A la luz brillante [by Viviana Ramos]

En la jerarquía de la creación, los diferentes aspectos de la materia y de la vida corresponden a códigos, fórmulas que se manifiestan primeramente por seres sutiles, espíritus, genios, ángeles o demonios que rigen los distintos elementos de la creación y se encarnan en sustancias, plantas, animales, insectos, microorganismos en los cuales se encuentran los mismos códigos de la Vida-una.

Fragmentos de viejas tradiciones, ritos, cantos, creencias, dioses, llegan hoy hasta nosotros, esparcidos en las mitologías de todos los pueblos. Para los hindúes el primer sonido sagrado fue el Aum, trino que reflejaba la creación y destrucción del universo manifestado. En Oriente, las campanas han sido mensajeras de buenos espíritus y alejan a aquellos que viven en la oscuridad; asi los instrumentos y los cantos fueron tomando connotaciones sagradas a través de los cuales el hombre ha podido comunicarse con sus deidades.

En la era pre-cristiana existe evidencia de que las palabras ángeles y demonios, era intercambiables para espíritus que servían como conexión entre los humanos y las esferas divinas. Luego el cristianismo dejo separadas esas palabras y sus significados, basándose en que los demonios[1]  eran aquellos seres espirituales presentes en los ritos paganos, seres maléficos y malvados, por lo que no entraban en la retórica monoteística cristiana.

72 Ángeles y 72 Demonios es un soplo de vida sobre pulsiones, simbolizadas y sublimadas en seres espirituales.  La relacion siempre tirante entre lo bueno y lo malo, lo bello y lo feo, la carne y el espíritu, el vicio y la virtud, la inteligencia y la estupidez, en resumen, entre la vida y la muerte.

La perfección como entidad única, no es posible. El universo se organiza por complementos, equilibrios, dualidades, ciclos.

 Esta es la verdad que Auerbach[2] nos invita a observar. El mundo está sustentado en esencias y apariencias, donde no siempre lo que parece (casi nunca) es lo que es.  La maldad está disfrazada de buena voluntad y a la virtud y la belleza, les toca recorrer un largo camino hacia la luz. Tal es el caso de esta obra sonora de facciones escultóricas, donde detrás de un aparente canon clásico, se encuentra la gracia inconfundible de una obra de arte total[3] que respira, fluye y vive por sí misma en el tiempo.

Justamente la música, ha sido uno de los lenguajes donde la estructura, la forma, también soportan el contenido, como antigua catedral gótica, custodiada por gárgolas que miran al horizonte en un continuum. De esta forma también ha sido diseñada esta obra, donde los números estructuran, equilibran, compensan, significan. Tal es el caso de 72 preludios-evocaciones y un epilogo, “amen”.  Estos, a su vez, se interconectan en un continuo fluir que avanza sin pausas. En su interior, la obra se edifica en dos partes en 36 preludios y tres secciones en los preludios 24 y 48, lo cual representa unidad y división: dos en uno (dualidad) y tres en uno (trinidad).

La numerología afirma que los números son uno de los conceptos humanos más perfectos y elevados. Según los que la practican, es la disciplina que investiga la vibración secreta o no evidente que habita en animales, plantas, cosas. A través del estudio de sus códigos se aprende a utilizar y así obtener diferentes beneficios como encontró Pitágoras[4], quien desarrolló una relacion melódica a partir de las distancias entre los planetas y su vibración numérica, fue el nacimiento de la música de las esferas.
Esto demostró que las palabras al ser pronunciadas tienen su propio sonido, una vibración particular que se conecta con las frecuencias de ciertos números que habitan en la armonía del universo y en las leyes de la naturaleza, una suerte de efecto arquetípico[5].

En esta obra, Lera Auerbach utiliza los nombres de 72 ángeles y 72 demonios que son mencionados en varios textos religiosos y esotéricos, describiendo la naturaleza holística de la religión y el misticismo.   Aquí pone de manifesto las similitudes y referencias a los mismos dioses, que aparecen bajo nombres y entonaciones fonéticas diferentes pero que en realidad son uno y el mismo ser, descrito y representado a través de las culturas y religiones de todo el mundo a lo largo de la historia de la humanidad.

Mediante el verbo, encontramos un gesto simbolista de composición[6], ya que la propia autora ha seleccionado la pronunciación para cada uno de los 72 nombres de Ángeles y Demonios (Goetia), extendiendo el sentido del sonido más alla de las notas en el pentagrama, también a las palabras, creando nuevos ritmos, acentos, entonaciones, desplazamientos, logrando finalmente un compendio vocal y espiritual, que fluye a través de estas vocalizaciones creadas, nuevas para cualquier lengua y oratoria. La autora muestra su mirada de poeta, estableciendo sensaciones en los sonidos de estos nombres que apoyan la idea primordial sin develarla por completo, evocando con ellas sonidos nunca antes pronunciados, otorgándole a la palabra, una suerte de invocación mágica.

Es muy especial además, la selección del coro como elemento principal en la instrumentación de esta obra. Esto se debe a la historia que representa, su uso social y especialmente por su valor conceptual y simbólico de intención grupal, de cohesión humana, buscando una voz universal, una voz colectiva que al mismo tiempo que es mixta, no es única o particular (exceptuando a los solistas) sino que el resultado simbólico es la voz, como vía de expresión y “el instinto de la muchedumbre”, la expresión de muchos, como mencionaba Maeterlinck[7].

El trabajo coral, ha sido diseñado en un esquema de grupos simbólicos, organizados de manera interna (de forma binaria y ternaria) que los relaciona.  Esta forma de organización interna, determina cómo deben ser manipulados los elementos del grupo, impregnándole a la obra un matiz aún más acentuado en la numerología y la simetría.  Esto nos recuerda a algunas de las estructuras de Xenakis[8] y en su propio decir “una forma de composición no es el objeto en sí, sino una idea en sí, esto es, los comienzos de una familia o serie de composiciones”.

La presencia, es otro de los elementos que me parecen muy interesante con el empleo del coro.   ¿Puede haber presencia sin objeto o cuerpo físico?  La voz, es uno de esos cuerpos, sonoros en este caso que podemos percibir, oír, sentir, pero no podemos ver ni tocar; es inmaterial, aunque no por esto deja de estar presente. A través de esta reflexión se llega al concepto de la acúsmática, creado por Platón[9].

Así, lo acusmático procede de la escuela platónica, donde el sonido esta desvinculado de la fuente sonora que lo produce. Inquietudes espaciales y de la arquitectura, contempladas por Auerbach para acentuar la fuerza expresiva del sonido en sí mismo, en su naturaleza sonora y no en su aspecto visual o representacional, dejando esto sólo a la presencia física, humanoide[10] de los cantantes miembros del  coro y su proyeccion vocal, natural, humana.

Igualmente, no es fortuita la selección del único instrumento totalmente natural, único de cada individuo, irrepetible, por lo que la selección está firmemente arraigada a un deseo de la autora por aportar al argumento sonoro además de alturas musicales, fonemas, articulaciones vocales, palabras, idioma, gestos, expresiones faciales.

De otra parte, la aspereza y lontananza que aporta el cuarteto de saxofones en 72 Ángeles, recuerdan en una mirada modernista a los paisajes feudales de las pinturas del Bosco[11].  El aliento de vida que fluye a través de ellos, rasga lo más profundo de nuestra espiritualidad, recordándonos la violencia del mundo actual y la polución de sus modernas mega ciudades. Auerbach nos acerca a las introvertidas efusiones y conflictos de sus seres, unas veces ángeles y otras, demonios.

Existen muchas similitudes de  lenguaje con Liggeti[12], quien se dio cuenta muy tempranamente que el cerebro no podía percibir a cierta velocidad todas las notas, sino que estas eran asimiladas como atmosferas, como grupos sonoros que coloreaban determinado ambiente o sensación.

En mi percepción, Lera Auerbach recrea un mundo de masas sonoras aéreas (ya que todo está construido a partir del aire y el aliento) que emanan del propio cuerpo como materia prima y musical, elementos que condensa en una metáfora de vida y del origen mismo de la creación.[13]

En sus 72 Ángeles, vivimos colorísticos mundos de nubes, oleadas de eventos sonoros, densas galaxias formadas por pequeños grupos de densidades y de probabilidades. Esto, aporta a la  pieza un pensamiento muy avanzado en términos artísticos, mucho más abierto[14] y  universal en el plano poético y esotérico.

En esta puesta de Lera Auerbach, existen ciertas reminiscencias de obras escritas para el teatro, la danza; donde se aprecia una intensión de experiencia ante el espacio, la espacialidad en la que está inmerso el espectador. Lejos de los cánones clásicos en la representación musical, Auerbach incorpora una estructura formal abierta, no solamente en términos musicales sino también espaciales por lo cual la obra es de una estética muy interesante, sonora y visualmente.

Nos muestra, tal como Platón a sus discípulos, sólo lo que encuentra necesario de ser apreciado, el coro, dejando fuera de nuestra vista aquello que prefiere quede solamente en el plano sonoro, espacial, sensorial. De este modo el cuarteto de saxofones es distribuido por el lugar, sin ser visto por el espectador, quien además de la percepción de la música emitida por las voces integrantes del coro, sentirán con extrañeza otros sonidos que no pueden ver, pero que están allí; quizás otra de las metáforas de la autora, entorno a la fe, en estos tiempos de hipermaterialidad y pragmatismo.

Estas 72 evocaciones de ángeles y demonios, celebran la vida por encima de todo, en sus multifacéticas variaciones. Es un salto de fe al oscuro vacío, en un intento por romper con nuestras ataduras preconcebidas y perjuicios, inmersos en esta epifanía de sensaciones y emociones de una plasticidad sonora tal, que fluye la música y se modela como si fuera arcilla. Con ella, la autora va dando forma a sus ángeles, sus seres sublimes; sumergidos en las pasiones y los excesos de la divinidad más terrenal.

Quizás, del mismo modo en que el alfabeto hebreo fue aprendido de generación en generación, esta obra seguirá su curso a través del tiempo, hasta llegar a nuevas generaciones de músicos, artistas, poetas, intérpretes y oyentes, que encuentren en la música algo más alla de los sonidos en sí mismos, quizás sea un reencuentro con la esencia y naturaleza misma del alma humana.


[1] Demonio. Palabra procedente del griego daimon.

[2] Lera Auerbach (*1973. Tscheljabinsk) Compositora, escultora, pintora, poeta. Considerada una figura excepcional en el circuito artístico internacional.

[3] Se hace referencia  a Arte Total en sentido Wagneriano.

[4] Pitágoras.530 a.C. Filósofo griego que desarrolló la teoría de la “música de las esferas”.

[5] Arquetipo. Palabra de origen griego arjé, que significa “fuente”, “principio”, “origen”.

[6] Se hace referencia a la composición musical y al uso de los fonemas también como sonidos musicales dentro de la obra.

[7] Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949). Importante dramaturgo y ensayista belga de lengua francesa y principal exponente del teatro simbolista.

[8] Iannis Xenakis (1922-Rumania, 2001-París) Compositor e ingeniero civil de ascendencia griega, pionero de la música concreta.

[9] Platón. (Atenas. c 427-347 C.) Filósofo griego, seguidor de Sócrates y maestro de Aristóteles.

[10] Palabra empleada en un sentido comparativo, dado el predominio de factores y elementos humanos en relación con el resto de los instrumentos musicales y sus morfologías. 

[11] Jheronimus Bosch (El Bosco) (Bolduque, c. 1450-1516) Reconocido pintor nacido en los Países Bajos, reconocido por sus personajes y figuraciones extrañas y singularmente descabelladas.

[12] György S.Ligeti (1923-2006) Compositor húngaro de origen judío.

[13] No olvidemos que ¨en el inicio solo fue el verbo, y el verbo era Dios¨.

[14] Hago referencia al concepto que aporta Humberto Eco en su “Opera Aperta”.

“Maria” [by VIVIANA RAMOS]

“Stabat Mater” (del latín “estaba la madre”), ha sido uno de los temas literarios con mayor número de versiones, adaptaciones, creaciones y recreaciones musicales posibles en todos los géneros y formas a través de los siglos y las épocas. Ninguna otra mujer, ha sido tan glorificada en toda la historia humana.
El controversial tema sobre la realidad de ¿quién fue María?, ha ocupado a los creadores más importantes de todos los tiempos y de la actualidad, a través de la literatura, la pintura, la música, la escultura, el cine, la danza, entre otros.
Aunque Lera Auerbach, no es poseedora de una profunda vocación religiosa, no deja de ser atraída por las figuraciones de esta enigmática mujer y por todo el simbolismo que la envuelve. Asi en 2005, crea sus “Diálogos en Stabat Mater”, sobre un tema de Pergolesi, donde intentó establecer un marco de intercambios entre el siglo XVIII y el XXI, a través del mismo tema. El desafío, también resultó en un cambio de medios, ya que era interés de su autora llevarlo a una zona más instrumental, más abstracta, aunque conservando el mismo espíritu de la obra original de Pergolesi:

«La imagen de la madre afligida es universal, al igual que el dolor, aunque sus expresiones pueden variar en función de los antecedentes culturales o religiosos».

Con este trabajo y su temática, al mismo tiempo muy personal, la autora ya concebía una puesta en escena donde pudiera ser recreada en mayores niveles, la vida y la historia de esta mujer universal, pero no es hasta principios de 2019, donde queda claro que la obra sobre la vida de María, debía ser un ballet. Visitando New York, Auerbach se reúne largas jornadas con Diana Vishneva, la gran bailarina rusa y debaten largo tiempo en el estudio de ésta, sobre la figura de esta mujer y la verdad detrás de su historia, más allá de lo que de ella se conoce. Allí, entre fascinación y complicidad, nace la idea de crear una obra escénico-danzaria llamada “María”. Así, en la idea conjunta de estas dos grandes creadoras y mujeres rusas, se define el destino de Diálogos en Stabat Mater, un obsequio de su creadora para esta puesta en escena en una visión más amplia, compleja, contemporánea y controversial de quien pudo haber sido realmente, María.
Si hablamos de creación, de sacrificio, de búsqueda de la verdad, de identidad, es fácil entender este interés y fascinación por parte de estas dos grandes creadoras, también grandes amigas.

El ballet es uno de esos mundos fascinantes, donde la interpretación de personajes e historias, supone la creación de arquetipos y leyendas que marcan de por vida la carrera y la vida personal de sus creadores. Así, ha sucedido con grandes mujeres de la historia como el personaje “Gisselle”, de la cubana Alicia Alonso, el “Bolero” que inmortalizó a Maya Prinseskaya y así se espera de su sucesora Diana Vishneva con “María”, en esta coreografía de Goyo Montero.
Ahora bien, esta puesta, propone en su solo nombre, múltiples posibilidades y lecturas. Quizás, la santa virgen resuma la esencia y el aura espiritual legada por las sagradas escrituras y la religión cristiana, de aquella mujer virtuosa, sacrificada, amante y cuidadora eterna de sus hijos, de la familia; del hogar. Pero, podemos decir que este ballet se basa en la virgen ¿María Nazarena? madre de Jesús, o en ¿María Magdalena? «la mujer quien fue una pecadora» según los apóstoles o quizás ¿el más significativo de todos ellos?, “apóstol de los apóstoles” o tal vez, sencillamente ¿un diálogo entre todas ellas?.

Goetia – In umbra lucis [by Tata Gutmacher]

Произведение для семидесяти двух демонов, семидесяти (двух) толковников, струнных и античного хора

В пятницу, 24 мая 2019 года в зале Пьера Булеза в Берлине было зафиксировано маленькое чудо: камерный хор RIAS (Berlin) и струнный квартет Michelangelo исполнили новую вещь Леры Ауэрбах «Goetia – 72 In umbra lucis». Это парная к «Семидесяти двум ангелам» («72 Angels) вещь. Парные сочинения с красивой цифрой 72 (библейских переводчика; языка, на которые разделилось человечество после Вавилонской башни; имени Бога в каббалистической традиции; это число ступеней лестницы Иакова или количество библейских книг и т.д.). Две почти театральные пьесы. Об ангелах — и о демонах. Одна о свете, с подзаголовком : «In splendore lucis», другая — о тьме и тени, со словами «In umbra lucis». «Семьдесят два ангела» — для хора и квартета саксофонов, там ангельские трубы возвещали о свете. Теперь же речь зашла о демонах. Но так ли все просто?

Сначала о самом впечатлении. Длиннющая вещь, которая слушается на одном дыхании. Усталости нет, есть любопытство и саспенс: а что дальше? Сверхплотная, насыщенная звуковая картина не отпускает внимание ни на секунду. Быстрая смена декораций и модусов этой музыкальной речи не дают слушателю опомниться. Чувствуешь себя Орфеем, мимо которого быстро проносятся тени и сюжеты, которые не можешь разглядеть.  Как будто все происходящее не до конца аккомодировалось к человеческому времени и взгляду. При этом каждый демон, как бы скоро он ни летел мимо, не похож на другого. Есть страшные, смешные, трогательные, одичавшие, есть совсем комичные. От одних — озноб ужаса. Кто-то придурковат. Какого-то хочется пожалеть. «72 демона» — это подробная, эмоциональная музыка, очень разная, но захватывает и завораживает она целиком и на всю вещь. 

На все 89 минут от тебя остается только слух. Слуховые образы интенсивные,  присутствуешь при их живом непосредственном сотворении. Весь театр создается тут же, на месте. Так и видишь Царя Соломона, у которого из рукавов вылетают стаи визжащих и орущих существ. Пьеса дает фантастическое впечатление присутствия — всё разыгрывается здесь и сейчас. Есть, правда, одна загвоздка — почти неземные, нездешние языки исполнения. Сознание отказывается их воспринимать. Даже имея в руке текст-подстрочник, по которому вроде бы можно следить за происходящим, физически, своим пальцем без маникюра — чувствуешь себя нашедшим головоломку. 

Но задуматься некогда, так быстро приходит вовлечение в музыку. Это уже не квест, ты захвачен полностью и делаешься полноценным участником мистерии с текстом мистической службы в руках. Это больше не ребус и не шифровка, это другое. Таинство. Мистерия, в духе каких-нибудь тайных Элевсинских, о которых никто толком не знает, что там происходило. 

Формально все произведение — упаковка длинного и к тому же слишком сложного текста. Его структура вновь и вновь напоминает нам, что первичен здесь текст, как только и может быть первичным текст ритуального служения. Но что же здесь делает музыка? Не слишком ли много мы говорим о тексте?

Сейчас мы подходим к главному открытию. Конечно, музыка всегда немного заново изобретает смысл и порядок, и в этом случае переизобретенное прямо на наших глазах вещество музыки — это очевидный перевод со священных языков заклинаний. То есть, музыка тут — это перевод. Это перевод с священного, с больше не познаваемого — на единственно понятный нам универсальный человеческий язык — язык музыки.

Действительно, радостная новость — теперь каждый из текстов функционирует сам по себе, без нашего участия. Не надо иметь за спиной ни оконченную классическую гимназию, ни магическую школу с отличными оценками по демонологии. Каждый из текстов сам отсылает к своим источникам. И это не примитивное колдовство, которое включается по кнопке. Движущим механизмом выступает музыка. А роль композитора здесь — перевести миф в современную систему координат и снабдить конструкцию системой гиперссылок.

Попробуем их поискать. В «72 Angels» есть три основных уровня. Первый слой, как уже сказано, — это древнегреческий текст. Второй — текст с именами демонов, внехристианская магическая традиция (дохристианская, каббалистическая и позднесредневековая). Третий уровень — неизбежная для слушателя аллюзия на большие хоровые произведения. Когда много и красиво, и за душу берет, и поет прозрачнейший хор — это похоже и на Баха, и на Carmina Burana Орфа, это включает ассоциацию  — внимание, тут духовная вокальная музыка. Такой бэкграунд обеспечивает важный для европейской традиции иудео-христианский контекст, начинающий уходить из современной мейнстримной культуры. 

Уровень сборки целого — современность. Современное искусство — почти всегда комментарий, и в этом главном смысле Лера Ауэрбах — концептуальный современный автор. Композитор выступает не только автором музыки, она конструирует и комментирует культурную историю. Музыкальное произведение не равно и не исчерпывается заклинанием семидесяти двух демонов. Это только рамка, канва сюжета. Автору удается посмотреть на этих демонов глазами не знавшего греха древнего грека. Для грека демон, точнее, даймон — это творческое, одушевляющее начало. Дохристианский даймон — вне добра и зла, это творческая движущая сила. Автор — посвященный, который берет для нас роль проводника. (Это здорово написано! Про грека и проводника.)

Что делает композитор Лера Ауэрбах? Она не просто подбирает текст, а выступает прежде всего автором программы. Пьеса состоит из интродукции, в которой звучит текст 90-го псалма, и длинного перечисления имен демонов, каждый раз со всеми возможными вариациями. Похоже на словарь, предисловием к которому был псалом. Предисловие очевидно должно писаться на языке будущего читателя, на языке адресата, того, ради кого, собственно, и составлен словарь. Что же мы видим? К словарику демонов предисловие написано безопасно по-древнегречески, на языке Библии. И тут надо заметить одну существенную деталь, Лера Ауэрбах тщательно следит за тем, чтобы звучала принятая у филологов и историков классической античности транскрипция. Тогда текст выходит совсем нейтральным и максимально приближенным к некоему отвлеченному идеалу. Получается, что реципиент, адресат всего произведения — некий древний совершенный грек. Он говорит не на том греческом, который до сих пор жив в церковном обиходе ныне здравствующих православных греков, а на том, на котором такого древнего грека  воображают говорящим ученые филологи-классики.

Именно потому результат напоминает богослужение. Идеальное. Кто-то поторопится поспекулировать: дескать, что-то типа черной Мессы, про демонов, и вообще, может, это список заклинаний, которые их вызывают. Можно и иначе. Список с демонами страшен, особенно для человечества, которое только вышло из ХХ века и в веке нынешнем продолжает ужасать само себя. А тут — список демонов предваряется девяностым псалмом, как надежным заговором, старым и хорошо проверенным, так что средневековая традиция вызывания демонов оказывается упакована в околохристианскую магию (См. Примечание). «Goetia – 72 In umbra lucis» — в некотором смысле рецепт способа защиты от темных сил. Вы ведь его поняли?

И надо сказать, что произведению невероятно повезло. Место премьеры — Булезовский зал в Берлине. Это такой античный амфитеатр в миниатюре, инкрустированный и в здание, и, поверх него, в пространство исторического Берлина. Так что музыка Леры Ауэрбах, в сердцевине которой греческий текст, была более чем уместна в этом зале. 

И еще одно напоследок. Хористы, мелькающие при перелистывании в полутьме зала своими белыми страничками, напоминали ангелов, которые взмахивают крыльями. Хотя, пожалуй, они и были теми самыми ангелами. Мы же помним, что демоны — те же ангелы, просто с ними что-то случилось. Может, они слишком увлеклись своим ангельским концертом. А может, это те самые античные даймоны — магические одушевленные и одушевляющие существа, необходимые для человеческой жизни и творчества. Задумала ли такую картинку Лера Ауэрбах или оно само вышло, как побочный эффект всего мистического действия? Пожалуй, что и не важно.

Будущего слушателя, зрителя и со-участника можно только предупредить: Осторожно! Это психоактивная музыка. И она не призывает демонов, а изгоняет. Так что выходит, что композитор Лера Ауэрбах — экзорцист.

_________

А теперь Примечание о 90 Псалме.

Опора и зачин произведения — девяностый псалом. Выбор автора не случаен. Девяностый псалом переписывали, перепечатывали, брали с собой  в качестве оберега или просто читали тогда, когда жизни что-то угрожало. Считалось, что он помогает в минуту опасности. «Доктор Живаго» Бориса Пастернака дает прелюбопытный пример узуса этого текста. Дадим кусок текста, посвященный псалму, целиком. Это важный момент для автора, происходящего из России.

«Но телефонист был мертв. Чтобы в этом удостовериться окончательно, Юрий Андреевич расстегнул на груди у него рубашку и стал слушать его сердце. Оно не работало.

На шее у убитого висела ладанка на снурке. Юрий Андреевич снял ее. В ней оказалась зашитая в тряпицу, истлевшая и стершаяся по краям сгибов бумажка. Доктор развернул ее наполовину распавшиеся и рассыпающиеся доли.

Бумажка содержала извлечения из девяностого псалма с теми изменениями и отклонениями, которые вносит народ в молитвы, постепенно удаляющиеся от подлинника от повторения к повторению. Отрывки церковно-славянского текста были переписаны в грамотке по-русски.

 В псалме говорится: Живый в помощи Вышнего. В грамотке это стало заглавием заговора: “Живые помощи”. Стих псалма: “Не убоишися… от срелы летящия во дни (днем)” превратился в слова ободрения: “Не бойся стрелы летящей войны”. “Яко позна имя мое”, — говорит псалом. А грамотка: “Поздно имя мое”. “С ним есмь в скорби, изму его…” стало в грамотке “Скоро в зиму его”.

     Текст псалма считался чудодейственным, оберегающим от пуль.

 Его в виде талисмана надевали на себя воины еще в прошлую империалистическую войну. Прошли десятилетия и гораздо позднее его стали зашивать в платье арестованные и твердили про себя заключенные, когда их вызывали к следователям на ночные допросы.

    От телефониста Юрий Андреевич перешел на поляну к телу убитого им молодого белогвардейца. На красивом лице юноши были написаны черты невинности и всепростившего страдания. “Зачем я убил его?” — подумал доктор.

     Он расстегнул шинель убитого и широко раскинул ее полы. На подкладке по каллиграфической прописи, старательно и любящею рукою, наверное, материнскою, было вышито: Сережа Ранцевич, — имя и фамилия убитого.

     Сквозь пройму Сережиной рубашки вывалились вон и свесились на цепочке наружу крестик, медальон и еще какой-то плоский золотой футлярчик или тавлинка с поврежденной, как бы гвоздем вдавленной крышкой. Футлярчик был полураскрыт. Из него вывалилась сложенная бумажка. Доктор развернул ее и глазам своим не поверил. Это был тот же девяностый псалом, но в печатном виде и во всей своей славянской подлинности.

В это время Сережа застонал и потянулся. Он был жив. Как потом обнаружилось, он был оглушен легкой внутренней контузией. Пуля на излете ударилась в стенку материнского амулета, и это спасло его. Но что было делать с лежавшим без памяти?»

Мы видим, как у Пастернака искаженный вариант текста не помог покойнику, а вот правильный, запечатанный в подаренную матерью ладанку — спас другого человека, белогвардейца. Так и наш автор. Лера Ауэрбах озабочена тем, чтобы текст, проверенный временем, работал как защитительная молитва. Она не просто аккуратно транскрибирует текст псалма. Она ищет первоисточник. Посредником выступает древний грек. Но не простой грек. Как семьдесят толковников перекладывали на греческий древнееврейский текст, так автор — пробует подойти к тексту по возможности нейтрально, научно, без предубеждения. Увидеть его свежим взглядом, беспристрастно. И чтобы так увидеть один из самых страстных — и возвращающих к теме страсти — текстов из Псалтири всю страстью и силу надо сублимировать в музыку.

Lera Auerbach Part 4: “Chimera” The Music [by Carolyn Talarr]

According to Rafael DeStella, the symphony is “a ‘chimera’ of two different versions of The Little Mermaid: the original 3-hour version that premiered in Copenhagen, and the 2.5-hour version done in Hamburg, conducted by the late Klauspeter Seibel.  Certain parts cut to make the Hamburg version later found their way into the symphony. Seibel also conducted the US Premiere of “Chimera” in New Orleans with his Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008.  He loved the piece so much that he was editing the recording of it on his deathbed, and requested that the transcendent, ethereal final movement, “Requiem for Icarus”, which corresponds to the “Coda in the Stars” in The Little Mermaid, be played at his funeral.

Auerbach’s choice to ‘chimerize’ The Little Mermaid into her first symphony attests to the deep significance the music and the story hold for her. In the interview with Rodrigo Couto, she offered it as an example of one piece that could represent her entire oeuvre:

“In my life there is a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ this work. It was very complex to write, but it is also the most successful, since it has been represented more than 150 times in several countries. The Little Mermaid has been such a transcendent work for me that at the end of it I have signed with my own blood.”

The complex, intense course of “Chimera” never lets us settle into comfortable predictability, but somehow still allows us to feel grounded in recognizable sounds.  As one critic put it,

“Auerbach is Russian, but she seems to have inhaled all her predecessors in a single gulp. Not only composers from Rachmaninoff to Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke but also heroes of literature dating back to Gogol and Pushkin. The result is a singular voice, rooted in traditional forms and tonality, but still contemporary.”  (Stryker)

Some other critics have tried to contain the ‘singular voice’ in “Chimera” and Auerbach’s other music within certain labels, but Auerbach, like her music, finds that effort irrelevant:

“All of my works have tonal centers, a place where you feel more at home than in other places. Unless you create a home base, how can you create dissonance? And my music is very dissonant, very dramatic – because there’s always a sense of knowing where the coordinates are….As a listener, I really don’t care if what I am listening to is called ‘atonal’, or ‘tonal’, or ‘neo-this’, or ‘neo-that’, or even ‘post-this’, or whatever else it may be called. I am either changed by the musical experience, (perhaps troubled, perhaps inspired, moved, challenged, passionate), or I am bored and the whole experience leaves me cold.” (Peters)

There is no risk of boredom or cold indifference with “Chimera”, however. Understandably since it was born from a 3-hour ballet, there is no ‘sonata form’ in this symphony, no traditional progression from allegro opening through andante middle, perhaps adding a minuet before the allegro/rondo end. The 3 hours are distilled into a little over a half-hour-long suite of 7 subtly related movements in which arcs are drawn and depths plumbed, driven, but not constrained, by the currents and tides of the originating story.

Several specific musical motifs or threads weave in and out of the movements, such as the very first violin solo after the ominous, ponderous opening. Soon after that comes a curious, hesitant repeated major second followed by the minor third that sounds first in the oboe then later in the violin.

These motifs swirl around in that movement and then return in multitudes of permutations in the rest of the symphony, sometimes accompanied by another striking motif, the intense, urgent, accented snap-pizzicato that first appears in the movement “Gargoyles”.

Familiar diatonic harmony and less-familiar dissonance, romantic and more modern idioms and instruments (such as the theremin and crystal glasses) intermingle almost by the second, creating a whole that encompasses and surpasses all of them.  This musical syncretism of “Chimera” is joined by the same “connective tissue” as are Mermaid and Icarus to the creative process Auerbach has relied on since childhood: ‘chimerizing’ stories and images from ancient Greece and all over history to make sense of, and express, contemporary existence.

Lera Auerbach Part 3: “Chimera” – The Backstory (2) [by Carolyn Talarr]

An abundance of associative ‘connective tissue’ joins the characters of Mermaid, Chimera, and Icarus; all of them are, in different ways, more-than-natural, impossible beings.  While Chimera is a mythical mix of species, both Mermaid and Icarus try to escape the natural forms which imprison them, re-form themselves as beings of art(ifice), and pay the ultimate price for their attempted transcendence.

For her part, Auerbach has said that she wrote The Little Mermaid with all the “hunger, maximalism, idealism of youth”, words that describe both herself and the character of Icarus.  The similarities continue: “Every concert…is about being transformed. If we’re not transformed, we’ve just wasted two hours.  For an artist, it’s important never to lose the life and death intensity [emphases mine].”

These similarities speak to Auerbach’s personal connection with her ‘hero’ Icarus, Mermaid, and Chimera.  DeStella confirmed the general association between those who make art(ifice) of themselves and those who make art:

“…the concept of the artist that searches for perfection, for the ultimate, but fails, and falls…there is an aphorism in [Auerbach’s poetry collection] Excess of Being that ‘Every day a new Icarus kills himself’. Little Mermaid is an Icarus, searching for what she cannot reach.”

Beyond all these specific titles, associations, and implications, however, Auerbach initially decided to title not only the symphony but also all the individual movements for several reasons.  On one level, she did it simply because, as she has said, “The conventional titles such as ‘Fantasia’ or ‘Sonata’ or ‘Symphony’ are acceptable, of course, but they are also a bit dry and boring.” True enough; further, as DeStella recounted, “she was keenly aware that unless you do it, someone else will do it later, [so] she took a proactive approach”.

But again, Auerbach’s title(s) didn’t stay within the context of the ballet; by bringing in the image of Chimera, she deliberately distanced this new work from its original context.  The Latin phrases as movement titles provide distance from the original story as well while suggesting that the stakes in this music are nothing less than life and death.

Why did she want to create space between the ballet and the symphony? DeStella explained Auerbach’s deliberate choice with seemingly paradoxical reasoning:

“The titling of the symphony is part of her opus, a conceptual component.  It [speaks to] the question, which really arose in the 19th to 20th centuries: the abstraction of music. [Auerbach] likes to say ‘there are two opposing concepts that are both equally true: all music is abstract, has no story, or all music has story’, because we all make our own stories when we listen to a piece that has no words” [emphases mine].

Each individual in the audience has the right, the freedom to choose the story; the composer’s story is just one of many, no more relevant than that of an audience member.”

Indeed, the Finnish National Ballet later used the Little Mermaid score to create a ballet on the story of Cinderella!

So to Auerbach, programmatic titles both stand as valid insights into her original vision and offer a structure that facilitates, more than “dry” conventional titles would, every audience member’s ability to experience the music themselves and create their own unique visions.

Or as she herself put it, using images that suggest that, with the titles as ‘wings’, as it were, audiences can and should experience a kind of transformation of their own: “The title is [an] invitation for the listener to explore his or her own memories and the transcendental qualities that exist within us, and allows us to break free from this cage of everyday routine and bring the wonder of life.”

Lera Auerbach Part 2: “Chimera” – The Backstory (1) [by Carolyn Talarr]

Chimera
Commissioned by the Düsseldorf Symphony
John Fiore, conductor
Premiere Date: 11/10/2006

MOVEMENTS

1. Aegri somnia (The sick man’s dream)
2. Post tenebras lux (After darkness, light)
3. Gargoyles
4. Et in Arcadia ego (I [death] am here, even in the perfect countryside)
5. Siste, viator (Halt, traveler)
6. Humum mandere (To bite the dust)
7. Requiem for Icarus

chi·me·ra /kīˈmirə,kəˈmirə/  Noun

1. (in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.

2. a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve.

3. BIOLOGY
an organism containing a mixture of genetically different tissues, formed by processes such as fusion of early embryos, grafting, or mutation.

All three of these definitions resonate throughout the seven movements of Lera Auerbach’s first symphony.  But why “Chimera”? And why those particular titles?  We must remember that Auerbach learned to write music and words at the same age, and is internationally renowned for both her music and her poetry (as well as her visual art).  Just as her body of work crosses and blurs artistic boundaries, so every aspect of any of her creations, whether text, image, or music, makes a vital contribution to the overall experience.

A clue to the significance of the title can be found in the symphony’s origins: Auerbach’s music for The Little Mermaid, a ballet that premiered in 2005.  PYP is fortunate that Rafael DeStella, Artistic Coordinator of Auerbach Studio, spoke with us directly at length about the connections between the two works.  He described:

“As composers in the past have created suites from ballets, the concept of bringing a work from the stage to the concert hall lent itself very well for this type of connection.  One of her great interests her whole life has been chimeras, creatures made from different worlds. The mermaid is a chimera, in a spiritual way, but also in a physical way [emphasis mine]. So, the concept of morphing the ballet score into a concert work was very natural.”

Of course a mermaid is already inherently a chimera of sorts, a woman with a fish’s lower body.  But the Little Mermaid takes it farther; to win her human love she abandons her graceful fins for legs and painful feet. When that love proves impossible, she ultimately transmutes into “a transparent, beautiful being…a daughter of the air” (Andersen).

Yet note that the title of this symphony is not simply “The Mermaid Suite”.  DeStella pointed out that by envisioning “…Mermaid as Chimera, a lot of the titles of the symphony [i.e. the movement titles listed above] connect. Once you see this sort of mirror perspective, you can find them within the story of the mermaid as well. It’s a different interpretation of the same music by the composer.”

One clear instance of that different interpretation is that Icarus suddenly appears in the title of the last movement.  His image is so powerful that in 2011 Auerbach created a third piece, the standalone symphonic tone poem Icarus, from the last two movements of the symphony.  Auerbach wrote in the program notes for the premiere of that piece:

“Icarus was one of my heroes (or antiheroes, depending on the interpretation) – the winged boy who dared to fly too close to the sun.  The wings were made by his father, Daedalus, a skilled craftsman, who earlier in his life designed the famous labyrinth in Crete that held the Minotaur. Daedalus was held prisoner in Crete and the wings were his only way to escape.

Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun or too close to the ocean, but what teenager listens to his father? Exhilarated by freedom, by his own youth, by the feeling of flight, Icarus soared higher and higher until the wax on his wings melted and he fell into the ocean.

The desire to go beyond the boundaries into the ecstatic visionary realm of soaring flight is essentially human. In some ways this desire to transcend the everyday-ness is what it means to be human. That is why this myth has resonated for centuries. Icarus knows the danger of flying too high, but the risk is justified in his eyes. He needs to fly as high as he can, beyond what is possible – it is his nature.”

Lera Auerbach Part 1: Early years [by Carolyn Talarr]

This series of blog entries will focus on different facets of Lera Auerbach’s life and ever-expanding universe of artistic creation.*

Lera Auerbach seems just to live more than a plain everyday human.  Here are a few of the things she’s done in the past six weeks: the world premiere of a massive work for piano, choir and orchestra (including literal cracking ice as part of the percussion) entitled Arctica, which involved extensive in-person research in the Arctic.  The piece was co-commissioned by the National Geographic and the National Symphony Orchestra; conducted by Teddy Abrams, with Auerbach at the piano, at the Kennedy Center, it premiered to rapturous reviews.

She then zipped back to New Orleans, wherein between researching and composing Arctica, she had been serving since February as the first-ever Artist-in-Residence to the entire city.  There she conducted The Blind, an a capella operatic adaptation of the Maeterlinck play that she had composed in college—it was performed in the dark, with a special lighted-crystal baton she happened to have already. Then a week later: the US premiere of her song cycle Songs of no Return at the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College in New York State, where she is visiting Artist-in-Residence this year (during her other engagements she’d also been working with her students long-distance). The work is a setting of texts by Sylvia Plath, Maxine Kumin, and Auerbach herself.

Auerbach’s business card reads “pianist, composer, writer, poet, painter, sculptor” (to which she could also add “photographer” and “conductor”, but who’s counting?). No wonder her first book of poetry in English, illustrated with her own artwork, is entitled Excess of Being.  Just imagining the travel involved is exhausting, much less the massive amount of required creative energy!

Auerbach comes by her multi-dimensional life naturally; born in 1973 to a family of musicians on one side and writers on the other, she learned to read and write music and words at the same time and composed her first piece, a song about death, at age 4.  She has said that she knew by that age that she was “born to…work in art”, started serious piano study that year, debuted with an orchestra at 8, and wrote her first opera, which made her famous in the USSR, at 12. From then she won piano competitions that eventually took her to the United States via a tightly-guarded cultural exchange program in late spring 1991 when she was 17.

Once in the US, Auerbach became literally the ‘very last Soviet émigré artist’ (Flamm) before the fall of the USSR; she decided suddenly to stay in the US and risk never seeing her family again, because of the intense freedom and connection of nature and music she felt at the Aspen Music School. She found almost providential support through a family connection who got her an emergency audition on the July 4th weekend (in which she included a composition of her own) and immediate acceptance to the Manhattan School of Music, and then to Juilliard for degrees in both piano performance and composition, and later the College of Music, Theater, and Media in Hanover, Germany.

Although Auerbach has mentioned this fact in press extremely rarely, it’s significant that the city she was born in, Chelyabinsk 22, Russia, was not just an ‘industrial’ city, as virtually every biography notes.  It was, as she describes it, “a ‘secret city’ where the atomic weapons of the USSR were manufactured. In my city were the laboratories where the experiments were carried out by the military. Nobody could enter or leave.” (Couto).

Even more significant, Chelyabinsk was the site of the little-known but catastrophic 1957 Kyshtym Nuclear Disaster.  Covered up by the Soviet government until the 1980s, it is now considered the third-worst ever, causing immediate death and widespread lingering effects ever since. The townspeople were forced to clean up with no protection, there was distinct racism in the different fates suffered by different ethnic groups (e.g. ethnic Russians were evacuated, ethnic Tatars and others forced to stay) and the medical records of those affected are still tightly held by the government. It was and continues to be a radiation danger to the area and anywhere on the continent, the wind blows, with flares and coverups as recently as 2017.  Auerbach joked ironically in the interview with Couto that people from Chelyabinsk “glow green in the dark.”

Given the intensely oppressive atmosphere in Chelyabinsk 22, it’s understandable that escape into mythology, which weaves through much of her work, obviously including her first symphony, the Chimera, has also been integral to her experience of the world since her earliest days.

“As a child, I lived in ancient Greece.  The book of myths was my favorite and the world of jealous gods and god-like humans was more real to me than the world outside of my windows, full of bloody red flags (the red of the Soviet flag symbolized the blood of the heroes of the Revolution) and the Soviet-trinity portraits of Lenin-Marx-Engels with the occasional bushy eyebrows of Brezhnev looking at me from the walls of the buildings. The world outside made much more sense through the perspective of the ancient Greek myths, where it was quite common for a power-protective god to devour all his children. ” (This is the beginning of Auerbach’s own very valuable program notes on Icarus, which she created by extracting the last two movements of her first symphony in 2011; more on this in the second blog entry).

The usual story Auerbach tells is that her preoccupation with the liminal, with human and superhuman, with life and death, came from when her Polish nanny would stroll her through the cemetery as a toddler.  But it’s clear that the influence came from more than just the cemetery strolls; not only mythology, music and poetry but also issues of life and death, decay, constraint, repression, and freedom were powerful, constant companions in her formative years.  It’s only natural that they would end up appearing in her music, poetry, and art.

*All blogs by Carolyn Talarr appeared first at the Portland Youth Philharmonic’s website (www.portlandyouthphil.org) on April 19 and April 22, 2019.

Auerbach’s “Dresden – Ode to Peace“ and Jewish spirituality [by Dr. Pablo Vivanco]

Auerbach’s choral work “Dresden – Ode to peace” was commissioned by the Dresden Frauenkirche Foundation and the Sächsische Staatskapelle and premiered on February 14, 2012, in the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany. The work has been dedicated to the “victims of all nationalist movements around the world” by the composer.[1] An important incentive of the “Ode” was, thus, to create a musical monument to the suffering of the victims in past, present, and future. I want to argue that Auerbach has created an important contemporary work of choral music that confronts the contemporary and historical problems created by the issue of nationalist movements by the means of a radically innovative musical language. The various subtexts of Auerbach’s aesthetic language are influenced by the tradition of the Central-European Jewish Enlightenment and it is a work that addresses contemporary issues by a modern and unique array of aesthetic means.  

Introduction to the “Ode to peace”

The “Ode” represents an unusual contribution to the genre of the Requiem: with the exception of the “Kyrie”, the “Lacrimosa” and the “Libera me”, Auerbach has abstained from including the normative elements of the missa profunctis and replaced them by central prayers of the great world religions. The texts appear in Auerbach’s very own compilation and order. Most of the prayers that Auerbach has selected for the “Ode to peace” are prayers where the personal relationship of the worshipper to god is in the foreground of the text, a choice to which we shall turn further below.[2] There is a centrality of the motif of the individual worshipper wishing to spiritually “climb” to the purest realms of reality in Auerbach’s work, her poetry and visual artworks in general. In the Requiem, the drive (or kavanah) of the individual worshipper to be heard by the highest entity with his prayers is being (re)-planted within the most refined traditions of the Abrahamic religions, this is to say, Auerbach takes the listener back to the origins of the (pre-exilic) Judaic traditions of odes (the psalms) as well as to the roots of non-monotheistic cultures. As such, and with this tendency to encompass vast cultural repositories, Auerbach’s “ode to peace” can be called a modern work of reformation, written for a 21st century audience. We encounter some central psalms of the Jewish-Christian liturgy (for example, Psalms 23, 100, and 134: Auerbach is mindful of the fact that they originated in the Babylonian Exile and that the psalm literature was continued in the post-exilic tradition of mourning). There is also the “Pater noster”, the “Hear, oh Israel” (appearing along with the “Kaddish”, the Jewish prayer of mourning) and the “worship to the arch angels” from the Jewish evening prayer, the “Maariv (but influenced by the tradition of Jewish mysticism), all presented in a radically new sound shape. In addition to prayers from Judaism, Christianity and from Islam (the “Fatiha”), Auerbach included central prayers from Buddhism and Hinduism.

The composition and performance of a work where prayers from all world religions are featured in one single choral piece, solemnly performed in the recently renovated Frauenkirche (a symbol of destruction itself!), yet written by a Russian-American Jewish artist, may well represent a subtle counter-version to the often-heard claim of truthfully achieved diversity in our own early 21st century societies.[3] However, mindful of the multilayered symbolism of “Dresden” as a historical place, Auerbach refuses to let the audience identify her work with any concrete historical events or culturally bound memories.[4] Instead, the composer offers a rich venue for the audience to reflect upon the history of persecution, suffering, and martyrdom and she finds innovative ways to deal with the complexity of it by means of her own musical language. The rich texture of Auerbach’s music and references may be shortly, exemplified by one of the main motifs in the Requiem: The “Ode to peace” contains clearly discernible references to sacred music from Dresden. The so-called Dresden “Amen”, a Protestant liturgical tune from the early 1800s, appears all the way through the “Ode to peace”. It has been previously used by Felix Mendelssohn –Bartholdy in his “Reformation Symphony”. Three decades later, it also prominently appeared as a Leitmotiv in Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal”. In the Symphony, the “Amen” is embedded in an orchestral work representing the hopeful and optimistic culture of the rising Christian and Jewish liberal middle classes in Central Europe in the mid-19th century.[5] With quite different (if not opposite) intentions, the composer Richard Wagner used the Dresden “Amen” in his late opera “Parsifal” in an attempt to signify a lasting triumph of German nationalism and political Protestantism over the menacing cultural “threat” of liberal poets and musicians. To do so effectively, the composer brought a medieval mythos of the holy Grail in line with his own desire to “clean” music from the “entrepreneurial abuse” of music.[6] As if commenting on this music historical trajectory, the Dresden Amen appears throughout Auerbach’s Ode: in the archaic sounding opening and, later, in the “Amen” (no. 15) as the materialized “angel of history” who laments the catastrophes that nationalist movements have caused. The counterpoint to this historical trajectory is a restorative understanding of the Jewish Enlightenment’s reflections on the culture of Ancient Jewish temple music.

The Dresden Frauenkirche as a “Prayerhouse of reason”

The Berlin Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn considered the synagogue of the future in his important work “Jerusalem or religious power and Judaism” (1783) as a “prayerhouse of reason”, a place, where, as he pointed out, neither “dissenters” nor the unbelieving pagans or atheists were to be excluded from the ceremony (the philosopher even allows sinners to be accepted into the temple).[7] Moses Mendelssohn, who was at once a Universalist and at the same time an observant Jew, projected his vision of a “Temple of Reason” onto the year 2240 (a year that, as his biographer Alexander Altman noticed, corresponded to the messianic year 6000 in the Jewish calendar.) This embrace of outsiders and dissenters by the Jewish philosopher can be immediately paired with Auerbach’s intentions: The public performance of the “Ode to Peace” in Dresden 2012 can likewise be considered as a bold stage act or the composer’s own a projection of the “prayerhouse of reason” (It is crucial to note Auerbach’s decision to include the Prayer of Father Judge in her Requiem, the priest of the New York fire fighters’ who has been quickly recognized as the official first victim of the attacks from September 11, 2001. Judge has previously in life confessed to have had homosexual inclination).[8] Moreover, the fact that the “Dresden Requiem” has 18 parts (18 equals the word for life –chai – in the Hebrew alphabet – a conscious choice by the composer) gives us a clue for the essentially Utopian or restorative-synthetic dimension of Auerbach’s important choral work.

The thinkers of the Enlightenment were not naïve: they did not assume that reasonable behavior or an encompassing tolerance can be achieved easily by the public and the contemporary composer Auerbach is as little naïve as were her predecessors: In this draft, we can only roughly outline the common premises of Auerbach and Mendelssohn. One important element is the function of the music which is comparable to the function of rituals in Judaism. In his “Jerusalem”, Moses Mendelssohn has also outlined his understanding of the religious function of Jewish laws. The ritual law (such as the halakhic prescription to touch the mezuza on the doorpost) was described by Mendelssohn as educational or didactic tools for the observant Jew, symbolic and gestural daily actions that prompt the practitioner to reflect upon universal divine truths without forcing the believer onto them. Mendelssohn was the first modern Jew who defended the Jewish ritual laws and customs against critics from the outside as an encoded scripture in its own right, a scripture which hints at spiritual contents and truths but doesn’t visualize them (in Mendelssohn’s understanding of the revelation, this was a preventive tool against idolatry).[9] Due to the anti-visual relation between the sign and the signified, performing rituals will trigger questions or pedagogical explanations on spiritual truths and history but no more than that. This anti-visual quality of Jewish rituals is comparable to the relation between tune and text in Auerbach’s requiem. Relatedly, Auerbach stated about her Requiem:

“Perhaps the concept here is to simply open the door to the spiritual references and then each listener can make their own voyage inside. In these subjects, there are no answers only questions, and the question themselves are the answers.” (Lera Auerbach in an email correspondence with me on March 19, 2018)

Auerbach’s work is a guide for the contemporary listener, but there is no concrete associative direction the audience will be led to take. The music in the prayer-house of reason is therefore analogous to the function of Jewish rituals in Moses Mendelssohn’s philosophy.[10] But in what respect is this “restorative”? In another study, Mendelssohn suggested that liturgical services at the time of the first Jewish temple period were less structured and less orderly performed than anything that came later.[11] Mendelssohn suggested that the original, pre-exile Hebrew poetry followed a certain “natural” path of expression of the praying individual. Hebrew poetry has been more spontaneous and improvisational and therefore lacked any clearly discernible metrical form. This natural and disorderly quality is not only present in Auerbach’s quite personal compilation of the prayers in the “Ode to peace”. Every prayer that Auerbach has set into music also follows the rhythmical pattern of the words of the original language. Auerbach’s musical rendition follows the accentuation and word rhythms inscribed in the Hebrew original. By doing so, she is taking the listener back to the original, but by now forgotten style of individual praying and expression at practice in the Jewish antiquity.

Second, Mendelssohn’s holistic approach to encompass and reach out to anyone who desires entry into the prayer-house of reason is present in another technique of composition in the “Ode to peace”. As Mendelssohn points out in his own work, the Ancient Hebrew psalm literature intended to move the listener so strongly that the he becomes the observer of his own emotional responses. The music of the psalms, Mendelssohn points out, underlines and supports the passions reflected in the religious poetry. The music doesn’t merely illustrate the text but infixes the spiritual component in the mind and heart.”[12] The music has both the function to animate the listener and to impress him so strongly as to prompt him to reflect on the more abstract spiritual contents. When Auerbach uses the famed scale from the Dresden Amen in number no. 15 of the requiem, the upward moving cadenza mirrors efforts of the praying individual to “ascend” to the divine sphere with all his individual strength. The music energizes him further.

Auerbach is an artist and musician who has deeply thought about the therapeutical and energetic effects of music and its quality to appeal to personal emotions.  In the context of a modern spiritual work, these are energetic traces of a “musical religion” that Auerbach intentionally left in the score and which need to be further analyzed.


[1] Auerbach: Dresden Requiem (Score).

[2] It is important to note that Auerbach left out the “dies irae”, the portrayal of the divine “day of wrath” from her work.

[3] European citizens are nowadays often confronted with the idea that our civilization firmly rests on the pillars of Christianity and Judaism only. Auerbach’s Requiem reminds us to the fact that our vision of a realized cohabitation of the religious cultures is, at best, slightly flawed.

[4] The city was subjected to four atrocious bomb raids on February 13 and 15 1945. Moreover, the square around the Frauenkirche has also, since the 1990s, disturbingly become an annual gathering place for rightwing extremists on February 14. And, finally, the city of Dresden has had an important “seat” in the cultural history of the Lutheran Reformation. Ther are concrete references in the work to this “reformist” aspect in Dresden’s history.

[5] For Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and his generation, Protestantism represented far more than simply a “confessional creed”: the culture of the Reformation, its turn to individual understanding of religious spirituality reflected a nearly Utopian belief of having achieved full emancipation among deeply secular (or spiritually fallen?) Jews: the premise of full emancipation for Jews and other religious minorities in the German-speaking lands.

[6] This history of adaptation of the “Amen” and, indirectly, the history of anti-Semitism, is reflected in the provisional stages of Auerbach’s Requiem. In an early stage of the work, Auerbach intended to include passages from Martin Luther’s infamous “On the Jews and their lies” (1543) in her work – a text that has been considered as a blueprint of the destruction of the European Jews in WWII.

[7] Moses Mendelssohn: Jerusalem order religiöse Macht und Judentum. In: Alexander Altmann (ed.): Gesammelte Schriften, Volume 8, pp. 21 passim.

[8] Dresden Requiem, No.6.

[9] The holy scripture is inside the mezuzah. The believer only touches the outside box, it becomes a daily mnemotechnical spiritual tool.

[10] Moses Mendelssohn’s commentary to Exodus 15 (the song at the reed sea) in Gesammelte Schriften, Volume 3.

[11] According to Mendelssohn, there is a strong dividing line between pre-exilic and the post-Babylonian exile manifestation of the Ancient Jewish religious liturgy and the temple service.

[12] Mendelssohn: Gesammelte Schriften (ed. Alexander Altmann), Volume 3, Page 191.

 

© 2018 Auerbach Center