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University of Utah radio presents music and other four letter words. Here is your host. Associate Professor of Music at the University of Utah Paul Bana. A lot sic invisible wherein that flies in the night in the howling storm has found a bit of crimson joy. And his. Dark secret. La. Does not live. In a straw. William Blake and Benjamin Britten. Innocence and Experience here
and there now and then. And we come the full course round the invisible flying in the night and the howling storm. Has found out at some point our bit of crimson joy. And his dark secret love. Could. I suppose some kind of life. Destroy. But it depends I suppose what life is destroyed what life we lose. Whether or not the way through it is the way out. Little Flower said William Blake. Little Fly By summer's play my thoughtless hand has brushed away. I'm not a fly I like the or it's not a man like me. For I dance and drink and sing till some blind and shall
brush my wing. If thought his life and strength and breath. And the want of thought is death. Then am I a happy fly. If I live or if I die. Benjamin Britten this talk about much not in the United States I suppose but by his fellow countrymen. And it is an interesting kind of person with whom to and I think this series. Because he suffers what we all suffer though we don't clearly recognize and sometimes don't like to admit. Our speech the way they taught us to talk and the inflection that we grow up with. Our Englishness. Our American ness or Russian ness. Or geography or boundary
whatever it is that whenever we open our mouths and think that we are conveying something of ourselves to other people you know is always conditioned somehow by the inflection of the place where we grew. And the great sort of achievement seems to be in all of that Ness whatever it is to be able to transcend the somehow. In a sense of geography or place or time. Benjamin Britten has tried it and probably come a long way. What seems to have been most apparent in the early music of Britain was that it was difficult to give up was hard to let go of English ness primarily because there had been no English musicians or composers for a long time. And as a young man it seemed very important to him to be able to study with English man and when to say English things
and to be sort of in the fore of a new wave of the English ness. And then things began to happen. All of the music of Britain has a. Peculiar sort of nostalgia and charm. For me. And occasionally it strikes to very profound and real depths in me. The early music I especially like it because it is this the young. Englishman. Who. Pr. says his tradition and it's a kind of tradition that is not part of my own personal background and something which I think a lot of people would do well to have had. We don't have professional music much anymore we don't have boys choirs in this country we don't have any special feelings with regard to the sound of unchanged singing boys voices. We usually feel a little embarrassed by them in the United States but very often they appear in the music of Benjamin Britten as another composers and they and they're like
close. To a very strong sensibility in the direction of something like Blake's sense of innocence and ideal childhood. When was the last time you ever went to a church and had an experience like this. What. A. Yeah.
I am. He was five when he began composing Benjamin Britten. Many years later when Peter Grimes was being performed in opera houses throughout Europe he gave a broadcast talk to some schools describing his earliest attempts. To writing music. I remember the first time I tried he said the result looked rather like the fourth bridge hundreds of Saul of the page connected by long lines all joined together in beautiful karu. I'm afraid it was the pattern on the paper which I was interested in and when I asked my mother to play it her look of horror
upset me considerably. My next efforts were much more conscious of sound. I started playing the piano and wrote elaborate tone poems usually lasting about 20 seconds inspired by terrific events in my home life such as the departure of my father for a day in London. The appearance in my life of the new girlfriend or even a week at sea. My later efforts luckily got away from these purely emotional inspirations. As a child he said. I heard little music outside my own home. And it is at this point I suppose that we begin to feel the pronounced impact of the language the inflection the Englishness in Benjamin Britten. There were the local choral society concerts and the very occasional chamber concert but the main event was the Norwich triennial festival. There in 1924 when I was 10 years old. I heard Frank bridge conduct his suite in the sea. I was knocked sideways.
It turned out that my viola teacher was an old friend of bridges. He always stayed with her and when the success of the sea brought him to march again in 1927 with a specially written work called Enter spring. I was taken to meet him. Got on splendidly. And I spent the next morning with him going over some of my music. From that moment I used to go regularly to him staying with him in east born or in London in the holidays from my prep school. Run so the. Apprenticeship with bridge began at the end of which though Britain began to feel that thing which we begin to feel in his music I began to rebel sense and to rebel. Bridge would sit on the other side of the room complaining about some chords that he wrote. When I played my questionable chords as a band. He would ask me if that's what I really meant and I would retort Yes it is. And he would grunt back with the bee.
And. Benjamin's rebellion. Became considerable. And it was more than a technical one it was more than a chordal one. It was an inflectional one. And it has resulted in some of the most unusual and most searching music in recent years. The composer I suppose who is yet alive and writing. Among. Those sort of last pieces I guess when Benjamin was taking his leave and was one in which there is. In fact a significant text. So this thing springs symphony. Out on the lawn I lie in bed says one of the parts of the symphony. They got conspicuous overhead in the windless night of June. Forests of green dun complete the day's activity. My feet to point to the rising
moon. Now north and south and east and west. Those I love lie down to rest. The moon looks on them all. The healers of the brilliant talkers eccentrics and the silent walkers the Dumpy and the tall to gravity attentive she can notice nothing here though we who hunger cannot move from gardens where we feel secure. I look up and with a sigh. And who are the tyrannies of love. And gentle. I do not care to know where Poland draws her eastern bow. What violence is done nor ask what doubtful allows our freedom in this English helps our picnics in the sun. It has been so hard to give up our picnics in the sun. To care. To look out from gardens where we feel secure. And. Especially as a composer. Music. To divest ourselves of the
tyranny. Of law. And the.
He left this behind. There was something implicit in Auden's text that he had to follow. You had to be interested in Poland to drawing her Eastern we had to look beyond England he had to find a word not only for the English but thereby for everyone. He had to reach somehow through humanity to something timeless and he seems to say so in his most recent works which derive from Japanese no dramas. The music of late Benjamin Britten was. Obvious I think and to some people not especially interesting. Curiously ironically enough it in some ways resembles the music of Stravinsky in his late years even though these two composers have no particular liking for the music of one another. The War Requiem For example chooses text consistently from Wilfred Owen. It is a sentiment born of poems crying out
for whatever it is that Europe is after the eternal reciprocity of two years. It is that kind of. Not bitterness exactly it was perhaps in young Owen but not in Benjamin Britten's certainly that kind of futility that one feels in connection with sentiments like Dolce and decorum. Este Pro Patria Mori to sweeten the comely thing for a man to die for his country something felt widely in the United States now though perhaps not often profoundly. And somehow the national interest is in the end not great not important and not fight toll but where is the by total interest. And where is holding us. From the War Requiem. There is this music song nicely symbolically by Russian Soprano at the beginning. Of.
What are those curious instrumental sounds if they are not echoes from that generation which
was not time consumed. The Gothic. Age. Really. The spirit of. A people and a kind of authoritarianism which had answers to questions immediately following this section comes a poem of Wilfred Owen which asks the question of the truth. All death will he know all to use assuage. To fill the void veins of life again with you and wash with an immortal water. A witch. And. Though it is a rhetorical question we like to believe something like Yeah I do all that. And when Benjamin Britten finally goes even beyond Gothic reminiscences and medieval sounds to the music directly of the east in the works like a river in the burning fiery furnace of the Prodigal Son we begin to feel his affinity for all man and his attempt to draw into what
may even be left of his Englishness. Something like. The concept of universality and the reality of every man's death diminishing me because I am involved in mankind. And so his music will wind away I suppose in English history and maybe. In the sounds of the 20th century much like the epilogue to his. Serenade for tenor horn and strings. He may not have been the greatest of composers but in some ways he is most representative of the great search. For what music can do. And what it ought to be. And perhaps even some important places or none places where it can all to Muttley take us. This has been music and other four letter words
featuring Paul Bana 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 PAC. 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 Invisible Worm
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 4308 (University of Maryland)
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Chicago: “Music and other four letter words; 26; The Invisible Worm,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
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APA: Music and other four letter words; 26; The Invisible Worm. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from