Tonite, 10:30 pm in Greenwall Auditorium on the campus of Bennington College.
Open vault, a cathedral’s vast arc
Contained in space, but beckoning the Infinite,
Become the ambient chamber
of Eternity’s expression in time.
A fiddle and its guide,
with two listening vessels,
Shorn of formalism and absent of artifice,
All reliquaries of Bach’s communion.
The human dimension—
Stately Allemande, rugged Courante, sorrowful Sarabande and gamboling Gigue—
Each an unfolding of the tetrachordal descent,
Limited by style, and constrained by cadence.
The divine Chaconne—
Tetrachordal Descent now not as limit, but as progenitor of infinite variation.
4 bars of rising inspiration, 4 bars of falling expiration,
Peripatetic figures exploring endless chains of rhythm.
One theme, but three sections—
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Or: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Or: Wotan, Thor, and Fricca; Zeus, Poseidon, and Adonis)
All manners of approaching the infinite,
Standing in the Shadows of the Sacred.
After the final cadence,
a fiddle, its guide and two listening vessels
Left in sweet silence to
Wander to wonder.
Phil, thank you for such an eloquent tribute.
Part of the Journey of 100 is to share my thoughts and feelings about the performance with my listeners, writers and readers. Phil’s poem takes me back to my previous performance, #26, and the deep, thoughtful comments written by my hosts Robert and Deborah. A detailed and meaningful discussion took place in their living room after that performance, of associating a specific “story” – emotion, feeling, or narrative – with each bar of the music, using the “story” as a vehicle to move into deeper relationship with the music while performing the work. Combined with Deborah and Robert’s words about the struggle of Job and the power of Divine Love, I was left mute, needing to contemplate and reflect. Over the past months something has changed.
Last night’s performance was for me a breakthrough in it’s ease and integration with which I could present Bach’s immense musical canvas. It was among the best I have ever done. Perhaps I am beginning to understand:
In my early 20’s I was playing as as an extra for the MET Opera National Tour. One morning in Memphis I was sitting at the counter of a local diner ordering breakfast, and cellist Yves Chardon plopped himself down right next to me – I barely knew who he was other than that he was venerated by all musicians in the orchestra. At the time he seemed as old as Methusaleh, though he was probably only 90-something and able to play a completely smooth spiccato chromatic scale from the bottom to the top of his Cello – with one finger! – on a moment’s notice.
Without saying a word (maybe good morning? I don’t remember) he took a paper napkin a wrote with a ball point pen on it the following letters: G O D = L O V E. I looked at his bright, bright pale blue eyes, could not figure out what he wanted or why he did that, and got out of there as quickly as I could.
Now I understand a little more and can better appreciate the gift he shared. I suspect Bach certainly did.