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University of Utah radio presides music and other four letter words. Here is your host associate professor of music at the University of Utah. All bad. And there he is our Midnight Cowboy got smaller standing on his treeless plain alone isolated solitary and communicative lamenting the late coming of a friend who has only time enough to say goodbye. It's impossible at least in the first decade of this century to convince the Mahler's or indeed many other people like him others that that communication is in fact true. No man is an island entire of itself each man is a piece of the continent part Maine. That's hogwash. This this feeling seems to sort of grow more and tensely until the eruption of the First World War. I'm not very far away just over the border and occasionally even bumping into him was that very
famous Frenchman Claude Debussy who. Rather Similarly I suppose until possibly close to his death when under the strong influence of death and a lengthy suffering from cancer he seems to have had some kind of change of musical heart and presumably a spiritual one as well. Debussy who had spent 10 years working out musically that great symbolists drama of Maurice majorly called them was for a long time a sort of French incarnation at least of the spirit of good stuff. In that famous book on musical aesthetics called the belittling Tater he has a chapter on Beethoven the 13th in which he begins this way. Last Sunday was an irresistibly beautiful day. The first sunshine of Spring seemed to preclude all idea of listening to music. It was whether to bring the swallows back again. Vine got a nurse
seized the opportunity to conduct the orchestra of the coal cellar. No one is perfect. He first conducted the Pastoral Symphony with the care of conscientious gardener. He tied it so neatly as to produce the illusion of a meticulously finished landscape in which the gently hills are made of plush at ten francs a yard and the foliage is crammed with curling tongue. The popularity of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony is due to the widespread misunderstanding that exists between man and nature. Consider the scene on the banks of the stream a stream to which it appears the oxen come to drink. So at least the bassoons would have a suppose to say nothing of the wood and nightingale in the Swiss cuckoo clock more representative of the artist used to do a vocal song than a genuine nature. It is unnecessarily imitative and the
interpretation is entirely arbitrary. How much more profound the interpretation of the beauty of the landscape would be in other passages in the great master because instead of an exact imitation there is an emotional interpretation of what is visible in nature. Can the mystery of authorise be expressed by measuring the height of the tree. Is it not rather that the most depths that stirred the imagination. And there I suppose we have the first clue to something of the nature of Claude Debussy who is often played by aspiring pianists as a minute jurist or an atmosphere ist. People who like to take music called what the West Wind saw or the girl with the flex in the hair or the little shepherd.
Reflections on the water or gold fish and try to make some kind of pianistic imitation. The fact of the thing but he seems not to be interested at all. Nor was it a symbolist and what was the visible fact of the thing. He uses the strange language of the mystic. He said many times that he was atheist which seems to have meant that he believed to along with the vote had sort of stepped down from his throne and was wandering out there someplace rather disinterested and not involved. But quite apart from that it was possible for Debussy atheists in the Christian world around him to be something transcendent to list. What does he say here. We must have an emotional interpretation of all that is invisible in nature but apparently it means that that which we
cannot see is more real. Than what we can see. And because we cannot see it it does not suppose that there is not something which is the essence of all life. Can the mystery of a forest to be expressed by measuring the height of the trees of course. And then he speaks of fathom those depths and refers back to that sacred world of William Blake which is the imagination. This was a thing that he began with the thing that haunted him through his life and the thing with which he died. Tristan and as you know having had their first present and so such things are mysteries in life realities behind apparent the usual realities of a certain kind of belonging and a density that transcend the history. And even faith since the myth is not centered some Christian legend in spite of the fact that she is a princess and he is a knight presumably of the Christian order of Tristan and Isolde
as you know have to go into the dark wood according to the original legend. They're like Parsa fall to encounter suffering. To learn something like patience to come by the fact of compassion and also to test themselves as far as the senses are concerned. The long pilgrimage of Tristan and Isolde in the dark forest is there for something like an experiment and transcending sense. The legend has it and this is and this is a thing which of course Wagner had to bypass largely in his opera Tristan and Isolde for many years wandered their hungry. You may see a cold. No place that they could sort of predict as as a lodging from day to day. They would lie down at night in the cold dark forest interest would there his sword and placed it between himself and these old so that they would not cross over it during the night it
was. It was not a question of any kind of voluptuous or physical consummation of a purely human passion. That had nothing to do with their quest. They were wanderers they were pilgrims. So are we all. Presumably they were in pursuit of light as are we all presume they were looking for some answer for them. And they were lucky. It would appear because there were two of them. And wherever there is a community. Which just means more than one person apparently some kind of achievement has already been made. Without referring again to the end of that myth or even Wagners in it it appears that Debussy himself was strongly caught up by such things. Such symbols and so was Maurice made to link when he set out to write. The major link goes one step further that is
he's he's a good deal more explicit. In respect to his symbols and I think it's probably easier to see what he is about and this bothers some people because it seems to be altogether too noticeable. There is an island. It is an entire of itself that is out there someplace surrounded on all softens the sea. One cannot see clearly very far from the island. There are mists and coming out of the mists there are mysterious ships the ships transport from name places on name missions people who cannot remember their past who have no particular yen towards the future. And one of them it appears is a rather charming girl called Minnie who is deposited. She knows not why it is called all the world to Case 1.
We're not certain what things were about. It is like trapped in the dark woods and she has the disadvantage of being alone. However she doesn't suffer any kind of frustration. Since she doesn't know quite who she is or where she came from and since she is not really the victim in order to desire it and since she hasn't had any particular glimmerings of light or transcendence because presumably those things are as illusory as any other things as she wanders about until she is funny picked up by a rather dashing in this opera at least forceful person Golo who decides that he will not only protect her but he will protect her inside some covenant like marriage which doesn't have any particular meaning doesn't have any particular direction but is one of those things that people do.
Again they know not why she seems to be royal by birth. She seems to be well spoken. She seems to be a lot of things but that doesn't matter. Someplace in all this. Wagner called it Mina. Whoever she is that that great force out there called love something something mysterious. Those fathom those depths below us or heights above us the U.S. speaks. Something there seizes and us younger half brother US and they experience that something like ecstasy in their relationship with one another. It's a physical thing and it is not. It's a spiritual thing to dismiss it as a momentary thing it is. The closest they come to anything like the transcendence of Tristan and Isolde is
an occasional moment when when there is something like almost joy when nothing mattered. Seems to be all right when there are so togetherness of resignation. And although this seems like the inverse of all good things to the aspiring 19th century idealist It may be the 20th century humanists way of not committing suicide. So the existentialist looks at all proximate things and says meaning. But if somehow he can have his rubber stamp that says meaningless and he can sort of put it on each wrist every day and look at it and pronounce his name as he looks meaningless and not disillusioned. But even experience a kind of joy in the fact that he can
live with the thought that's supposed to be some kind of heroism. And indeed for many it is. Now there's a particularly interesting seemed to me did you see something of a major drama. It's not a terribly beautiful vocals and not sure that anything is meant to be special. You feel in this song. Most people might even turn off to it because it seems so samey from the beginning. There is a point in the second act as I remember it. When. Having lost her wedding ring and not being able to account for this sent by her husband with the seed to find. Scene 3 begins outside the cave on the seashore. And there it is the failing light of day. The darkness settles quickly and they move into the cavern looking
for a ring which she says is not there because it fell someplace else. And yet somehow going through meaningless motions in terrifying places is the thing that they don't question. There is some value may be in danger no matter how it comes. Yes this is life is so dark you can't distinguish the entrance of the cave from all of the darkness which is around. There are no stars. We better wait until the moon breaks through that cloud and then it will light up the whole cave. And we can go and say there are places in there where it is really dangerous. The path is very narrow between two lakes which have never been sound. I didn't think to bring a torch or a lantern but I think maybe the light from the sky will be. Have you ever been inside this cave. She said. That's going to be able to describe the place where you lost the ring if he asks you about it.
It's very big and very beautiful. It's full of shadows. When you light a little light you think the roof was covered with stars like the sky. Give me your hand don't tremble so there's the page will stop us in this we can't see the light from the sea. This is all of course contradictory from beginning to end but in the contradictions there is some kind of acceptance no one questions it. Is it the noise of the cave that frightens you. Do you hear the sea behind the scenes on the happy tonight. And the moon illuminates the entrance to where sitting before them are three white haired old beggars asleep so terrified what is it. She points to the old man and he says Yes I saw them too. Let's go away. It's the poor old man gone to sleep. There's a famine in the land.
Why did they come here. Let's not sleep. Leave me alone I want to be by myself. And he says we will come back another day. Deep sleeping in a black family separate from every other contradiction and in all that the sense of beauty and reconciliation that seems to be the sensibility for Debussy. Maybe thinking back on it even at some points. Good stuff already. Thank you. Good.
One is struck by the way in which music is not true nor
upon the text or any of the settings. But it is in the word resigned to the mood of the whole place. This makes that as Mr Grim and sort of an opera which is produced as a song played and which in many ways is the sort of perfect realization of the ideal word and that it doesn't make it very interesting for some singers at the given occasion for vocal display. It's special but it is a marvelous synthesis of artistic viewpoints. Listen to this. It is night in this and we are confronted with our old themes of innocence something experience and the amount of action for him everything. Future husband enters with the child from a former marriage. The child is of course the son's person and by his prattling he is easily distracted and he plays sometimes
with golden ball it's a girl that was full of suspicion about the relationship between them and he sees that this is a good time to inquire of the child whether or not he knows anything about it. This is a dirty thing to do but still it's one of those one of those compromises that experience makes with innocence. Someone would say it is only a very small child and he doesn't have any idea what all the intricacies of the thought of happened. Then the only thing that happens as a result of this conversation the girl who is the patient then becomes more and more patients. And finally although he doesn't mean to never mean you know certainly hurts the child begins to cry and is only pacified by promises of goodies. The interrogation goes on and on the goal is really on able to control themselves because the child trying to remember things that
may have happened between hits upon some moments when there seemed to be a more close and interprets that was three months. Suddenly the light goes on the middle girl though wants to hide in the shadows. Then he gets the terrible idea of spying on his lies. So the child somehow. It's a true compromise you get on which will go down below. QUESTION Was the title the child becomes more and more frightened because he's he's victimized he's caught in this situation the father shouts with the child and
it's mostly it's it's it's it's something that hurts to go look at all of this all the five minutes of our time has been spent. This has been music and other four letter words
featuring Paul Banham associate professor of music at the University of Utah. Music and other four letter words is a production of University of Utah radio executive director Rex Campbell. Series director Gene tat. This series is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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Music and other four letter words
Episode Number
The Dark Forest: Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande"
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 4934 (University of Maryland)
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Chicago: “Music and other four letter words; 15; The Dark Forest: Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande",” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “Music and other four letter words; 15; The Dark Forest: Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande".” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Music and other four letter words; 15; The Dark Forest: Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from