Sunday, December 07, 2008

I read criticism of Rostropovich’s playing of the cello suite’s prelude (in this thread on youtube) as accelerated, and feel very strongly that they are missing the point. Bach in general and that piece in particular is not meant to evoke tears or certainties of emotion—it can, and does, but that is as a side-effect of the music’s central motion, which is creation. That’s why I think so much more highly of Rostropovich’s performance than I do of Minsky’s, with his gently specific romantic coloring, striving hard to make the music something different than its wholeness is.

Listening to Rostropovich play the piece is very much like the thrill of having an honest and profound thought – then another – then another – in a continuous chain of perception which you would want to write down but for the fear that the process would cause you to lose all but maybe one partial shadow of the ideas themselves, let alone their relationship to one another. This is why Rostropovich’s rendition is so true, it has the velocity of creative thought as its tempo. You have an idea, and you’re in its harmony, then it takes itself in an unexpected relational direction, and you astonish yourself to have housed this inspiration; then it expands again, and suddenly its expansion is its theme, it keeps changing more into itself and intensifying until it doesn’t know if it’s breaking apart or fully realizing itself (that part which first shadows at ~ 1:30 and then flowers around 12 seconds later), then it gets to stop in a satisfied sudden fullness. The Minsky, beautiful as it is, is just a little too much like letting Cordelia live on to marry Edgar for my taste. His ending does have a gorgeous gentle pleading to it, and I love hearing that too, but to my ear it misses the point I need most from the piece.

That said, what do I know, right? I don’t even know what that final motion is called. But I’m speaking from a personal need. Listening to these I’m beginning to form a sense of how my poems can move musically. By musically I don’t mean just the sonics of syllables but the proportion and structure of a poem’s progression as a whole, how it can support itself as it rediscovers what has never been covered up by anything other than its own initial misconceptions (you can tell I’m pretty far from Bach right now, but that’s probably because I’m pretty far from Bach); how the composition of the poem can lead the reader to feel as if they’re having their own realizations, or have them, as if there’s a difference. I suppose it’s hard to describe right now, it’s more a feeling in my chest, but I don’t often have this sort of re-evaluative moment in regards to my poetry, this may be the first time in, I don’t know, 12 years? So hard as it is to describe, I imagine I’ll be doing so, in my poems and in my coming to terms with what I want from them, for some time.

Just for fullness, here’s a link to Casals playing (music starts ~ 50 seconds in). The piece really is a document of astonishing changes and of opposites harmoniously reconciled, negative capability speaking sonically for itself.

And I want to say, I don't mean to belittle the incredible beauty of any of these renditions by comparing them--they really are all extraordinary--I'm trying to make a point important to me as an artist myself, and from that place I'm very comfortable saying what I have.

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