03 A personal holiday trip through Aland, Helsinki, Southern and Central Finland
Every work by Jean (Janne) Sibelius is original. None of his works is reminiscent of a composer before him. Never before has there been this style and freedom to create something so original. His compositional techniques cannot be criticised. Often, one can only speak of genius. According to his own statements, music begins where words end. In a way, the basis for Finnish music emerged from his hand.
Finnishness spills out of Sibelius’ melodies and mysterious works. The landscape is audible; woods rustle, blueberries are resplendent among birches and conifers. Wild meadows, heather moors, swamps and the vastness of the landscape arise in the heart. Flocks of geese rise with powerful wing beats from dark lakes. Unfathomable depths are hidden from the meditator’s gaze. Cold, black lakes, hills, forests mysteriously alternate. High clouds interchange with fog so thick and rain so gentle and the brilliant blue of the sky transforms lakes into blue oases.
Slowly you move forward, in the midst of constant transformation, gliding past the beauties of nature, far reaching island worlds, archipelagos, rocks and remnants of the ice ages. In the Baltic Sea, an archipelago landscape rises measurably year after year, with islands growing larger and higher. In a few millennia there will be a footpath through the middle of today’s Baltic Sea to Sweden. Meteorite craters from millions of years ago, labyrinths set in stone, mythologies and mysteries from the past become audible and visible. Sibelius’ symphonic works allow these imaginations to take place. The heart is filled with the uniqueness of the country, of the composer, of unheard sounds, a rush of sound for home, connection, overcoming foreign domination, a soul cry for freedom. Sibelius’ Finlandia shines hymnally, spiritually, also politically. The “inner melody” of Finlandia has accompanied many texts:
– The Finland Hymn: Oi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa (O homeland, see the morning’s bright wings).
– There will never be a summer like this…
– English hymn: Be still, my soul
– Film music for “Die Hard 2” with Bruce Willis
– Hymn of Hermes Trismegistos: “Holy is God, Father of the Universe. Holy is God, his will guides the all. Holy is God, known by all His own. Holy is God, his face shines in the universe. Holy are you, who brought the all into being, no nature created you … May we become holy, consecrated to you, as you, Father, are eternally holy. ”
Anyone travelling to or through Finland should take Sibelius’ music with them. In this way, the journey can develop into an inner and outer journey of the soul. The music of Jean Sibelius resonates clearly and uniquely. If you still need a third dimension, look for the paintings of the Finnish painter, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who captured the mythology of Finland in an incomparable way.
04. Physics of the Soul
Did Johann Sebastian Bach die over the unfinished Art of the Fugue or is another legend closer to the truth? The master was blinded by incorrect medical treatment and a failed eye operation. The suffering was almost unbearable for the tireless creator of the most wonderful musical works. He could no longer write down the notes. Blindly, he listened to his surroundings in his armchair where he heard children cheering and shouting in the nearby school, his wife and daughter sewing, the occasional clatter of scissors, the sounds of workmen in the street, hammering, sawing, making axe strokes. Bach leaned back and listened to the morning world. Only through his hearing did life find its way to his soul.
His piano pupil struck a wrong note. “Ugh, a fifth!” The pupil was startled and awaited Bach’s criticism. Slowly he opened his eyes and was also startled. “Light! Light! I see again!“ he exclaimed. Others stared at him in disbelief, but he saw again. Thousands of melodies had accumulated in his soul, which was bursting full of music. He went out into the open air with his daughter where he suffered a severe stroke and had to be carried back into the house. The doctors gave up on him. He was talking confusedly. His fingers moved as if he were playing the harpsichord. His son-in-law, Altnikol, was rather mechanically striking a chord on the grand piano as Bach’s old creative energy flowed through him once more. He felt as if he were hearing unearthly music, an organ chorale from bygone times: “When we are in the highest distress”. Life lay behind Bach, but there was one more step. He said, “Strike out the heading and write, ’Before thy throne I hereby step’.” (BWV 668). He dictated a new chorale to Altnikol which, with its old melody, moves one to tears:
“Before thy throne I hereby step,
O God, and humbly beseech thee:
Turn thy gracious face
From me a sorrowful sinner not.”
The organ must have cried out in abject terror. The “temple curtain” must have torn in two. Angels sang Gloria in excelsis Deo, heaven being filled with rejoicing and sound. Weeping, the family stood at his deathbed, unaware of his final happiness. Deep peace descended.
Bach knew the physics of sound, its mathematics, its number structure and number mysticism. Imaginatively, he formulated his innermost language. The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote in Bach’s time, “Music is a hidden arithmetic of the mind unconscious of its counting”. Bach is not a composer who constructed his pieces of music. No, his mind reached into soul spaces unknown to all others. He was able to reach into non-verbal regions, to receive the highest goods from them in order to share them with his fellow human beings and his posterity. He saw the world as a unity within God-created eternity. He sought out the spiritual regions of this eternity and was able to make the unknown tangible. He seized “philosopher’s stones”, made them audible and gave us a reflection of eternity. It is not simply music that is played and finished. No, it is a unique polyphonic art of life.
But Johann Sebastian Bach was not a workaholic who produced and produced incessantly in the deepest seriousness. No, he was an extremely lovable and humorous family man. He had seven children from his marriage to Maria Barbara. After her early death, he married Anna Magdalena. With her, he had 13 more children. Bach’s house was a place of love and exuberant joie de vivre as well as a never-ending musical frenzy. In all of this, his workload was immense. He wrote well over 1,000 works, most of them major, which have been preserved for posterity. He wrote 200 cantatas, alone, that are known but hundreds have been lost.
If the Art of the Fugue BWV 1080 should have been his last work, there are good arguments for this too. After an enormous range of his compositional life from the simple song (Willst du dein Herz mir schenken BWV 518 ...) to huge oratorios and masses, we are faced with a mountain of complexity, of perplexing world questions such as:
- Could the big bang and black hole exist at the same time, an incomprehensible activity of creation?
- Behind musical matter is anti-matter
- Was Werner Heisenberg’s theory of entanglement already anticipated in the 18th century?
- Form and Emotion
- The beauty of the sound of creation
- Paradise and expulsion at the same time
- At the highest heights of the soul, the work breaks off unfinished with the theme B-A-C-H.
Perhaps the soul still cries out for a piece that can soothe it, for example:
- Aria from the Goldberg Variations BWV 988
- Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier BWV 846
- Jesus bleibet meine Freude BWV 147
Wie soll ich dich empfangen (Christmas Oratorio) BWV 248