but the problem with the Paradiso is that it is profoundly serious. This is a poem that wrestles with free will and predestination, with the different moral qualities of action and contemplation, and above all with the inability of the human to utter the divine. I read the book almost stereoscopically, with three other versions by my side and an excellent online resource from Columbia for the Italian. The Paradiso has images both homely and intellectual, but in this part the tension of the form becomes paramount.”  –Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman, 2020

Read Stuart Kelly’s full review here.