Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From Cambrian to Concertgebouw

Salton Sea, California
Image: Aquafornia
Sitting on the shore of Cambrian sea is a very peaceful experience. There are no other humans around on the virgin beach, not even footprints of Friday. There are no dangerous animals lurking in the jungle as there are no land animals, even insects, neither any plants growing on the land. No birds are flying in the air still so thin of oxygen - it is just me and the vast ocean opening to the end of this world.

The quiet is so remarkable that my ears actully here the lack of sounds. No mocking bird singing, no wind in the willows, no grasshoppers playing their violins - nothing living at all.

The sea water is so clear that I can easily sea the many plants and animals near the shore. Somehow I have no urge to take a dip in these waters. I do know that most of those things swarming in the sea are totally harmless to me who present blood and flesh from another world yet to come. But these antennas, complex eyes, multiple legs, tails, things moving here and there, ugh... these waters are not for the casual human swimmer, nope.

So I just sit there enjoying the peace and let my mind wander without distractions.

In front of me I see what anyone with good will might call primitive life forms (or less). Yes, they are. fabulous, inventive, complicated each in its own way, funny even, but here is nothing much beyond basic necessities for the survival, various types of mouths for eating and digesting, organs for having good sex and hopefully peaceful sleeping in some safe hole on the bottom of the sea. Life, amazing life, but this could be a bit boring for me on the long term.



My mind travels forward in time and reaches Amsterdam 2012. I imagine being in the Concergebouw and seeing the grand..... grand ... grand children of these primitive Cambrian life forms sitting in the hall dressed in best clothes and ladies decorated with expensive jewels. In front of the huge organ sits a highly organized band of professional musicians each with a carefully manufactured and perfectly tuned top class musical instrument in his or her hand.

A human being standing upright on two legs called Bernard Haiting is totally concentrated in conducting Anton Bruckner's 5th Symphony and the musicians following the lead of his baton make no mistakes. Make no mistake of that, for this is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Haitink is the embodiment of a tradition of Bruckner conducting that is fiercely true to the cleaned-up scores: there is no funny business. Nor is there any great flexibility with the tempo, no unmarked accelerandos nor exaggerated ritardandos. The markings added to the scores published in Bruckner’s day suggest that this is not how the symphonies were performed then, nor is it how Furtw√§ngler and Barenboim have approached them. Even Abbado was not above interventions to over-highlight the second violins in the Scherzo, or to bring out the flutes towards the end of the finale coda. But from the moment you see the wonderful Concertgebouw take their seats and you realise the orchestra is exactly as Bruckner specified – no extra brass (the so-called “eleven apostles” favoured by Jochum and other conductors), not even a “bumper”, just the four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba – you know this is going to be a performance with no pretensions beyond Bruckner’s own. And when Haitink raises his baton and with absolute security ushers in the disparate elements of the slow introduction, you also know that the symphony is in safe hands: no matter how discursive or episodic it may at times seem to be, the form is absolutely secure and, come the great affirmative ennobling chorale that brings this immense symphony to an end, you are gratefully aware that Haitink, like Bruckner, had this destination in mind throughout.
Ken Ward 21st May 2012

Hearing Bruckner's eerie music in my mind while sitting on the bare sand of Cambrian sea shore I say to myself "What a wonderful world!"

How all the biocomplexity and convulsed evolution of life forms from the explosion of life in Cambrian to the architectural and musical harmonies of Concertgebouw has not only produced species that are better adapted to survive in the changing environments of the Nature..

Instead of providing just the bare necessities, our good God has made planet Earth a very comfortable place to live for the humans He so loves, filled it with colours, sounds, tastes, wind in the willows, birds singing and even good tasting fish (among some killer sharks) in the much more comfortable seas for surfers and swimmers.

Of course evolutionary biologist are allowed to try to figure out in strict selective ways why that early human had made a flute of bone and carved a Penthouse style figurine of a woman and taken them to his cave some 40k years ago. My suggestion is "just for fun".

Classical music of Bruckner's complexity is rather useless from the strictly utilitarian point of view of evolutionism - and some less musical people, as well - comparing to military marches, Scottish bagpipes or the African warriors drumming themselves ready for an attack in the tribal war.

I sit quietly and wonder - from here to there.

What a trip to terrestrial life!

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