It gets on my nerves sometimes that some people don't understand that it is possible to think, and talk about something, about life, whatever, without sounding like a stuffed opposum, or a computer.
Sometimes I think that since we invented the machines, particularly the calculating kind, we have taken it upon ourselves to ressemble them more and more. Like.. the machines are perfection. Look : they don't die, they don't make mistakes (!!!!! well, yes, they make "mistakes", but we are continually convinced that THEIR mistakes are OUR fault...).
A little bit of observation would enable us to understand that the machines... run down, make mistakes, wear out, conk out, DIE, if you like in a DIFFERENT WAY than we do, but, well, they too are subject to the inevitable bulldozer destruction of TIME, so, well, maybe we shouldn't see our SALVATION in them, or be constantly belittling ourselves in comparison to them.
This morning I was listening to Philippe Cassard's program on our national public radio, wherein he presented and analyzed several Brahms lieder, accompanying a Canadian soprano.
I have been listening to Philippe Cassard for quite some time now.
(I beg forgiveness from my readers if I have already spoken about him at length here.)
Philippe is a talented classical pianist AND he analyzes classical music with great sensitivity, subtility, and finesse.
He plays music AND talks about it.
That is NO MEAN FEAT. It is almost as difficult to talk about music as it is to talk about wine, or odors, for example.
But Philippe does it very well. And his program is a lesson in how to combine analytic thinking AND sensitivity/emotion.
We NEED to achieve this combination in my opinion. I will come back to this in the future.
But where is the melancoly ?
I first met Brahms seriously when I was 26, and was preparing a concert of A German Requiem at the time my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. I never sang the Requiem, (I had to take off across the Atlantic for the funeral) but it brought me unspeakable comfort and consolation, along with Brahms' First Symphony, during the long ordeal (for me..) of my father's death.
Through the years, I have felt tremendous gratitude towards this man who was dead long before I was born for the music that has kept me propped up in trying times.
Through the years, our relationship has blossomed, become more complex, as I have got to know him better, through his music.
Philippe knows a lot about Brahms that he shares in his programs. The fact that Brahms knew his Bible by heart, for example. (That is evident when listening to him.) That he had an intimate, personal relationship with God, and that, like many people in the 19th century Romantic movement, he worked hard to find exactly WHAT he believed, and what he could believe in. That his idea of God was definitely not a pre packaged one.
I don't think that Brahms had pre packaged ideas or beliefs anywhere, anyway.
He was an insatiable reader. Curious about everything. And a wanderer, like so many other Romantics. Upon arriving in a new place, he would search out schools, assemblies, to hear the music the people were singing/playing. (Germany has always been a country where music has a vital, living place in the culture. How's music doing these days, Toby ?)
Brahms did not often use great poems and literature to compose around, because he believed that poetry... well, it was self sufficient, and that it was disrespectful to set a great poem, and a great poet to music. As someone who writes poetry, I understand, and respect that.
One of his exceptions is.. the Rhapsody for Alto and Men's Choir, set to one of Goethe's greatest poems, I think. A poem that must have spoken particularly to Goethe, AND to Brahms. A kind of manifesto about modern man and his incapacity to believe, or be comforted.
A poem that speaks particularly to me, now...
I will write it on the blog for the next post.
Sadness is in the air today, for me. The mood will last a while.
You know... we really cannot escape the consciousness of our own mortality.
We can stick death and suffering somewhere in a corner, and pretend they don't exist, (we can stick our old people out of sight in nursing homes, and our dying in the hospitals) but they WON'T STAY in the corner. We can pretend that the consciousness of our mortality is an illness too, and trivialize our noblest, most beautiful, and subtlest feelings while sticking reductionist labels on them to try to make our pain and fear more bearable.
But in spite of all this effort... the consciousness of our mortality will not go away.
Best to look for ways to be comforted, I say, than try to pretend that death and suffering don't exist, trivialize them, or turn them into illness...
And our whole civilization, in the course of its history, has produced a multitude of beautiful expressions that can accompany us to comfort us in the face of death and suffering.
And we can SHARE in the expressions of our ancestors to find continuity with them AND comfort at the same time.
You know... if you TAKE THE TIME to sit down with a beautiful Brahms lieder, READING THE WORDS WHILE LISTENING TO THE MUSIC, you will hear how the music and the words go together in an inimitable way. It would be simplistic to talk about "illustration", because the music does not illustrate the words. It's more complicated than that. The relationship between music and words is... beyond words, you know ?
Next time, Goethe. Promise.