Personal

My Life

This page is eternally under construction.

Poetry

I’m not a poet (obviously). However, I like to play with the language and from time to time I entertain myself by translating a poem or a song from language X to language Y (mostly from English, Russian or Italian) to English or Italian. It often happens that I stumble across a translation of my favorite poem and I think to myself “Oh, this one really sucks!” And then I have the motivation to try producing my own version. It takes a lot of attention to details. I also write my own verses, but I don’t think it’s likely that I’m ever going to share them.

E venga pure duro il domani — a random sample of my attempts to translate poems from different languages into Italian and little stories related to them. 

And here is another random sample of my English translations of Russian and Italian poetry.

My LyricsTranslate profile page.

Music

My parents, both music school survivors, decided not to include music as part of my education. I think I’m never going to forgive them for this. However, more or less from my teenage years I was a real aficionado of classical music (first Beethoven and then Chopin, and other Romantic composers) and opera (mainly Verdi, but then my taste shifted to Puccini and other verismo composers). I took singing classes for several years (without being particularly good at it), and later piano classes (to which I dedicated much more effort.) Very few other joys can be compared to the joy of being able to play your favorite music in your own way. I do spend endless hours trying to find the right sound, the right way to express my interpretation of pieces that I’ve always adored as a child (of course, within the reach of my technical skills.)

Adagio sostenuto from Beethoven’s immortal 14th piano sonata (a.k.a. “Moonlight”). Played on a Yamaha G5 at our Faculty. Now that we have this marvelous grand piano, I’m going to post from time to time my (unserious) attempts to interpret (serious) music.

Nocturne in C# minor (op. posth.)

Prelude No. 15 in E minor (a.k.a. “Raindrop”) from Chopin’s opus 28 with scenes from Nolan’s Inception movie as a backdrop. The citation in the beginning is adapted from Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri.

Prelude No. 4 in E minor from Chopin’s opus 28.

Prelude No. 7 in E minor from Chopin’s opus 28.

Prelude No. 20 in C minor from Chopin’s opus 28.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Unserious video shooting and editing, unserious piano playing. The only serious guy is Neri Topchiu on the double bass. Recorded at my home in Haifa.

A piece from Joplin’s The Entertainer. Played on an old Steinway from the 70’s at MFO in Oberwolfach. A fringe benefit of going to German math conferences.

Storytelling

Writing technical papers doesn’t fully satisfy my graphomaniac ambitions. For an inexplicable reason, I find it fascinating to write something that nobody is going to publish, or few people are going to read. I have a “bucket list” of random thoughts, ideas, observations, events or just feelings; from time to time, I dig something out of that list and write an essay about it. Long and boring flights are particularly suited for that.

A secret chord — what is that secret chord that makes Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah such a hit?

No peace until the stars endNon potho reposare amore e coro… what makes this a quintessential Sardinian song? The iconic voice of Andrea Parodi that better fits Sanremo than a rural sagra? The verses of the Nuorese lawyer in sardo logudorese that Parodi didn’t speak? Or the music in tempo di valse, not exactly in the style of launeddas? No, it’s a sixteenth-century tale of love and hatred that wouldn’t shame Shakespeare (or Cervantes).

Never forgotten — In 1981, amidst the Cold War, in the Soviet Union goes on stage the irreverent rock opera Juno and Avos, very well remembered for the famous romance Ты меня на рассвете разбудишь (At the dawn you will come to awake me). This tale of love between the Russian Count Nikolai Rezanov and the Californian Spanish Concepcion Arguello is based on a real story. But how accurately is it recounted in the opera? I’m sharing some findings from my own little research.

An E minor homecoming — Sand, see, and sunshine — it is difficult to imagine the island of Mallorca without any of these. It was exactly these features that Frédéric Chopin and Aurore Dupin (better known under her pen name George Sand) were looking for in 1838 but found an inhospitable Mediterranean winter instead. However, their sojourn on the island was not completely fruitless — it was there, in the sturdy, dark, and cold cell of an abandoned Carthusian convent in Valldemossa that Chopin composed (or, at least, completed) his immortal cycle of 24 piano preludes, including the very famous No. 4 in E minor. Did it really reflect the spooky claustral ambiance? And why does it sound so incredibly touching?

His Master’s voice — Contemporary art, a famous music record label, and the Big Bang theory — how do they all connect together?

Like the last ray of May — Osip Mandelstam challenging the Kremlin’s Highlinder with his suicidal epigram, Joseph Brodsky showing his middle finger to the Soviet authorities, André Chénier’s cry of anger, frustration, and vengeance resounding from the scaffold through generations of writers, Mario Cavaradossi’s fleeting memories… and the story of my true great-grandparents and my foster great-grandmother Anna entangled with the sounds of Chopin’s C minor prelude. One word unites them: freedom.

L’invitation au voyage — a post-modernist rhapsody about drugs and the meaning of life. The title is (obviously) stolen from Baudelaire but the essay is (mostly) in English.

In their own image — a short science fiction story reflecting about intelligence and the origin of life.

Filmmaking

A picture is worth a thousand words (dealing with computer vision, I can translate the latter into a statement on the intrinsic dimensionality of the representation space required for natural images and natural languages.) Anyway, sometimes a film can have a much stronger impact than a written text. From time to time — usually related to some important occasions — I film and/or edit movies.

La storia del piccolo principe e della piccola principessa — a funny video that I and my wife Susy projected at our wedding party in Sardinia in 2005. It tells (a slightly romanticized version of) our story. Italian with English subtitles, set to the Shrek movie soundtrack. Computer graphics in Lightwave.

לתת — dedicated to my wife Susy based on our wedding photos taken in Haifa by Yossi Shrem in 2005 and set to Boaz Sharabi’s song (of course, the version performed by Ofra Haza).

I’m a new soul — a video dedicated to my son Daniel (when he was a baby). Projected at Daniel’s first birthday party in Sardinia in 2014. Set to the homonymous Yael Naim’s song and filmed around the globe.

La vita è bella — a video dedicated to my daughter Emily (when she was a baby). Projected at her first birthday party, again in Sardinia in 2016. Set to the soundtrack from Benigni’s film with the title song by Noa. Filmed around the globe.

Pirates of the Carribean — my attempt to shoot a music clip of Hans Zimmer’s music from the homonymous film. Performance by serious musicians, Sasha Naginski and Neri Topchiu, of their original arrangement for piano and double bass. Filmed at my home in Haifa.