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Nostalgic Melody&Film 懐メロ&フィルム

A singer songwriter with an oil painter in 19th century [epilogue]

When a poet is going to create lyrics about beautiful mountains and rivers or scenery, it doesn't need always for him/her to visit exact places or to experience him/herself there how it would be. So did Stephen Collins Foster. He had been in neither Kentucky nor Swanee River.

Japan was occupied by the US force after the capture on August 1945. Following two decades, at least I remember, Foster's work was a staple of the junior school music books. In addition to "Old Folks at Home" (1850) there are pretty many tunes which are quite popular, for examples, like "My Old Kentucky Home (1852), "Old Black Joe" (1853), and "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" (1854)
[note 1]

My Old Kentucky Home 01

Even I myself, do not have any sense of singing, can do hamming with these melody lines. Lyrics written by Foster ware translated to the language of the 'rising sun's country. All Japanese text, I say, are beautiful with dignity and a kind of homage (to Foster).

Translators might have known the situation at the time of Foster. Sometimes they omitted the real context in the circumstance that slavery was recognized as a social and economic system. Pupils at school and normal ordinary people knew hardly slavery-history of neither America nor the world. Lyrics of foreign popular songs are often interpreted in sense of Japanese context, and made up lyrical contents associated with humanity and nature. In some cases Japanese text has nothing to do with African-American negro life
[note 3].

Foster's songs, for examples as "Camptown Races" (1850), "Old Folks at Home", "My Old Kentucky Home and "Old Black Joe" were composed before The American Civil War which originated to the fractious issue of slavery. The South of cotton farming needed slavery of Negro.

At the time Minstrel show was popular. It could be ''therefore'' that he attempted to compose above mentioned songs as a singer songwriter. The theme of lyrics should be all about slavery, because of Minstrel show in combination with Black Face by White actors. Songs for people must be commercial whenever it's made
[note 4].

At left under corner there is a sign ''Souvenir de Mauve'' I don't know what exactly it means. 'Mauve' dedicates in general a genus of Marva like '''Marva sylvestris' which is a plant with purple flowers. Remembrance of Mallow or Purple? The tree in the frame looks like to belong to the rose family. This painting seems to be titled ''Pink peach tree in blossom'' by Johannah. It may be also pear tree. Anyway the tree has nothing to do with Mallow.
Van Gogh Sauvernir de Mauve 01
''Souvenir de Mauve'' may be his imagined landscape for a series of orchard or just garden. Van Gogh made about ten works with same composition. The Kröller-Müller Museum owns probably best one among them. When ''van Gogh'' was not yet famous, the rich collector Helene Müller was able to select the most excellent work.

Vincent van Gogh was an unique man as a man of letter-writing. He needed really to tell what is going on in his mind. He wrote and wrote about his paintings to his younger brother Theo [note 5].

Nowadays you can read Vincent's letters, and perhaps monologue too. Jo, Wife of Theo van Gogh read all his letters and diaries and organized them. It's patient efort for the publication. If Jo would not have done it today's great deel of his fame might not have existed [note 6].

'The First Lesson' or 'The Banjo Lesson' 1893
painted by ‎Henry Ossawa Tanner (21 June 1859 – 25 May 1937)'


This oil-painting on canvas would be one of pioneer as a scean of Black people's daily life. The painter is first recognizable artist of African American individual, who was 6 years younger than Van Gogh. Banjo was a typical music instrument in the era of southern plantation, and the child could be Old Joh's grandson. Henry Ossawa Tanner made hereof a heartwarming realism with careful brush work which contrasts very much with passionate touch of Van Gogh. Its color is a sober, it could be a little like a Jean-Francois Millet who supported Van Gogh and had great influence on him

When Tanner was born the war was going to break out. It began in 1861, then Foster became alone, being left through daughter and his wife Jane Denny McDowell, girlfriend of childhood, reportedly having bad relationship with them caused by poverty. He could not profit from his sold music scorebook.[note 7].

A year before the war-end in 1864 Foster got heavy fever in a Manhattan's cheap hotel. Reportedly, yes theres was no evidence what happened then with him, a couple of days later he died in a hospital. It's 13th January 1864 at age 37 and 6 months. All his performance is about 200 of songwriting by himself. A wellknown episode is that 38 cents in Civil War scrip and three pennies were found in his leather wallet.


Vincent van Gogh was not such poverty as Foster. He had a great brother who supported him entirely. It may be said luxury-life so that he could concentrate his lifework without income, being always single.

In 1889 it looked like his ''uprising'' that his name became a little known in Paris and Belgium by means of Theo's Gallery-activity. He moved from Mediterranean sea-side to near by Paris, and rented an attic of hotel Ravoux in Auvers. He could earn money first time by selling only one painting.

In the attic he produced a lot of paintings and study-copies of established painters
[note 8]. Reportedly he did suicide to shoot own breast due to his psychosis, therefor he stayed a year ago in the hospital at Saint-Rémy. According to research in 21 century no pistol was found., but there were two young men with him. Could be just accidents during doing something. He died on 29 July 1890 in hospital two days later of the accident. He is at age 37 and 4 months. All his performance is sketches and paintings of roughly 900.

1. "My Old Kentucky Home" may be official state song of Kentucky. The song "Camptown Races" (known 草競馬) may be doubtful as a work of Foster according some specialists. "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair"became the motif of the Anime series on Japanese TV.in 1980s. And in 1992-1993 another Anime 52 episodes ''The Girl in the Wind: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (風の中の少女 金髪のジェニー) was broadcasted by Nippon Animation.

3. In other cases, however, translators realized great work which includes pure deep meanings from original text. But I have to say that Translation of Foster's minstrel songs seems to be not such case. It sounds beautiful in Japanese with Japanese Tanka style. Tanka means a short poem, has a rule of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables.

4. Someone who loves Foster's music is often that he might have very warm hart and understand deeply Negro in connection with Slavery. It may be natural way of feeling in 21 century why they think so, because of beautiful melody and humane text that he made in 19 century. There are, however, hardly concrete information about his way of life. He lived in the center of slavery era in US. It was a society where discrimination and prejudice did not seem to be what words really mean. He was a 'white', and audience of the blackface show was 'white' as well. It was certainly not easy for black people to enjoy entertainment or something in theater. There was steep and strong wall between White and Negro. Foster might concentrate to create only successful lirics and melodies, used his capability at most without sympathy for Negro. .

5.. At January 2015 we type out keyboard or just touch on liquid panel In order to communicate with someone who is in somewhere far from you, .Even you can see the person in small monitor and talk with him. That's our way of communication on everyday life.

6. Jo, wife of Theo contributed for the great fame of Vincent as art-business-woman and Translater.. The sister-in-law of the painter married with Johan Cohen Gosschalk in 1901 after death of Theo and became again widow in 1912.. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger (1862-1925) was often busy with translation the letter of Vincent.

7. Abraham Lincoln got his inaugration as the president.That became a trigger of the war.
8. Vincent mental condition was unstable, for example, did not want going out.

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ken minatoya

Author:ken minatoya
Victor Westhoff(1916-2001)碑文Hij observeertからのHNを本名と苗字に先立つ屋号に変更。ウエストホフは生物フローラの相互生息環境を丹念に観察したBiotop概念の先駆者。ザザーッとフィールドを歩きつつ、こぼれ見える外史/雑人/雑草の風景


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