Sunday, 1 November 2009

danse macabre






Zig and
Zig and Zig and zig,
tapping out the rythym on a tombstone
with his heels
Death plays a dance at midnight.
Zig and zig and zag,
on his violin...

Hebri Cazalis, from Danse macabre


Well the computer I use is playing up,I'd like to blame the time of year, but I think it's kind of irrelevent.Anyway it's all's hallow eve so thought I'd post something kind of in tune, hopefully of some interest maybe!
Satan and all that malarky gets good airing at this time of year,and some say he plays all the best tunes,and is drawn to the fiddle to make his music.As a former angel why not a trumpet, surely it would not burn as easy.Why not the drum to beat time with?
The answer is simple enough. With a lot of us Satan needs a little preparation,a little prescription maybe:he must lull us, woo us, lead us down the garden path that he revealed to Faust's Gretchen- surely these are not moments in which to sound trumpets or to frighten us with dearth's loud cadences.Here our dubious friend is the master of those soft modulations that a flute or a fiddle might convey.But even the flute favoured by cloven-footed satyrs of old - is limited largely to life's peaceful and pantheistic moments.Yet after a love song has worked its magic a violin can start its great betrayal leading to incendiary brilliance - towards the flame, into the heat, with dizzying speed and awfulness. This is what a fiddle can do, as long as those who play it can summon up its magical properties.
Anyway Satan did not pick the violin himself. We did though. From myths that Nero fiddled while away while Rome burned , we have placed this instrument in the hands of our own imaginations.For Ambrose Bierce, at least, the fiddle was an annoyance- " an instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat".Bierce famously dissapeared into the wilds of Mexico never to be seen again, perhaps he should not have made fun of Satan's preferred musical toy. Others have been more respectful, not only towards the instrument but also to its makers.The worship which has indulged Sradivari and his " secret formula" for varnish is only one example among many.Are these modern attempts to recreate a magical liquid coating so different from a medieval alchemists attemts to turn lead into Gold?
Guissepe Tartini and Antonio Vivaldi were early masters. Each in their own way profitting from the violins mystique and aura.Tartini actually composed a piece now known universally as the " devil's Trill", thus identifying himself for all ages with Satan.Appropriately , Vivaldi sported a head of red hair and became forever known as the Red Priest.And what of Paginini,not only did he conquer Europe but also convinced her that the Devil stood unseen at his side while he played.Paginini's "Caprices for solo violin are testament to his uncanny abilities, and among the great admirers and transcribers of those works have been the composers Robert Schumann, Franz Lizt and Sergei Rachmaninov.Paginini became a mystical cult figure for the musical world, and no violinist since has escaped a confontation with the devilish configurations that his long bony fingers appeared to grasp with such ease.Rachmaninov, whose own technical secrets may never be revealed completely to pianists of a newer era , was not wrong to have woven the "Dies irae" into his "Rhapsody on a theme of Paginini".
It's not all too devilish though there are friendlier spirits? Take Grieg's Puck,a mischievious soul out for a good time , and William Bolcom's "Graceful Ghost".At least if we don't trist them completely at least we dont fear them.Perhaps it is us who have created these otherworldly spirits- both good and bad.They are part of us -and perhaps we are partially resposible for what they do. As Bierce said, "To Rome said Nero:If smoke you turn I shall not ceases to fiddle while you burn".To Nero Rome replied: "Pray do your worst,'tis my excuse that you were fiddling first."Rome had her own problems apparently and remained unmoved by the concert. Not so the little goblins of fire and destruction, who took full advantage of the occasion.
Anyway it takes a kind of wizard to play Wizar'da music.My grandad was a fiddler and I have seen the powers unleashed with his bow ,enchanting and moving.Anyway have a good evening, me I'm going out, found out their are some Welsh fiddlers playing in a village nearby. As autumnn is glowing I'm of in search of an inspiring reel.Peace to all.Happy halloween.

...The winter wind whistles
through the shrouded night;
the lime trees groan, and blanched white
skeletons flit through the darkness-
leaping and scurrying about
in their shrouds

Zig and zig and zig,
each one jigging away.
One hears the rattle of dancing bones.
A lasciious pair sit together in the moss
as if to taste again
the soft sweets of life.

Zig and zig and zig
what a sarabande!
What deathly rounds, all holding hands!
Zig and zig and zag
Ah, what a splendid night for our poor world.
Long live death and equality!