Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Messiaen disc 15

La Transfiguration de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ
    Deuxième Septénaire (parts 8-15)

I'm staring down my keyboard, knowing I have to write a few things, unsure where to start.

This little exercise of mine, listening to this 32-CD Messiaen box set and writing thoughts as I do, all seems trivial at the moment. Yesterday Donald Trump ordered military police to clear away peaceful protestors (within their rights on public land) with tear gas and force, so he could walk across the street to St. John's Church. The purpose, in addition to appearing tough on baddies, was to have a photo op of him smugly holding up a bible. A book he's never read nor has any understanding of its contents. Violence against citizens for image.

I can't think of a more loathsome person. Perhaps all of his sycophantic enablers, such as Mitch McConnell, William Barr, Fox "News", Jerry Falwell Jr, etc etc, and his far-too-many supporters. I don't understand any of it.

For as much as I hate this so-called president, I also pity him in some respects. That pity wouldn't allow for mercy, given the chance, but there's a tiny part of me that feels sorry for him. He doesn't know empathy. He doesn't know beauty. I'm sure he doesn't understand or enjoy art, or music, or literature. Everything is acquisition. Everything is power, favors, image, money. What a sad, pathetic, weak human being he is.

This is who America elected president (sort-of). Thanks a bunch, assholes.

This is not an act of resistance, but I refuse to allow him to take my enjoyment of music. I believe music doesn't necessarily need to serve a purpose other than itself. That opens the question of what music is and what is its purpose. I'm not going to tackle that large issue here and now.

Just because music exists for its own sake, doesn't mean it has no other purposes or meanings. There are the social aspects of music that I think as sometimes obscured in these days of digital proliferation (not to mention current social distancing). And when I write of "beauty" (I continue to return to that word in these texts), that word can mean many things. Music doesn't even need to be beautiful, it can be brutal, ugly, despondent, or at least evoke such things. At times I've wanted listen to music that was dark and severe. For more than to weeks after Trump's election, I only listened to the darkest records I had or could locate.

So here I sit, listening to this work of Messiaen. It's lovely, or at least it speaks to me. I wrote in my previous post that I wish I could be in the room with it as it was being performed. I have a feeling at times it would be almost overwhelming.

And I say, bring it.

I don't always enjoy big and broad statements, but there are those works that I want to feel like they have overtaken me, swallowed me up. My man Olivier has written at least one or two others, and I think I'd include this work on that list.

To mention a little more about the piece itself: he's chosen to write a good deal of the choral parts as unisons or octaves. It's almost chant-like at times (he lectured on plainchant), and the back-and-forth between unison lines, soloists, ensembles, and fully harmonized choir and ensemble, feels almost Renaissance-like.

These are the first discs in this set with ensemble music, and I'm thinking about his orchestration style. Power punctuations by brass, color from the woodwinds, birdsongs in the flutes and clarinets, his love of gongs and mallets.

I don't think I'll continue to describe the music. Maybe in a future post I'll attempt to put words to such things, rather than describe a few cursory details.

After one of my posts a couple of days ago, someone wrote to me to ask if I was okay. I want to assure anyone who has the patience to have read this far that I am. That is, as far as any of us are okay right now. I don't expect any of my postings to really mean anything. Perhaps it's all a big vanity project. But, at least it's not destructive. I've been listening to music that I find inspiring, so that's never bad.

PS. Fuck Donald Trump.

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