Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sporcl plays Dvorak and Tchaikovsky

I finally bought a CD player, from Circuit City, and now can play the music gathering dust in my desk drawer. From my meager collection, I found a CD I love: Pavel Sporcl playing Dvorak's Concerto in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D major. The playing is unabashedly Romantic, without becoming sentimental or melodramatic.

I thought about how ephemeral music is, how it lives and dies in time. What I was hearing was a recording, which, by definition, is a copy. A performance cannot be possessed in the same way as a painting can be collected.

A poem is both performance and object. It is performance when it is read (by the poet in his head or in public, or by the reader). As performance, it is painfully transient; a recording of Auden reading "In Praise of Limestone" is just that, a recording, a copy of a performance. On another day, he might have read it differently. A poem, however, is also an object: a text is a poem in a more literal sense compared to the relationship between a score and a performance. One aspect of the poem's materiality, its visual look, can be likened to painting. As an object, the poem looks as if it is built to last.

Listening to the violin playing against and with the orchestra, I also thought about how the spirit of an age finds its expression through its own forms of art. (Hmmm, that sentence sounds too Hegelian.) Romanticism, with its exaltation of the individual over society, exults in the voice of the solo instrument, a voice that can only be understood in its orchestral environment.

What is the postmodern spirit? Is the direction further smashing of the idols? Has the fragmentation gone far enough? Is there a sea-change taking place invisibly, but surely, like global warming? What kind of poetry tunes in to that spirit? Is it in meter? Does it rhyme? Is a Chinese gay Singaporean (and what have you) man writing in meter conservative, radically conservative, or subversive? Does it matter? What is the right question? Why do I ask that last question?


Tricia said...

Obviously our brains are up in the same air tonight; I was perusing at the bookstore a little while ago and looked down to see Auden's magnificent pulled-taffy jowls on the cover of his Collected. His lower lip looked cracked, and I thought how lucky that the camera had got him on a day when they were cracked and not otherwise, for otherwise I might not have noticed his lips at all, which curve like a lady’s! For the same reason I am an avid collector of any and all recordings where coughs, murmurs, and crackling wrappers can be heard; and pay fanatically close attention to black-and-white movies in which bruises, stubble, and shaving cuts can be observed on the almost-certainly dead.

monkey said...

Hi Jee Leong,

Interesting post, including the part about performance by the reader. Even if rhyme and meter are out of fashion in some circles, won't poetry reach more readers if a hundred flowers bloom?

I came across two interesting pieces - Dana Gioia's "Can Poetry Matter?" and a recent follow-up by Brian Campbell.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Tricia,
I love the Glen Gould recording of the "Goldberg Variations" in which he hums and drones along with his playing. As if he's oblivious of the listener. I'll enjoy visiting your blog, I'm sure. Hope you are very well.

Hi monkey,
thanks for the links. I need to re-read the Gioia essay again.

Jee Leong