Longtime readers know some of UD’s musical enthusiasms: Among singers, Julia Lezhneva; among pianists, Yuja Wang. UD tried to score a ticket for Wang’s upcoming Rachmaninoff blowout but failed.
I love the observation Wang makes in my headline: When a genius is fully inside of a musical piece, it becomes hers.
In my own primitive playing and singing of Purcell’s song Music for A While, I’ve felt something (very distantly) like this: The notes and the emotions and the ideas sometimes flow out of you so spontaneously and deeply — in such a known way — when you’ve played (and in my case sung) a piece so many times, that the fact of a person named Sergei or Henry actually empirically sweating the thing out vanishes completely, and it’s you and this music that your throat and fingers and soul squeeze out. And shouldn’t that be what the geniuses who wrote the stuff want? They didn’t just generate a ditty; they moved a collection of notes and silences into some generous super-artistic realm of universal expressivity.
Think of what James Axton, the protagonist of Don DeLillo’s novel The Names, says about the Parthenon:
I hadn’t expected a human feeling to emerge from the stones but this is what I found, deeper than the art and mathematics embedded in the structure, the optical exactitudes. I found a cry for pity. This is what remains to the mauled stones in their blue surround, this open cry, this voice which is our own.
In great art (architecture) there is some value-added thing, some permanent, accessible … cry for pity, say; and if you enter and listen hard and vulnerably enough, you can not only hear it. You can reproduce it. You can even feel as if you are generating it anew.