Friday, February 5, 2010

Music And The Romanian Soul

by Constantin Noica (1909-1987)

None of the great men of 1848 – a Romanian scholar noticed once – had a particular understanding of music. The boyar sons from a hundred years ago assimilated everything regarding the arts that they encountered abroad, but not music. Not even today, perhaps, do we have enough understanding in this respect. Because music demands not only intelligence…
I interrupt here the flow of ideas that Professor Sextil Puşcariu developed in such a suggestive manner in an older History of Romanian Literature. Isn’t there something to learn from them? The cultured Romanian soul (the popular one is another story) doesn’t have all the dimensions. Not that it could have all of them at once. There took place, inside it, a worthy development, in the luminous areas of the spiritual life, but, in the areas that the ray of intelligence doesn’t reach, the growth was delayed. Will it delay any longer?
But this is precisely what our time brings over: a musical understanding of things; a troubling triumph of music. There are, for instance, souls and nations which know how to “orchestrate”, while the others don’t. Why doesn’t some nation win battles? Because, maybe, it didn’t have a great musician – this came to me one day. It doesn’t orchestrate; it doesn’t think like in a symphony; it doesn’t really sing. And our time, as any time in which the “elements” tend to individualize themselves, needs unity and music. In the cultured Romanian soul, cut too much at the edges, sometimes, separated from things and from itself by the merciless censorship of intelligence, our time comes to pour harmony and the sense of the whole. There is something material in music, not only a simple poetic idea, and it is matter that a soul needs, that was too much challenged by the theoretic and by theory., as this intelligent cultured Romanian soul is.
Only from music – unless you know it directly – do you learn what growth and becoming are. Symphony alone shows you how the matter of the sounds grows into meaning. Music familiarises you with that chaos of what isn’t there yet, which you will find later everywhere where life is: in you, if there is life in you; in history, where you seem to find too much of it. If we need today to familiarise ourselves with matter, to understand mess, chaos, then the spirit of music can give us a key. Of this key, most of our great ancestors were deprived. Titu Maiorescu left outraged the performance with Lohengrin. But it isn’t necessary to write this on the effigy that will soon be cast in his memory…
That’s why the deepest cultural phenomenon, maybe, that has been happening for a few years in Romania, is the growth in interest for the great music. When you see these full concert halls, when you listen to the celebrating radio programs, you can hope that our cultured soul will know more, will understand more, tomorrow. It is true there are a lot of snobs: it is also true that many enjoy only the voluptuousness of music. But if art isn’t a superior form of cuisine, then what is happening today has a cultural meaning. Our times send us through music a refined message – to understand their darkness and lights.

Excerpted from Vremea, 1942

George Enescu "Romanian Rhapsody" conducted by Sergiu Celibidache in a unique and magnificent style

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