Friday, July 11, 2014

If Music Be The Food...

11th July 2014

All summer long Aspen enjoys a much celebrated music festival. Like everything else Aspen it is expensive, but if you go about it right, you can enjoy fantastic music all summer long for a song (so to speak.) And it is so important to get music into your life, because as Victor Hugo said, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." Music is the vehicle; the human heart is the freight. So, get chugging. If the spectrum of human creativity stretches from physics at one end through writing and poetry as you get to the opposite end, it ends with music. Whereas good poetry almost bypasses the intellect, music lies beyond the reach of intellect altogether, which is why it is so powerful. It gets you at the quick.
To beat a well worn gong of mine: modern art, including modern music, has lost sight of that maxim, and so we run into the thinking of the artist instead of the non-speaking zone. Modern poetry has lost its proximity to music, which is why it has also given up on rhyme. The tradition in modern poetry has been to mimic the spoken word, and so it has lost its musicality. It's a good thing music can't lose its musicality - or can it? Listen to Benjamin Britten and you might think otherwise. Last year Aspen music festival did a run on Britten to celebrate his centenary, and there were so many complaints (and not just because people are being unimaginative - think of the Emperor's Clothes) but because it doesn't chime with the upward beat of the heart.
Kahlil Gibran said, "Music is the language of the spirit."  This year, to make up, the festival laid on some favourites: I just went to hear Beethoven's 5th. Oh yes, it is an old chesnutty piece, but people fill the tent. Yesterday I went to hear Joshua Bell play Bruch's violin concerto, and I thought I might bleed all over the floor. Why? A woman I know met me outside the tent and placed her hand over her heart. "Oh," she said, "the music." Yes, the music.  Every time I sit through one of these pieces, my eyes well up, though I remain doggedly determined not to let a tear fall. Why? It's embarrassing; we live in an age of stony silence. Sentiment is highly suspect. People would think me over the top. I am over the top. Always have been. Bleeding is the thing I do best. But I am a Brit who should have been born an Italian and then the tears would have been able to flow, and I wouldn't be in this battle between feeling and decorum. Bruch's violin concerto takes a dagger and plunges it into the heart. It makes me cry. What can I say? It makes other people cry, too. So it is doing the job of the unspeakable art. It is speaking to the ragged heart.

When I signed a copy of my book for a music teacher recently, I wrote in the inscription: "Yes, but music is better."
I am told there is a statue of Mozart in Salzburg with the inscription Die Macht der Musik (I like that in German both power and music are feminine - sometimes languages give much away!) The Power of Music. Like I told my teacher friend, music is still the best, the thing on our armour that shines the brightest.

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