Musical Hell and Heaven

I never thought that visiting Philharmonic Hall could evolve the feelings one usually has while watching a horror movie. I assume that I’m very emotional and usually ‘take it too seriously’. But anyway I could barely handle the piece we heard yesterday at the Berlin Philharmonic. It was a modern composition called ‘Ancient Voices of Children’ which was written in 1970 by George Crumb. It lasted 20 minutes and I was about to run out already after the third one. The whole performance on the stage was absolutely crazy. The ancient voices were based on the Garcia Lorca’s poems and were vocalized by a soprano who was singing into an amplified piano using only phonetic sounds and producing the unearthly echoes that came from the reverberation of piano strings with her voice. Those sounds were just unbearable for me, they made me unbelievably anxious. To distract myself a bit I started concentrating on the text which was shown on the screen. However it didn’t help me much because the text was like this:

Death
enters and leaves
the tavern.
Black horses
and sinister people pass through
the deep pathways
of the guitar.
And there is a smell of salt
and of female blood
in the fevered tuberoses
of the seaside.
Death
enters and leaves,
and leaves and enters
the death
of the tavern.

Then I decided to study the whole stage to find at least something Normal in the whole insanity. But I wasn’t very successful. The musical saw, musicians who were either whispering or shouting and some bizarre sounds produced by the “pitch bending” of the oboe, harp or mandolin could not really calm me down. And to top it all, the pianist playing the red toy piano looked just infernal. It must be noted, that the acoustics of the Berlin Philharmonic are fantastic, so all the needed effects were produced. It sounded like hell and I was in panic. I ended up reading the short text on our tickets to avoid going nuts. And I was very happy to hear the final chord.

Ancient Voices of Children performance (sounds much more impressive in real):

The second piece which was played that evening was fortunately just the opposite of the Ancient Voices of Children. It was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 and it was like catharsis after all. It was so beautifully performed and sounded so clear that I finally found peace and could just enjoy. I slowly moved from the musical hell to the musical heaven. And in the end I was just happy to experience so many  various emotions on this one special evening.

P. S. Even the notes of the Crumb’s works look crazy:

example of Crumb’s work
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One thought on “Musical Hell and Heaven

  1. My heart goes out to you – I know what anxiety feels like, only too well, and can well imagine that such a sound would have set me off too. Alienora

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