Stepping into the same water – Art and Poetry
Stepping into the same water
…like the Universe that crumbles
to let itself won.
Like a sea that ripples
And keeps itself dozing,
an all-defeating wave
that will be re-absorbed,
life is a wall that buries your efforts,
a meaningless speech, an insult,
a never-ending coming back.
No dreams in your trade,
no troubles, no rest:
Life does not stop and think.
And while I watch,
what I see does not last,
but crosses, connects,
relates, and then forgets.
And everything is still,
The nothing is still,
A day without wind,
Deep night, and quietness
and a crystal-clear sea,
a beautiful sea,
looking like amber,
and endless to see.
I believe that Glenn Gould, speaking about Bach, has touched the essence of the wholeness of the work of art, that is our way of dealing with the tremendous depth of the totality of existence. Even if it does not seem like that, we do not really like quietness (although it gives us a moment to take a breath, before the next lunge). What we like, is what we see inside it, during our rare peeks: an “endless to see” ungraspable and unreacheable, which is the ultimate target and soul of any Art:
Bach’s music, with all its eternally undulating flow of harmonic motion, with all its vast linear complication, seems to suggest somehow the suspended, perpetually transient unknowing condition of man. One doesn’t come to expect great surprises in the music of Bach. One comes across great moments, indescribable technical achievements. One is not led to expect in the course of a work any moment, any pronouncement, in which the whole work is not involved. In Bach’s music it’s the constancy of events, the continuous line of development, the certainty of motion which we come to expect and to love. Essentially for Bach, art was a means of expressing that state of belief in which experience could be natively guided, in which only the obstructions and temptations of the world could thwart the immutable totality of existence1
As in Bach, for me too a piece of Art is a “continuous line of development” natively guided by experience, in a sort of ecstatic state, an Amor Fati that resembles, from my point of view, a spiritual vision of all existence as a spiritual totality and its tireless recurrence.
- 1 – This is the transcription of the entire video:
One of the most extraordinary things about history’s most extraordinary musician, is the fact that this man’s music, which exert such a magnetic attraction for us today, and against which we tend to measure much of the achievement in the art of music in the last two centuries, that his music had absolutely no effect on either the musicians or the public of his own day. And the strange thing about Bach, is that it doesn’t at all fit our conception of the misunderstood genius who was years ahead of his time. He was certainly misunderstood, but not because he was ahead of his time, rather because according to the music disposition of that day, he was generations behind it. To write a fugue like the one I just played was already becoming as old fashioned in Bach’s time as it would be if one would have to sit down and start writing symphonies in the manner of Max Reger today. And Bach, as he grew he not only made no attempt to reconcile his thought with the temper of his time, but, in fact, withdrew in what must have seemed to his contemporary surely as a maddening nostalgia for the glory of aged past. For Bach, you see, was music’s greatest non-conformist, and one of the supreme examples of the independence of the artistic conscience that stands quite outside the collective historical process.
The age of Bach, speaking in a very general sort of way, was what we can now call the Age of Reason, or perhaps an age of reason, as there have been quite a lot of them. It was fundamentally an age in which man struggled against fear, against predeterminacy. It was an age in which he asserted confidently the wonders of science and human initiative, it was a time and age of Hybris, of defiance for the Gods. But at its most poetic, it was still an age in which the wonderful utility of science and the proud and genius of man could still coexist with the magical, mystical, fearful lights of belief. And so the Art and the Poetry and the Music of the *** at its best it’s touched with this feeling of compromise, this conciliation between the will of man and the inexorable power of faith.
But even during the life time of Sebastian Bach, this vibrant spiritual compromise, which gave such anguish and purpose and passion to his music, became for other artists of his generation ever more difficult to achieve, and slowly but surely, fact and logic, the explainable and the predictable, became the base of philosophic premise. And by the time of his death, the world was a very different place from that into which he had been born. It was a world which longed to be logical, a world for young men and for young ideas.
When Bach died it was not him but rather his sons who were considered to be the masters of music, masters of a music so very different from that which their father had known. It was lame composers like the teenager Joseph Haiden who were soon to lay the ground work for a new musical style in which all of this scientific optimism, all of this naively logical and philosophical path of their generation would find a counterpart in an art in which the aim would be not the communication of men with God but rather of men with men. In which those traits of Sebastian Bach which parallel in the music the realization of the incredible richness and the indefinable complexity of the human state could find no place. It had become an age in which the focus of the musical activity had moved from the church to the theatre, in which the new art would rationally reflect the rational world, in which it would be required to deal with probabilities, and not to participate in mysteries. This is not to say that the aspiration to transcend the human condition would be forever lost. Certainly it’s the essence of Beethoven work for instance that we feel him struggling to strike beyond the realization of human potential. But the grandeur of Beethoven resides in the struggle, rather than in the occasional transcendence which he achieves. And it might perhaps never again be possible for us to own more than a glimpse of that inordinate state of ecstasy, which Sebastian Bach never thought to question.
..Bach’s music, with all its eternally undulating flow of harmonic motion, with all its vast linear complication, seems to suggest somehow the suspended, perpetually transient unknowing condition of man. One doesn’t come to expect great surprises in the music of Bach. One comes across great moments, indescribable technical achievements. One is not led to expect in the course of a work any moment, any pronouncement, in which the whole work is not involved. In Bach’s music it’s the constancy of events, the continuous line of development, the certainty of motion which we come to expect and to love. Essentially for Bach, art was a means of expressing that state of belief in which experience could be natively guided, in which only the obstructions and temptations of the world could thwart the immutable totality of existence…