Dear Discussion Forum Members and Visitors:
"There is a musician who, more than any other musician, is a master at finding the tones in the realm of suffering, depressed, and tortured souls, at giving language even to mute misery. None can equal him in the colors of late fall, in the indescribably moving happiness of the last, truly last, truly shortest joy; he knows a sound for those quiet, disquieting midnights of the soul, where cause and effect are out of joint and where at any moment something might originate 'out of nothing.' (...) ... indeed, as the Orpheus of all secret misery he is greater than any." From "Nietzsche contra Wagner" by Friedrich Nietzsche
As we approach the bicentennial of Wagner's birth on 5/22/2013, and as I have recently placed my nearly 92 year old mother (DOB 6/2/1921) under Hospice care so she can hopefully spend her last days in this world in her home with me (I'm terribly happy that she's made it through to another Spring, and hopefully Summer), I've suddenly been privileged to access areas of my unconscious normally known to me only through thousands of nighttime dreams which I've remembered in their full vivid glory since early childhood (and each of which is distinguished by a unique mood such as we Wagnerians know through our musical motifs and the scenes built upon special mixtures of one with another), and I've been musing on the links which bond me to Wagner and to all in this world related to him, and to myself.
So, I present here a bit of a biographical note to illustrate how the circle (shall we say, the Ring cycle) is closing. Let me start by saying that I wish to share a link with something which, though not Wagner, is a cultural product of the world Wagner opened up especially in "Tristan" and "Parsifal": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwI0BfXRuDE. If you click on this and go to minute/second 1:13.04, and play it until 124.00, you will see what I regard as perhaps the most tragic-romantic sequence ever filmed, from the movie version of Frederick Delius's "A Village Romeo and Juliet," specifically "The Walk to the Paradise Garden." I offer it to you because I've been thinking much lately about my eternal longing for certain privileged experiences which are forever lost but will not be forgotten, and also because Delius's orchestral/harmonic response to the profound experience of "Twilight of the Gods," "Tristan," and "Parsifal" is akin to my own.
Delius is forever linked in my mind with both Wagner and with the deepest impressions of my childhood, and my own personal history. Here's my brief account of this wonder (excerpts from a recent email to a friend):
"You know how absolutely impossible it always is for any of us, except
perhaps a few once-in-a-thousand-years poets or artists or composers or
writers, to express what we really feel inside which we're never in a
lifetime ... able to convey to anyone else. Well, let me offer the
following preamble to a tiny little suggestion I want to make on how you
can gain an entre into my unconscious world (assuming, of course, that
you would ever wish to do such an absurd thing ...).
As you know, one of my favorite flickaroos is "The Yearling" because of
its beautiful melancholy (for me the greatest coming of age story ever
filmed), and you may recall that most of its music was composed by
Frederick Delius (whom almost nobody but I has ever heard of [I should have said, among our circle of friends]). Delius's
music was chosen and arranged for the film by Herbert Stothart, who also
wrote the music for "The Good Earth" and did the orchestration of music
by other composers like Harold Arlen for "The Wizard of Oz" (it's thanks
to Stothart that that film has so much subliminal musical magic). You
may also remember that mom's dad abandoned his family in Savannah, GA,
and secretly started a new family north of Tampa in the 1920's, where he
ran a citrus farm. But did you also know that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings,
who wrote the book "The Yearling," also owned and ran a citrus farm some
miles north of there, which gave her the inspiration for "The Yearling"?
And did you also know that when Frederick Delius was a young man in the
1880's, in order to escape his father's intent that he inherit his
business, he ran off to Jacksonville, FL, and from there made his
way down to Lake George (near where "The Yearling" was filmed) to run
his own citrus farm? Well, while Delius was there he was forever
haunted by the melancholy unfulfilled longing in the singing of the
black share-cropper farmers. He fell in love with a black woman, with
whom he learned later he had had a child. He returned to Florida from
Europe to find his love, but she evidently misunderstood his attempt to
find her as an attempt to steal their child for himself, and he never
found her. He ... chose to become a composer and for the rest of his
life expressed unfulfilled longing of the profoundest imaginable kind in
unearthly music. Needless to say his favorite composer was Wagner, and
his favorite philosopher was Wagner's best friend Nietzsche. While in
Paris Delius hung out with Gauguin and Strindberg and Edvard Munch who
painted "The Scream" (I saw retrospectives of both Gauguin and Edvard
Munch at the Smithsonian years ago), and Strindberg befriended Nietzsche
before the latter went mad (partly thanks to breaking off his friendship
with RW, perhaps, but also due to syphilis, which also blinded Delius).
I wanted to add that one of my most recent literary discoveries is how
deeply Walt Whitman expresses certain feelings that are really personal
for me and hidden from the vulgar roar of ye olde public, and of course
it goes without saying that Delius wrote music for some of Whitman's
best poems. He also wrote the music to a poem by Dowlan called "Cynara,"
about the poet's unrequited loved for an 11 year old girl (don't worry,
I'm not touching that ... , but the music is magical
I wanted to add something here which I didn't write to my friend, which is that I discovered an astonishing spiritual link between Whitman and Wagner, especially the Wagner of the "Ring" and "Tristan." Whitman was an opera fan, with access to the best on offer in NYC, though, sad to say, it is unlikely he ever got to experience Wagner's mature works first-hand because, as I understand, by the time these works were first presented in NYC Whitman had been greatly disadvantaged by a stroke. It fascinates me to think what might have occurred had he experienced the "Ring" first hand. But nonetheless there is a deep affinity in their spirit. I wanted simply to say that it astonishes me sometimes how much all the variety of things which resonate with me in the outer world seem to resonate with each other. Oh, and let me add another peculiar convergence of metaphysical tropes: consider that it has been reported that Nietzsche's ultimate collapse from the onset of mental illness is reported to have occurred, I think, in Turin, Italy, when he saw a horse being whipped, evidently by its owner. This is signficant because Nietzsche had declared that Fyodor Dostoevsky was a fellow spirit, and not only is Dostoevsky one of my favorite novelists, but I found in his work a virtually Wagnerian obsession with his fear that modern scientific knowledge might eventually reduce all the mystery and grace which makes life worth living to meaninglessness. Consider, then, that a scene in which a horse is cruelly whipped by its owner appears, if memory serves, in more than one of Dostoevsky's novels. Re Dostoevky's fear that scientific inquiry (think here of Lohengrin's taboo on knowledge) might reduce humanity to the level of an animal, a plant, or even just a stone, if I recall correctly, in one of his novels (was it "The Possessed"), there is a mad woman who constantly repeats the question "Is God then only Nature?" (but it's been so long, and I'm probably not remembering it right). Also, "Notes from the Underground," which I regard as the best short story or novelette ever written, is haunted by the Underground Man's musings on his resistance to modern science's assumption that human beings are nothing more than an organ stop (or something like that).
I may add to these musings later this week as they come to me, but for the moment it's back to the waking world.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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