The Titan and the Song of the Earth
It bursts forth from the 18-year-old Gustav Mahler: ” O my much-loved earth, when, oh when will you take the forsaken into your bosom? O, take up the lonely, the restless, eternal Mother!” And in another letter: “For me there has long been no altar, only mute and high above me stands the temple of God, the wide sky …” His 1st Symphony (The Titan), outstanding from the musical world of his time, already contains everything. Everything inside communicates itself directly to the outside, to the listener. The great works of Mahler’s life already resonate, even of the last phase of his life: the “awakening of nature in the early morning.” Was it this morning or was it ” the first morning” 14 billion years ago? Country folk dance, the animals of the forest escort the coffin of the deceased forester to the grave: hares, cats, toads, foxes, birds – very posh! The cry of a wounded heart, the heart tears itself free from hellish pain, it ascends into paradisiacal ecstasy. – At the end Mahler composes the “Song of the Earth”, incredibly subtle and sheer incomprehensibility:
– When sorrow approaches, the gardens of the soul lie desolate…
– Dark is life, and death…
– O look! Like a silver barque floats…
– All longing now wants to dream…
– The world falls asleep…
– I seek rest for my lonely heart. I walk towards home…
– The dear earth everywhere blossoms in spring and greens anew! Everywhere and eternal is the light blue of the distance!
– Eternal – eternal – eternal – eternal – eternal —
Music from the Silence
Before all music there is silence. Music is not music without the silence. The first note interrupts the silence. Music is a “shape” of silence, sound, interruption, general pause, sound experience and stillness. Silence, like music, must not be disturbed. In the 10 Commandments for the listeners, therefore, it is also written in the first place: “Thou shalt not cough and thou shalt not clap too early and thou shalt by no means clap in the wrong place. All this is undesirable.” Silence wants to be heard. Polyphony also wants to be heard. Only in music is that possible. If two people speak at the same time, understanding quickly reaches its limits. A polyphonic fugue by Bach challenges the ear. The harmony of different tones and sounds, however, allows for astonishment and delight at the same time. Depending on whether a tone is sung or produced with an instrument, overtones are communicated to the listener that generally correspond to the integral multiple of the frequency heard. A frequency of 100 hertz is thus accompanied by 200, 300, 400 hertz and so on. So the listener no longer hears a single tone, but a harmony. When listening to music, it is often the timbre produced by the overtones that is important. With percussion instruments, other laws prevail. In silence there are no overtones.
Dies Irae – The Wrath of God – Actus tragicus
Hermes Trismegistos (in the Corpus Hermeticum) is credited with the description of the process of creation:
– Out of God, Eternity.
– The eternal creates the world.
– The world bears its time.
– In it all beings come into existence – up to the Son of Heaven.
Johann Sebastian Bach *1685 bases his “Actus tragicus” on the words, among others:
– God’s time is the very best time.
– In him we live, weave and are as long as he wills….
– Lord, teach us to remember that we must die, so that we may become wise.
– Order your house! For you will die and not remain alive.
– At this point of crisis, death loses a sting.
– Into your hands I commend my spirit.
– Today you will be with me in paradise.
Unexpectedly, it seizes the listener at the deepest levels of his perception. The music of the 20-year-old Bach leaves one breathless. Hope stands at the end of the Actus tragicus.
Sofia Gubaidulina, a very spiritual contemporary composer writes a “Dies Irae” in her lockdown. The wrath of God is here also heard for the first time in the days of lockdown. No listeners! Humanity has been pulled out of the pleasure dance on the volcano by the volcano erupting. How to survive in times of plague? In the face of decompositional tendencies, hatred in people, unforgiveness, God seems to unload his fury on the world. The planet is endangered. Does man have enough energy to stop the destruction, to overcome the hatred, to enter into dialogue with his fellow man again? Bach says: “Order your house!” Gubaidulina’s composition is also not without a perspective of hope. As as the angels, carrying up Faust’s immortal soul, proclaim: “Whoever strives, we can redeem him.“
Sofia Gubaidulina dedicates her work to the great Ludwig van Beethoven, who, as we assume, does not reject the dedication!
We have a hearing, but we don’t want to hear. Climate change, environmental protection, animal welfare are useless terms. Man does not listen. He seems fit only to take – only to destroy. In his Actus tragicus, Bach has a recorder and a bass voice sing: “Order your house! ” Man needs nature; nature does not need man. “Order your house! ” Prepare for transformation! If you want to reduce your pain, reduce your carbon footprint, don’t throw butts, plastic, or mouth guards carelessly on the street. Find ways to live in coexistence with animals, plants and resources.
The Actus tragicus also means: God’s time is the very best time! For God created eternity – nothing else! Bach says: Oh Lord, teach us to understand.
65 million years ago the dinosaurs perished – a meteorite impact. The atmosphere changed. The big trees died out, the herbivores died out, the carnivores died out. The raptors (another species of dinosaur) were very intelligent, maybe more intelligent than us humans. They had an extra part of the brain with which they could communicate over long distances and act together in solidarity. Intelligent and armed to the teeth, they were almost impossible to defeat – but they died out. The situation today is comparable. We are armed to the teeth, even if not in solidarity. We could be in solidarity. Ego stands against ego, a form of self-annihilation of the species? Or can we still make it? “Order your house! – Into your hands I place my fate.” – And, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” We don’t want to hear any more of that old baroque stuff. So will it be another meteorite? The earth cries out not only on La Palma. Do we hear and understand the language, the words of the beginning, Bach’s recorder, Mahler’s Song of the Earth, the courage of Beethoven’s Fidelio and the Dies Irae, the wrath of God coming upon us? We don’t want to hear that! After the sound, after the cry, after the words, silence will fall again. Perhaps this baroque one: Glory, praise, honour and magnificence….