Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Silent Instrument V — Koans, Comments, and Cairns — Rehearsing Mozart with Louis Langrée

After playing through Mozart's 27th piano concerto this afternoon, Louis said of its rollicking, B-flat Major, 6/8 Finale, "This movement is about the desire for summer, not summer itself. So there is ambivalence in the happiness. It was Mozart's last piano concerto. It is happy, yes, but also a farewell. Think of a Schubert passage in minor, the major passage that follows is somehow even sadder. We must find this balance, this ambivalence." He then recalled Mark Morris discussing this concerto's inherent dichotomy: every work of true beauty contains an inner sadness, "otherwise, it is merely pretty."

Longing for summer . . . Longing, want, desire, and their concomitant pleasures and trials exist only in lacking the object of affection. Desire and possession are polarized magnets, they cannot touch. The word "want" itself gives insight; we can no longer "want" what we possess. Anne Carson makes a study of this condition in her book "Eros, the Bittersweet" (Princeton University Press, 1986). This passage is from the first chapter:

"Eros seemed to Sappho at once an experience of pleasure and pain. Here is contradiction and perhaps paradox. To perceive this eros can split the mind in two. Why? The components of the contradiction may seem, at first glance, obvious. We take for granted, as did Sappho, the sweetness of erotic desire; its pleasurability smiles out at us. But the bitterness is less obvious. There might be several reasons why what is sweet should also be bitter. There may be various relations between the two savors."

If beauty in art is the expression of truth, then the ambivalent pose is the most breathtaking. Not ambivalence without conviction, but the knowledge that ones desires, hopes, and yearnings carry within them both bitter and sweet.

Sitting in one of the finest tempura restaurants in Kyoto, our Japanese host introduced a particularly pungent leafy spring green, " In Japanese cuisine, bitter taste is purposeful. When you eat this, enjoy the bitterness."

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