Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Friday, February 05, 2010

On Mozarts String Quartets 21 and 22

A string quartet is a conversation between four sensible people. Here those four sensible people are aspects of Herr Mozart speaking along conventional lines with subversive subtext.

Because, for the Mozart String Quartets 21 and 22, the manner of the conversation is as important as the subject of the conversation itself, the values of the string quartet are implied in the style. Beauty is the object, yes, but what kind of beauty does not have goodness as its discourse on some level? So the topic of the string quartets is goodness through the style of beauty.

Just how good is the style? It's supple. Balanced. Everyone has their say. Everyone is in agreeance. Everyone has their individually beautiful quality cherished. Mozart's String Quartet's are a conversation that goes they way a conversation in heaven would.

And no-one says any more than what is their place to say. Perfect justice prevails - Mozart is auditory Platonism. The Platonic Forms are the modal structure of these pieces.

My only criticism is in the intellectual content: since the four instruments must at times be as one, and at other times must be utterly individual, the key idea behind the music must be the one and the many. Since I hear a commercial recording, I hear only the one, and the careful parsing apart of the sections of the music itself through the ear and mind must bring out the many voices hidden in it. Which is a pity.

I would have these String Quartets 21 and 22 focus instead on the conflict between the demands of the conventional form (of unity) and the requirements of individual virtuosity. In other words, the pacing before and after individual instruments might be idiosyncratic - everyone pauses for a different time before they respond to what has been said.

And I would have the distinction between the one and the many in the music further heightened. By creating deeper contrast, I would ornament the single voices of the individual instruments, and make plain with the most staid conventionality those parts where the four instruments sing in unison. This policy would greatly heighten the dramatic tension in these string concerts, and by bringing out the conflict it would help listeners discover the kind of conversation a quartet is, and how they might be able to have just such a conversation themselves.

Because the wider intellectual content of the Mozart String Concertos is surely that of friendship! Who but a true friend would sing together so charmingly? It is the felicity of good and lovely friends that makes this music sing out to our hearts and back again. Have a listen and see if you don't remember some great conversations you have had in the music!


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