15 September 2017

One Twilight Realm

“You have a choice.”
—one theme in both Minority Report and Hellboy, neither of whose screenplays (probably) was written by a Calvinist
Any number of times over the years, and in many different contexts, I have repeated, no doubt in paraphrase (even allowing for English translation) a witty and illuminative distinction made by a 19th century German critic (named, I believe, Kraus—but don’t hold me to it) between the two German-speaking capitals. In Berlin, he wrote, they describe the situation as “serious, but not hopeless”; but in Vienna, “hopeless but not serious.”

More about hopeless but not serious in a moment.

Over the past twelvemonth (and not to the exclusion of other composition) I have 1. composed my first Symphony (there may seem to be a degree of hope implicit in the use of the ordinal number first, which I neither confirm nor deny); 2. completed (i.e., composed the bulk of) a major Clarinet Sonata; and 3. resumed significant work on the full evening’s ballet, White Nights. These three pieces are, without rival, my major instrumental works. They have not yet been performed (—in fairness, the Symphony is still warm off the press, so a performance as early as now, while by no means impossible, would only have been a wild chance—) nor is there as yet any prospect of a performance.

We might say there is (at present) no hope of their being performed.  So often when the word hopelessness is used, there is an implication of permanency, of a compulsion upon the individual to resign himself to an absence of hope.

Right at the moment, it seems hopeless. So what?

At the moment (and, all right—it’s been a long moment) I write a lot of music that is not performed. And, it ought to be conceded, I am (though by no means a dotard) rather past the age one might normally think of for an up-and-coming composer. Maybe the Symphony will someday be played in my hearing. Maybe in my lifetime. Maybe not.

But the hopelessness is not a fixed element. It may be only, that there is no hope at present.

This, Gentle Reader, is all just reflection, just thoughts.  No decision is being made, no resolution taken, this day.

My state of mind remains, so far as I can tell, unchanged. I compose, not because I am paid to do so, nor really because I have any expectation of being paid to do so in the future; I compose, because I enjoy doing so. I compose the music which I should like to hear, and which I should like to know the thoughts of listeners, should it be given them also to hear. I compose because, when I have completed a given piece, I find the arc of activity gratifying, I find the musical result, the fact that there is a finished musical object, gratifying.  I dig the resulting music, as (I believe) any real gone cat would.

While I am not at all suggesting that I would be anything other than much better pleased for the music to be performed for an audience, and for the audience to register and express their enjoyment of, delight in, the music—I enjoy, indeed to a degree I exult, even in this twilight realm, where there are completed compositions which sleep awhile, sleep for centuries it may even be, before they are awakened unto an audience.

My lot, then, is hopeless, but not serious.

When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.
—Dmitri Shostakovich [ note to self: try to confirm ]

No comments: