By Gomez de Mirabeau
Who knew that my little Mexican jumping bean alter-ego was so introspective? He is a secret note taker, compulsively noting his responses to a bewildering variety of artistic stimuli. In an effort to neaten up his corner of my hollow head, I offer the following remnants.
Someone I wish I had had as a professor, William Fleming, wrote in his college text “Concerts of the Arts: Their Interplay and Modes of Relationship” [dry title, right?]: “ . . . it is against the nature of works of art, and of the arts in general, to perform solo. Rather they tend to grow in concert toward an orchestral companionship.” I love those last two words.
German mathematician/philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) wrote that music is “an unconscious mathematical exercise of the soul.” Well, you would expect a mathematician to say that, but he does cover “both bases”—the scientific ordering of the notes, and the expressive soul quality. If only he had lived longer, and had been able hear the mature works of JS Bach. It is said that Bach had Leibniz’ works in his personal library.
Symbolist artist Gustave Moreau, creator of so many mysterious, richly ornamented paintings of biblical and mythological figures: “God is cruel to artists like the bird keeper to the bird, gouging out their eyes that they might sing better.” Ouch. Don’t call PETA, I’m just quoting. Besides, he died in 1898, and was speaking metaphorically. But have you seen the really late paintings of Claude Monet, those done after his blindness? We always think of the serene lilacs of the “Water Lily” series, the bucolic “Haystacks,” “Poplars,” or Rouen cathedral. But in the late works, the violence and emotional pain is right there on the surface, in a palette of reds, blacks, and grating color clashes. The Japanese footbridge has become a vortex of torment.
Novalis (1772-1801, an early Romantic period German writer and philosopher): “Every illness is a musical problem—its cure a musical solution.” What a statement for anyone dealing with chronic illness.
Constant Lambert (1905-1951), author of “Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline,” which was written in 1934 mind you, by a now nearly forgotten British composer and critic: “The loudspeaker is the streetwalker of music.” I guess that’s where the “ho” comes in?
Following closely on his heels is George Steiner (b. 1929): “A Muzak of the sublime envelops us.” I am guilty as charged whenever I listen to a Bach cantata on my iPod. Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) said that the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction loses its “aura” and is somehow cheapened by too much familiarity. Hmm.
When was the last time you enjoyed one of those numerous trashy TV celebrity gossip or entertainment news channels? Come on, you KNOW you do. Well, none other than Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007), who faced his share of tattle, especially in his later years, as his cancellations grew along with his girth and health problems, said the following: “The God of today is negative gossip.” Who says tenors are dumb? Not me!
Russian-born conductor Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951), legendary leader of the Boston Symphony and founder of the Tanglewood Festival; “An interpreter must recognize that he is working not only on a score but also on himself.” That sums it all up, for me!
If any of these quotes intrigue you, why not investigate some of the writings, art, or music by their authors? With today’s overwhelming internet access, it’s easier than ever to begin! Muchas gracias.
© 2011 by Frank Daykin, for Innovative Music Programs