Saturday, February 6, 2010
No snow for us today in New England (although they are getting inundated further south in DC) but it's very cold and windy. Good weather for staying home, but I ventured out into the frigid world taking my usual route up to Whitney Peak. Too cold a day for Schubert on the iPod. Sibelius somehow seemed more appropriate.
En Saga--one of Sibbe's lesser known tone poems but one of my favorites. its all about inexorable forward movement and retreat-or more a kind of stasis or slow motion. I think. But oh how wonderful it is to have music like that in one's ears just when one needs it! It complements the icy weather to a T and kept me moving. It got me thinking about the saturation of our society now, sonic saturation that is. Supposedly a hallmark of Post Modernism. It's so easy to have any music where or whenever!! I think the twenty-somethings just take this for granted and why not?) But I can remember back in the 80s when portable music became feasible how miraculous it could be. I remember my first visit to Venice when I walked through San Marco with the antiphonal sounds of Gabrielli on my headphone, and in the"Frari" Basilica I listened to Monteverdi's Magnificat, and out on the lagoon on the vaporetto, the slow movement of Mahler's 5th just as it was in Visconti's marvelous film of "Death in Venice."
And today I thought of another Thomas Mann book, one I've been reading in fact-- The Magic Mountain. Hans Castorp, the protagonist, becomes enamoured and possessive of the new Gramophone the Kurhaus has acquired (this is pre WW I remember). It's like a miracle to him; he stays up late into the night listening to his favorite records which he treats like sacred objects; he can't get enough of it. Mann's description of the amazement and wonder this musical machine inspired in its early days is one of my favorite parts of the lengthy novel. While he doesn't directly talk about it, the idea of the commodification of music is the underlying theme.
For me, listening to music while out walking or driving is still special in that I choose to do it only when I want to, which isn't all that often. But I think for many young people its part of life-- the soundtracks of their lives are habitually running.