Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Art of Calmness

I have decided to compile a list of all the things that I find calming. These are things that in those dark moments, when you are haunted by the surreptitious screeches of past regrets, or in those instances where a chokingly large lump of existentialist angst is savagely tearing your throat, or perhaps the simple, raw feeling of embitterment or alienation is traversing your realm of being; in those moments you instinctively seek some form of escapism, where for a fleeting period of time, your sense of purpose would regenerate and your personal decency would likewise be able to atone, momentarily exorcising those devils from you froth-corrupted lungs, instilling a sense of sublime tranquillity where it most matters: the heart.
So soothe away, things of unfortunate temporality! Soothe away!

The list is in no particular order

-- Macedonian folk music - although it is officially Macedonian, it is very much Bulgarian, relayed and relayed over generations from Bulgarians to Bulgarians, sung in Macedonian (an easily intelligible Bulgarian dialect), and loved by young and old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor! This music is so melancholy yet it is not dramatic at all. The singing involved is not technically demanding or complicated, it is much better, for it calls for the voice of the heart, which simply transits along the throat for the sake of credibility! The lyrics conjure up images of nature at its most sublime: from the serenely flowing brooklets painted so aptly by the soft, unpretentious sounds of the accordion, to the natural, inherently gentle rhythm of the drums which echoes your pulsating heart as you march across fields, ravines, forests - a natural landscape which is contagiously exhilarating. But the sheer simplicity and memorable nature of each tune resonates with such life-affirming force, such spiritual equanimity which renders it pleasantly refreshing, gently ennobling your hitherto destructive instincts. It is not assertive or in any way intrusive; it does not espouse its own view of life, it simply enriches your imagination in a quiet, uncomplicated, melancholy manner.
The heroic past of an entire nation is preserved in those songs! Undoubtedly, a Unesco World Heritage Site for the world of music!

-- Botticelli paintings - Probably the Quattrocento painter who injected himself most in his art. The exquisite essay by Walter Pater on Botticelli reveals some of the inner-workings of his paintings - the sober sorrow of his Madonnas, and the grace and purity of his Venuses, all...terribly unoriginal. The real soothing value of Botticelli is in the faces of his figures - that peaceful, gentle, silent passivity on their part, as though they are aware of their other-worldliness, bathing in the various scents of their delicacy and fondly taking pleasure in it all! His Madonna of the Magnificat exudes such refined melancholia, such enthralling, virginal smoothness - this is the image that you want to see flashing before your eyes as you lay dying!
Botticelli was one of the most notable Renaissance humanists in painting. The razor-sharp delicacy of his brush does not propagate false piety, it possesses a far more human touch. There is subtle, magnetic aspect to his works which draws you in, responding obligingly to the fanmail that it receives from the bright spark of your child-like sense of hope and innocence. It is the Everest of edenic imagery, unveiling your longing for the long-gone. Surely, there must be something comforting in that at least!

--Schumann's 54th piano concerto- That piece of music encapsulates brilliantly the different nuances of human emotion: from the sublimely grandiose to the playfully whimsical to the, yes, soothingly slow - it bounces back and forth across the entire spectrum of these purely human emotions. Yet it contradicts itself because despite its repetitive character, it flows so naturally, so logically that even though a specific type of human sentiment may somewhat randomly pop up effectively from around the corner, there still emerges an organic continuum that is seamless in its melodic stream. I do not personally find it excessively profound as a piece of composition, and it does somewhat lack a richness of texture but its lucidity, its unobtrusive nature immediately instils within you a sense of familiarity, as though you were brought up listening to it. I perceive it as the utmost modesty in music, as it fails to dazzle you like Mozart or Vivaldi does, nor is it complex or cutting-edge like Shostakovich, but its simple efficacy does not rob it out of its inherent effervescence, for it is a type of effervescence that pats you gently on the hand, subtly exposing itself, leaving a lot to the imagination, you know, kind of like the musical equivalent of softcore...stuff.
Performed solo on the piano, it is better, but I wouldn't kick the fiddles out of bed either!

--Ottorino Respighi's L'adorazione dei Magi- Now that is a true musical gem! It is obscure, and on top of that, it is an obscure movement of a fairly obscure orchestral work, of a composer that is...fairly obscure. But I have to make a confession here: it is actually based on Botticelli's paintings of the Adoration of the Magi. Oh, so familiar! But the case is different. It is equally applicable to his other paintings in general. It has an air of stillness about it, but a stillness where Botticelli's bronze-like Venus and rather wry-looking Flora meet in the Garden of Eden, and strangely do not feel out of place! This is because it straddles both the religious and classical works of Botticelli. The quality of this piece however is actually contained in the fresh, crisp air that breezes past you, caressing your skin as one of Botticelli's less damned-looking Madonnas would stroke her little cherub, that little baby Jesus! Yes, it is refreshing and remarkably inspirational, and as long as your cynicism is not as taut as a 1300 year-old Bosnian pine, you will do just fine by a having a go at listening to it!

Well these are some of my suggestions. They could serve as a sort of a treatment against the stresses of the hyper-threading technology that your serpentine sense of angst would often use to sneak through the occasional wasteland of your sometimes livid mind.
Sure, they may seem rather pretentious but they are not costly or time-consuming at all, and do not require any cerebral effort on your part, save for that which they may eventually inspire...

4 Comments:

At 13 July 2008 at 22:08 , Blogger Marina said...

Mmmm great suggestions. Also, I've been thinking, your 'winter house' sounds like my ideal getaway...

 
At 14 July 2008 at 18:18 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

Well, it's not a winter palace, but either way, I find cosiness in obscurity!

 
At 14 July 2008 at 19:36 , Blogger Louis Berceli said...

You forgot pills.

 
At 14 July 2008 at 20:58 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

I don't know what you are talking about...!

 

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