Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Translation Funding

Due to unforeseen delays in European funding sources, I am looking for financial assistance with the translation fee for Henri's journal of his day-to-day 1853 voyage across Peru and Brazil. If you are able to donate, please visit my IndieGoGo crowdsource funding site here. 100% of all funds raised will go directly to translation. If you are able to donate there are some thank you gifts, from signed copies of the printed book, to an archival print reproduction of one of Henri's original drawings from his voyage. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Perspective on Henri

In some old family papers I found a small journal which contained transcribed letters from the 19th century. They were addressed to Natalie de Freudenreich, Henri's second wife and were written around the time of their engagement in 1860. Natalie was Henri's first cousin and lived with her family at the Château de Monnaz, in the Canton of Vaud.

At first I could not figure out who the letters were from, but after deciphering many clues within them, I have concluded that they are from Adèle de Rougemont, daughter of Frédéric de Rougement a contemporary of Henri's father and author of over 50 books on Geography, Ethnography and Theology.

Natalie de Freudenreich

Château de Monnaz

A passage from one letter seems to indicate that Natalie and Henri were a great match and both cared deeply about those less fortunate.

“That the most gracious God blesses you abundantly, and allows you to do all the good that you wish around the ancient manor. It's true the times of the troubadours have passed. No passing minstrel will immortalize a song of love to you beneath it’s windows. Hopefully in exchange however, you will hear the joyous voices of poor children, who will celebrate the goodness of their young lady of the manor. The de Büren’s of Vaumarcus are well known in the area for their generosity towards the poor and Mr de Büren was very wise to choose you to become a partner in his charitable works. He could not have found a more compatible mate in caring about orphaned children or the miseries endured by the sick.“

While these indications of Henri's charity are eight years after his return from his voyage to the Americas, the roots of his empathy are present during his voyage. As a case in point he lauds a school for orphans, Girard College in Philadelphia as "the most beautiful building ever erected in the name of charity."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time Capsule with Natasha Proietto

My project was highlighted today on Time Capsule, a feature of World Radio Switzerland. A big thanks Natasha Proietto for the exposure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asa Gray's Botanical Garden

While staying at the home of Louis Agassiz in Boston in 1852, (as mentioned in a previous post) Henri de Büren, explorer, naturalist and artist, paid a visit to Asa Gray and spent some time with him in his botanical garden. Henri speaks with great warmth about Gray in his letter home to his father, describes the incredible natural diversity of the United States and expresses his reverence for certain tree species he discovered in the U.S. I have assembled botanical prints of those he mentioned:

Elm Tree

Hickory Tree

Magnolia Tree

Tulip Tree

Sassafras Tree

Tupelo Tree

Friday, June 11, 2010

Swiss Army Share the Adventure Contest

Last month I recently entered the following video in the Swiss Army Share the Adventure contest. I felt my project would be a good fit for the contest given that my explorer great-great-grandfather was Swiss and that retracing his original journey is going to make for a compelling adventure.

I found out this week that I won the monthly prize and as a result will be part of the group vying for the $25 K year-end grand prize.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If Henri had travelled with an iPod – Part 1

From the very beginning of this project, I have wondered what music Henri de Büren listened to while he traveled and what music he missed from home.

I am breaking up my findings into European music he may have taken with him – had the iPod existed – and in a second post I will try and find examples of music he may have heard while traveling through the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Brazil.

Early Romantic Music (1800-1850).
My assumption for this exercise is that he would have been taken with him music from early romantic artists.

From Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.
"Romanticism does not necessarily apply to romantic love, but that theme was prevalent in many works composed during this time period. More appropriately, romanticism describes the expansion of formal structures within a composition, making the pieces more passionate and expressive. Because of the expansion of form (those elements pertaining to form, key, instrumentation and the likes) within a typical composition, it became easier to identify an artist based on the work. For example, Beethoven favored a smooth transition from the 3rd to 4th movement in his symphonies, and thus his pieces are more distinguishable. Overall, composers during this time expanded on formal ideas in a new and exciting way.

The era of Romantic music is defined in this article as the period of European classical music that runs roughly from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to around the end of the 19th century, as well as music written according to the norms and styles of that period. The Romantic period was preceded by the classical period, and was followed by the modernist period.

Romantic music is related to romanticism in literature, visual arts, and philosophy, though the conventional time periods used in musicology are very different from their counterparts in the other arts, which define "romantic" as running from the 1780s to the 1840s. The Romantic movement held that not all truth could be deduced from axioms, that there were inescapable realities in the world which could only be reached through emotion, feeling and intuition. Romantic music struggled to increase emotional expression and power to describe these deeper truths, while preserving or even extending the formal structures from the classical period."

The Music
I have chosen a couple of pieces that Henri probably heard.

1. Frédéric Chopin – Nocturne in C# minor

3. Hector Berlioz – Ballet des sylphes

4. Niccolò Paganini – Cantabile

5. Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Friday, June 4, 2010


While on the Amazon in 1853, Henri de Büren, explorer, naturalist and artist, ate a great deal of salted fish. He says the fish was Pirarucu. The Pirarucu is a South American tropical freshwater fish related to the catfish. It is a living fossil and one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. It it said that the Pirarucu is so large and agile it can jump out of the river to eat small birds.

That is one big fish.

The Pirarucu Legend

Pirarucu was an indian who belonged to the Uaiás tribe that lived around the Lábrean plains in the Southwestern Amazon. He was a brave, but heartless warrior, even though Pindarô, his father and chief of the tribe, was a good man.

Pirarucu was full of vanities, egoism and excessively proud of his power. While his father visited with friendly neighboring tribes, Pirarucu took advantage of his absence to take village people hostage and execute them for any reason. He also criticized the gods.

Tupã, the god of the gods, observed Pirarucu for a long time, until, tired of the man's behavior, he decided to punish Pirarucu. Tupã called Polo and demanded that he spread his most powerful lightening in the whole area. He also called Iururaruaçú, the goddess of torrents, and demanded that she provoke the strongest torrents of rain over Pirarucú, who was fishing along with other indians on the margins of the Tocantins river, not so far from the longhouse.

The fires of Tupã were seen throughout the forest. When Pirarucu saw the wild waters of the river, and heard the voice and felt the hate of Tupã, he just ignored them with a laugh and crazy words. Then, Tupã sent Xandoré, the demon that hates men, who threw lightenings and thunder that filled the air and cut it with sparks. Pirarucu tried to escape, but while he ran among the falling branches and trees, a lightening bolt sent by Xandoré, struck into the heart of the warrior who refused to ask for forgiviness.

All of those who were with Pirarucu ran from the jungle in total fright, while the body of Pirarucu, still alive, was taken to the depths of the Tocantins river and transformed into a giant and dark fish. Pirarucu remained there and for a long time he was the terror of the region.

1950s Lima

While most of my posts revolve around Henri de Büren, or his voyage, I found these postcards from my grandparent's trip to South America in 1960 and felt they were appropriate. In my film I will be touching upon how the countries that Henri travelled to have changed over the last 150 years after all.

My grandfather was returning to Argentina, the country of his birth, to visit his family and stopped for a number of days in Lima. Instead of taking photographs my grandmother collected postcards on their trip. The following postcards showcase 1950s Lima.

La Catedral, Lima

Plaza San Martín, Lima

Portales de la Plaza de Armas, Lima

Avenida Tacna, Lima, 1957

Palacio Arzobispal, Lima, 1951

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Amazon at Night

In a beautiful passage from the later part of Henri de Büren's journal, he describes what it is like to be on the Amazon river at night. I imagine Henri in a long canoe with Indian oarsmen, rowing and singing while the forest is alive around him. I have done my best the capture the moment.

Loreto, Peru, October 3, 1853
The songs and the melancholy cries of the Indians mix well with the sounds that abound in the Amazon at night. It is quite an amazing effect. During the day, we hardly see any animals on the river banks or in the trees, and rarely do we hear any animal sounds. At night on the other hand, the cries, hoots and singing never ceases. You hear roars of tigers, hisses of serpents, croaking of frogs and the calls of birds. Sounds of turtles and otters entering the water, river dolphins coming up for air or thousands of fish moving just beneath the surface. The singing of so many birds, such as parrots and toucans, some with very melodious voices. Add to this the lush vegetation that surrounds the river reaching into the waters below. A full moon that leaves a long trail of light on the water’s surface that is so clear and still it is like glass. This same light also filters through the tall tress to cast long shadows on the copper colored bodies of our oarsmen. Imagine all of this and you could almost be in my Amazon canoe with me.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...