Goethe Said That ArchitectureMonday, December 08, 2008
A day of melancholy can only be improved one way. This is by accentuating it.
A trick is to listen to Franz Schubert's Quintet in C Major, D. 956 which he completed shortly before October 2, 1828. A fatal illness overcame him four weeks later and he died on November 18. He alluded to this quintet being his last major work in a letter to a friend, but in fact he wrote Der Hirt Aud Dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) D. 965 before he died. Both compositions are conveniently in the same CD. Yesterday evening I listened to both, by the fireplace in our den while Rosemary drove Hilary, Rebecca and Lauren home after dinner.
The Quintet has to be just about the most beautiful work of music ever written yet (and that is why it is so good) also one of the most complex pieces of music ever composed, from the point of view of this amateur's ears.
Just a couple of days ago I received an email from my friend, Spanish musical conductor Juan Castelao asking me to check a word in an Homero Aridjis poem. The internet version in English had an error. My book Eyes to See Otherwise by Homero Aridjis and edited by Betty Farber and George McWhirter (Vancouver's Poet Laureate) has the poems in Spanish on one page and in English on the other. The poem Castelao was interested in, Goethe Said That Architecture happened to be translated into English by McWhirter himself.
Goethe Said That Architecture
Goethe said that architecture
is frozen music,
but I believe it to be petrified music,
and cities, symphonies built out of time,
concerts of visible forgetting.
Of sounds and silences wrought
into iron, wood and air, he said nothing,
perhaps he spoke about the places of verb
where we live, and that way alluded
to us language factories.
Musical streets didn't concern him either,
although man slips via these walkable rivers
into old age, love, the night, up to a table, into bed,
like a sonata of flesh and bone.
Goethe Decía Que La Arquitectura
Goethe decía que la Arquitectura
es música congelada,
pero you creo que es música petrificada
y las ciudades son sinfonías de tiempo construido,
conciertos de olvido visible.
De labrar sonidos y silencios
sobre hierro madera y aire, no dijo nada;
quizás habló de los lugares del verbo
en que vivimos, y con eso aludió
a nosotros, fábricas de lenguaje.
De calles musicales no se ocupó tampoco,
aunque por esos ríos caminables
el hombre va a la vejez, al amor, a la noche,
a la mesa, a la cama,
como una sonata de carne y hueso.
The sleeping violinist posed, unknowingly, for my camera around 1962 in la Alameda Central a park in downtown Mexico City. Aridjis's last line, like a sonata of flesh and blood , reminds me of Schubert writing:
The product of my genius and my misery, and that which I have written in my greatest distress, is that which the world seems to like best.
The melancholy isn't entirely gone.