Wednesday, June 8, 2011

schumann, beethoven, mingus, a spontaneous essay.

i was listening to the radio with kyote on a wednesday afternoon.

schumann was a fucking mess but when you hear the throaty clangor of his piano clashing against vivace strings like german tongues barking into a venetian night, when you hear his pianoforte syncopation lull then jar against melodic blackforest birdsongs, when the angst of his late compositions tear into something deeper than ears or mind to furiously dazzle, you realize his music was sincere and perfect. Languor and anarchy collide in schumann.
he died in an asylum in 1856 at 46 years of age and was still a fucking mess after a suicide attempt two years before. his ambition of becoming a concert pianist was promising as a student- schumann possessed equal proportions of talent, determination and technique- but the dream collapsed when his hand was worked by a machine of his own devising. The function of his invention was to increase the reach & strength of hands but it instead caused irreparable damage.
(there are other theories explaining the demise of his hand. One theory includes a botched surgery to separate ligaments. Another theory proposes faulty coordination of the hand to be an effect of mercury poisoning, mercury being a popular treatment of syphilis at the time. no one really knows but these theories all convey the slan of romantic conjecture unless, of course, you were schumann living through the raw experience, prior to the fauxfinish of a retelling, the ornamentation of myth, the gaudiness of an orator's language. . . the irony of perception and recitation and the mongering that occurs.)

schumann's a composer whose work I know more from his influences (schubert, beethoven) , his influencings (schoenberg, lizst, brahms), than his own actual compositions. but the abrasive ironwork, the bone-hammer of his piano concerto commanded attention and research and then the parallels to other artists start emerging.  

ie: the late voracious pianoworks of schumann compare in emotional texture to beethoven's final works, the hammerklavier and even the antimelodies of the grand fugue quartet. the syphilis connection to schubert offers a simple correlation in both's relatively young death after a prolific period of work. How all three suffered the torture of audio hallucinations becoming “angel songs” and then degenerate noise- cacophonies of unsound mine. I think of mingus, mingus the composer who preceded mingus the photographer. Mingus who preceded the bedraggled figure evicted from his apartment, bass-less and baseless, the tragic clown of his own musical selfportrait. Schumann was a man of hardedged suffering in a long line of them.

all in all schumann is a powerful orchestrator, a titan of the language of pure sound, a man whose mind swelled like a hornet's nest in a storm while spinning out an opus still marveled over today. . . a vessel dissolved by the power of the very acid it contained, like a narrative, like a nautilus, cantor's aleph, like a love or a lust, a shard of music in the afternoon sipping coffee with an orange scone.