Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whole Astrology Spotlight on French Pianist Helene Grimaud--Playing with Wolves (Part One)

The last thought that comes into our minds while we sit in a concert hall watching a virtuoso pianist are wolves. Unless we are watching a production of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Yet, even the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould sported a love for animals. 

I once read that he dreamed of buying an island to house unwanted animals. And he was a vegetarian. So why was so I delightfully surprised when I learned that French pianist Helene Grimaud founded a wolf conservation center in New York?

Originally, I pitched an article on Grimaud to Mountain Astrologer and the editor rejected my pitch. So I stuffed my research notes and charts into a folder and tried to forget about it. Only I found my research compelling enough to revisit it during this Mercury Retrograde (Virgo which rules details and research, along with Scorpio). And Grimaud just happens to have her Jupiter in Libra along with her Natal Venus, Uranus, and Moon. So it will be interesting to see what 'refinement" and "harmony" she brings to the world between now and next October when Jupiter moves into Scorpio, her Sun Sign (her Natal Mercury and Neptune are also in Scorpio).

So let's look at the planetary placements by sign and house in her Natal Chart. Helene Grimaud was born on November 7, 1969, just as that powerful decade was ending. Her outer planets Neptune and Pluto are at the last degrees of Scorpio and Virgo. Uranus was at 6 degrees Libra, Saturn was in the first degrees of Taurus and Jupiter was at 22 degrees Libra.

While she has no Singleton's in her chart, she does have two focalizers in the form of a Triple Conjunction that includes her Sun/Mercury/Neptune and a Stellium which includes her moon conjunct Uranus along with Jupiter conjunct Venus (an illustrious career/good fortune). Pluto in Virgo is a stone's throw from the Libra Stellium. And all of this falls in the 8th to 11th Houses, with most of the planets landing in the 9th and 10th houses.

Mars in Aquarius (iconic) falls late in the First House and Saturn in Taurus is on the Cusps of the Fourth House (home, country of birth, and even Provence where she was born, has a Taurus feel to it. Her North Node in Pisces (which rules music and spirituality) falls in her Second House of values, gifts, and resources.

As part of my research, I watched several performances as well as, documentaries and interviews of Grimaud. I also read her memoir, Wild Harmonies where she reflects on her childhood in Provence, her early acceptance into a music conservatory in Paris, and her passion for wolves. I also brought in my research of a similar singular musician, Glenn Gould who had his Sun in Libra and his Saturn in an Earth Sign, Capricorn. His North Node also fell in Pisces (which brings in the compassion for animals and a career in music). He also had a Triple Conjunction in a Fixed Sign, but in this case, Leo which would have given him a propensity for showmanship. Though I wonder why this Leo Triple Conjunction played out more like a Triple Conjunction in Aquarius as Gould was iconoclastic and eccentric. Still, even in his most hermit phase, he still grabbed the media spotlight.

When I read about Grimaud's childhood in Provence that revolved her finding her calling with music and her primal nature, this brought her Triple Conjunction in Scorpio to my mind. This Triple Conjunction that falls in her 10 and 11th House cusp, shapes the way the public eye views her. And she does project a primal energy while she performs with that Scorpionic glacial expression in her wolf-like eyes.

In her memoir, Wild Harmonies (A Life of Music and Wolves), the pianist describes her bond with nature as a child growing up in Provence. "I loved dissolving into the landscape. Crouch down, all ears. Waiting for who knows what, amid the screeching of cicadas." She mentions her intrigue about rabbits, donkeys, and goats. And according to her early childhood memories, she spent a great deal of time in the wilds of her French home.

She also gives a description in her memoir that reveals how her Libra Stellium played out in her childhood. She talks about symmetry when she cut one of her legs and then created a matching wound in her other leg. The Scorpio Triple Conjunction also came into play.

"I don't know anymore if it was out of a desire for symmetry or from the need to re-create--with the same intensity and pleasure--the wonderful pain of the needles that stitched me up, but I ended up feeling the need to wound the other side of my body..."

Now, it's interesting to have someone's natal chart handy while I read their memoir. It's as if the Natal Chart comes alive for me and I'm dealing with a flesh and blood person. It also helped me to watch her performances and her interpretation of mostly the Romantic composers she admired. She has a passion for Russian composers which makes sense in a way given the nature of her Natal Chart.

Even though she has Saturn in an Earth Sign on the cusps of the Fourth House, she has a propensity for foreign lands. Saturn opposes the Scorpio MC and 9th House of the foreigner. While Uranus, Jupiter, Moon, and Venus occupy the 9th House in Libra (diplomacy, world travel, iconoclast).  Saturn also forms stressful aspect with Chiron in Aries (so there are wounds associated with the childhood home or childhood).

She also has a Capricorn Ascendant which forms a square with Uranus. This suggests a person who is willing to work hard and take a slower route to fulfilling a mission. But since the square is with Uranus in Libra, Helene would also not be a stranger to upsetting the proverbial apple cart. Her chart is wired for rebelling against tradition, whether that's the traditions she grew up with in France or traditions with symphonic music.

In the relationship and partnership realm, she would not act as a typical Libra (I'm referring to her four planets in Libra, even though she has a Scorpio Sun), who is bent on marriage and forming partnerships. Uranus in Libra suggests that she prefers her independence and with Jupiter also in Libra she's not someone who wants to stay put in one place. Exploration and travel give her a sense of peace. Every other situation would feel like confinement and this would cause her to rebel at some point. Yet, that Capricorn Ascendant and Saturn in Taurus in the Fourth House wants a stable home life so this sets up a real challenging conflict in which Helene would strive constantly for balance. She most likely finds this balance in Venus themes mainly with nature and animals, as in large animals represented by Taurus.

I also would like to mention one last thing about a person with Saturn in Taurus in the Fourth House and that is she came from a traditional background. Her parents represented Corsica (rebellious and traditional) and Provence (probably your most conservative and traditional region of France). Both Corsicans and people of Provence rigidly hold on to traditions, language, and rebel against the established order. This defiance also comes out in Grimaud, especially in her relationship with wolves.

An added note, Grimaud also mentions that she was hyperactive as a child and had problems with school. This is represented by Mars in the rebellious and genius sign Aquarius falling in the First House which is naturally ruled by Aries which rules childhood and children. It also rules child prodigies in which Grimaud fits wonderfully. After she began taking piano lessons (after trying a series of other ventures), her genius was discovered. She quickly outgrew her teachers' expertise and was only 13 when she entered the conservatory in Paris.

This ends Part One of my astrological exploration of Pianist Helene Grimaud. In the subsequent article, I will explore her depression years and her life with wolves.

Quotes from Wild Harmonies (A Life of Music and Wolves) by Helene Grimaud, Riverhead Books, New York, 2006.

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