Monday, September 18, 2017

ET: Almanac

Emil was driving more steadily again, below Seventy-second Street. The traffic had eased. There were no truck deliveries to impede it. Lincoln Center was approaching and, at Columbus Circle, the Huntington Hartford Building, which Bruch called the Taj Mahole. Wasn't that funny! said Bruch. At his own jokes he rolled with laughter. Ape-like, he put his hands on his paunch and closed his eyes, letting the tongue hang out of his blind head. What a building! All holes. But that was some lunch they put down only for three bucks. He raved about the bill of fare-- Hawaiian chicken and saffron rice. Finally he had taken the old man there. It was indeed a grand lunch. But Lincoln Center Sammler had seen only from the outside. He was cold to the performing arts, and shunned large crowds. Exhibitions, electrical or nude, he had attended only because it amused Angela to keep him up to date. But he passed by the pages of the Times that dealt with painters, singers, fiddlers, or play actors. He saved his reading eye for better things. He had noted with hostile interest crews wrecking the nice old tenements and greasy-spoons, and the new halls rising.

But now, as they were nearing the Center, Emil stopped the car and pushed back the glass slide.

"Why are you stopping?"

Emil said, "There's something happening across the street." He looked, wrinkling his face deeply, as if this explanation must really be heeded. But why, at such a time, should he have stopped for anything. "Don't you recognize those people, Mr. Sammler?"

"Which? Has someone scraped someone? Is it a traffic thing?" Of course he lacked the authority to tell Emil to drive on, but he gestured, nevertheless, with the back of his hand. He waved Emil forward.

"No, I think you'll want to stop, Mr. Sammler. I see your son-in-law there. Isn't that him, with the big green bag? And isn't that Wallace's partner?"

"Feffer?"

"That fat kid. The pink face, the beard. He's fighting. Can't you see?"

Where is this? In the street? Is it Eisen?"

"It's the other fellow who's in trouble. The young guy, the beard. I think he's getting hurt."

On the east side of the slant street a bus had pulled to the curb at a wide angle, obstructing traffic. Sammler could see now that someone was struggling there, in the midst of a crowd.

"One of those is Feffer?"

"Yes, Mr. Sammler."

"Wrestling with someone--with the bus driver?"

"Not the driver, no, I think not. Somebody else."

"Then i must go and see what it is."

The craziness of these delays! Almost deliberate, almost intentional, they were breaking down every barrier of patience. they got to you at last. Why this, why Feffer? But he could see now what Emil meant. Feffer was pinned to the front of a bus. That was Feffer against the wide bumper. Sammler began to pull at the handle of the door.

"Nor on the street side, Mr. Sammler. You'll be hit."

But Sammler, his patience utterly lost, was already hurrying through traffic.

Feffer, in the midst of the crowd, was fighting the black man, the pickpocket. There were twenty people at least and more were stopping, but no one was about to interfere. Struggling in the criminal's grip, Feffer was forced back against the big cumbersome machine. His head was knocking on the windshield below the empty driver's seat. The man was squeezing him, and Fefer was scared. He resisted, he defended himself, but he was inept. He was overmatched. Of course. How could it be otherwise? His bearded face was frightened. Upturned, the broad cheeks flamed, and wis wide-spaced brown eyes appealed for help. Or were thinking what to do. What should he do? Like a man groping in a stream for a lost object, while staring into air, mouth gaping in his beard. But he would not give up the Minox. One arm was held straight up, out of reach. The weight of the big body in the fawn-colored suit crushed him. He had had the bad luck to get his candid shot. The black man was snatching at the Minox. To get the tiny camera, to give Feffer a few kicks in the ribs, int he belly--what else would he have had in mind. Leaving, without haste if possible, before the police arrived. But Feffer, near panic, still was obstinate. Shifting his grip, the Negro grabbed and twisted his collar, holding him as he had held Sammler with his forearm against the wall. He choked Feffer with the neckband. The Dior shades, round and bluish, had not moved from the low-bridged nose. Feffer had caught the spouting red necktie in his fist, but could do nothing with it.

How shall we save this prying, stupid idiotic boy. He may be hurt. And I must go. There's no time. "Some of you," Sammler ordered. "Here! Help him. Break this up." But of course "some of you" did not exist. No one would do anything, and suddenly Sammler felt extremely foreign--voice, accent, syntax, manner, face, mind, everything, foreign.

Emil had seen Eisen. Sammler looked for him now. And there he was, smiling and very pale. He was evidently waiting to be discovered. Then he seemed delighted.

"What are you doing here?" said Sammler in Russian.

"And you, Father-in-law--what are you doing?"

"I?" I am rushing to the hospital to see Elya."

"Yes. And I was with my young friend on the bus when he took the picture. Of a purse being opened. I saw it myself."

"What a stupid thing!"

Eisen held his green bize bag. It contained his sculptures or medallions. Those Dead Sea pieces--iron pyrites or whatever they were.

"Let him give up the camera. Why doesn't he give it to him?" said Sammler.

"But how do we prevail upon him?" said Eisen in a tone of discussion.

"Get a policeman," Sammler said. He would have liked to say, too, "Stop this smiling."

"But I don't know English."

"Then help the boy."

"You help him, Father-in-law. I am a foreigner and a cripple. You're older, true. But I just got to this country."

Sammler said to the pickpocket, "Let go. Let him go."

The man's large face turned. New York was reflected in the lenses, under the stiff curves of the homburg. Perhaps he recognized Sammler. But nothing was said.

Give him the camera, Feffer. Hand it over," Sammler said.

Feffer, with a stare of shock and appeal, looked as if he expected soon to lose consciousness. He did not bring down his arm.

"I say let him have the stupid thing. He wants the film. Don't be an idiot."

Feffer may have been holding out in expectation of a squad car, waiting for the police to save him. It was hard otherwise to explain his resistance. Considering the Negro's strength--his crouching, squeezing, intense animal pressing-power, the terrific swelling of the neck and the tightness of the buttocks as he rose on his toes. In straining alligator shoes! In fawn-colored trousers! With a belt that matched his necktie--a crimson belt! How consciousness was lashed by such a fact!

"Eisen!" said Sammler, furious.

"Yes, Father-in-law."

"I ask you to do something."

"Let them do something." He motioned with the baize bag to the bystanders. "i only came forty-eight hours ago."

Again Mr. Sammler turned to the crowd, staring hard. Wouldn't anyone help? So even now--now, still!--one believed in such things as help. Where people were, help might be. It was an instinct and a reflex. (An unexasparated hope?) So, briefly examining faces, passing from face to face to face among the people along the curb--red, pale swarth, lined taut or soft, grim or adream, eyes bald-bue, iodine-redding, coal-seam black--how strange a quality their inaction had. They were expecting gratification, oh! at last! of teased, cheated, famished needs. Someone was going to get it! Yes. And the black faces? A similar desire. Another side. But the same. Though there was nothing to hear, Sammler had the sense that something was barking away. Then it struck him that what united everybody was a beatitude of presence. As if it were--yes--blessed are the present. They are here and not here. They are present while absent. So they were waiting in that ecstatic state. What a supreme privilege! And there was only Eisen to break up the fight. Whcih was, after all, an odd sort of fight. Sammler did not beliee that the black man would choke Feffer into unconsciousness; he would only go on squeezing, screwing the collar tighter until Feffer surrendered the Minox. Of course, there was always a chance that he might strike him, pull a knife, stab him. But there was something worse here than this event itself, namely, the feeling that stole over Sammler.

It was a feeling of horror and grew in strength, grew and grew. What was it? How was it to be put? He was a man who had come back. He had rejoined life. He was near to others. But in some essential way he was also companionless. He was old. He lacked physical force. He knew what to do, but had no power to execute it. He had to turn to someone else--to an Eisen! a man himself very far out on another track, orbiting a very different foreign center. Sammler was powerless. To be so powerless was death. And suddenly he saw himself not so much standing as strangely leaning, as reclining, and peculiarly in profile, and as a past person. That was not himself. It was someone--and this struck him--poor in spirit. Someone between the human and not-human states, between content and emptiness, between full and void, meaning and not-meaning, between this world and no world. Flying, freed from gravitation, light with release and dread, doubting his destination, fearing there was nothing to receive him.

"Eisen, separate them," he said. "He's been choked enough. The police will come, and then there will be arrests. And I must go. To stand here is crazy. Please. Just take the camera. Take it. That will stop this."

Then handsome Eisen, shrugging, grinning, making a crooked movement of the shoulders, working them free from the tight denim, stepped away from Sammler as though he were doing a very amusing thing at his special request. He drew up the sleeve of his right arm. the dark hairs were thick. Then shortening his grip on the cords of the baize bag he swung it very wide, swung with full force and struck the pickpocket on the side of the face. It was a hard blow. The glasses flew. The hat. Feffer was not immediately freed. The man was not immediately freed. The man seemed to rest on him. Obviously stunned. Eisen was a laborer, a foundry worker. He had the strength not only of his trade but also of madness. There was something limitless, unbounded, about the way he squared off, took the man's measure, a kind of sturdy viciousness. everything went into that blow, discipline, murderousness, everything. What have I done! This is much worse! This is the worst thing yet. Sammler thought Eisen had crushed the man's face. And he was now about to hit him again, with his medallions. The black man took his hands from Feffer and was turning. His lips came away from his teeth. Eisen had gashed his skin and the cheek was bleeding and swelling. Eisen clinked the weights from his wrist, spread his legs. "He'll kill that cocksucker!" someone in the crowd said.

"Don't hit him, Eisen. I never said that. I tell you no!" said Sammler.

But the bag of weights was speeding from the other side, very wide but accurate. It struck more heavily than before and knocked the man down. He did not drop. He lowered himself as though he had decided to lie in the street. The blood ran in points on his cheeck. The terrible metal had cut through him through the baize.

Eisen now heaved his weapon back over the shoulder, prepared to slam it straight down on the man's skull. Sammler seized his arm and twisted him away. "You'll murder him. Do you want to beat out his brains?"

You said, Father-in-law!"

They quarreled in Russian before the crowd.

"You said I had to do something. You said you had to go. I must do something. So I did"

"I didn't say to hit him with these damned irons. I didn't say to hit him at all. You're crazy, Eisen, crazy enough to murder him."

The pickpocket had tried to brace himself on his elbows. His body now rested on his doubled arms. He bled thickly on the asphalt.

"I am horrified!" Sammler said.

Eisen, still handsome, curly, still with the smile, though now panting, and the peculiar set of the toeless feet, seemed amused at Sammler's ludicrous inconsistency. He said, "You can't hit a man like this just once. When you hit him you must really hit him. Otherwise he'll kill you. You know. We both fought in the war. You were a Partisan. You had a gun. So don't you know?" His laughter, his logic, laughing and reasoning at Sammler's absurdities, made him repeat until he stuttered. "If in--in. No? If out--out. Yes? No? So answer."

It was the reasoning that sank Sammler's heart completely. "Where is Feffer?" he said, and turned away.

Feffer, resting his forehead against the bus, was getting back his breath. Putting it on, no doubt. To Sammler this exaggeration was revolting.

Damn these--these occasions! he was thinking. Damn them, it was Elya who needed him. It was only Elya he wanted to see. To whom there was something to say. Here there was nothing to say.

Saul Bellow - Mr. Sammler's Planet

























Sunday, September 17, 2017

ET: Almanac

The worst of it, from the point of view of the young people themselves, was that they acted without dignity. They had no view of the nobility of being intellectuals and judges of the social order. What a pity! old Sammler thought. A human being, valuing himself for the right reasons, has and restores order, authority. When the internal parts are in order. They must be in order. But what was it to be arrested in the stage of toilet training! What was it to be entrapped by a psychiatric standard (Sammler blamed the Germans and their psychoanalysis for this)! Who had raised the diaper flag? Who had made shit a sacrament? What literary and psychological movement was that? Mr. Sammler, with bitter angry mind, held the top rail of his jammed bus, riding downtown, a short journey.

He certainly had no thought of his black pickpocket. Him he connected with Columbus Circle. He always went uptown, not down. But at the rear, in his camel's-hair coat, filling up a corner with his huge body, he was standing. Sammler against strong internal resistance saw him. He resisted because at this swaying difficult moment he had no wish to see him. Lord! not now! Inside, Sammler felt an immediate descent; his heart sinking. As sure as fate, as a law of nature, a stone falling, a gas rising. He knew the thief did not ride the bus for transportation. To meet a woman, to go home--however he diverted himself-he unquestionably took cabs. He could afford them. But now Mr. Sammler was looking down at his shoulder, the tallest man in the bus, except for the thief himself. He saw that in the long rear seat he had cornered someone. Powerfully bent, the wide back concealed the victim from the other passengers. Only Sammler, because of his height, could see. Nothing to be grateful to height or vision for. The cornered man was old, was weak; poor eyes, watering with terror, white lashes, red lids, and a sea-mucus blue, his eyes, the mouth open with false teeth dropping from the upper gums. Coat and jacket were open also, the shirt pulled forward like detached green wallpaper, and the lining of the jacket ragged. The thief tugged his clothes like a doctor with a clinic patient. Pushing aside tie and scarf, he took out the wallet. His own homburg he then eased back (an animal movement, simply) slightly from his forehead, furrowed but not with anxiety. The wallet was long--leatherette, plastic. Open, it yielded a few dollar bills. There were cards. The thief put them in his palm. Read them with a tilted head. Let them drop. Examined a green federal looking check, probably Social Security. Mr. Sammler in his goggles was troubled in focusing. Too much adrenalin was passing with light, thin, frightening rapidity through his heart. He himself was not frightene, but his heart seemed to record fear, it had a seizure. He recognized it--knew what name to apply: tachycardia. Breathing was hard. He could not fetch in enough air. He wondered whether he might not faint away. Whether worse might not happen. The check the black man put into his own pocket. Snapshots like the cards fell from his fingers Finished, he then dropped the wallet back into the gray, worn, shattered lining, flipped back the old man's muffler. In ironic calm, thumb and forefinger took the knot of the necktie and yanked it approximately, but only approximately, into place. I was at this moment that, in a quick turn of the head, he saw Mr. Sammler. Mr. Sammler seen seeing was still in rapid currents with his heart. Like an escaping creature racing away from him. His throat ached, up to the root of the tongue. There was a pang in the bad eye. But he had some presence of mind. Gripping the overhead chrome rail, he stooped forward as if to see what street was coming up. Ninety-sixth. In other words, he avoided a gaze that might be held, or any interlocking of looks. He acknowledged nothing, and now began to work his way toward the rear exit, gently urgent, stooping doorward. He reached, found the cord, pulled, made it to the step, squeezed through the door, and stood on the sidewalk holding the umbrella by the fabric, at the button.

The tachycardia now running itself out, he was able to walk, though not at the usual rate. His stratagem was to cross Riverside Drive and enter the first building, as if he lived there. He had beaten the pickpocket to the door. Maybe effrontery would dismiss him as too negligible to pursue. The man did not seem to feel threatened by anyone. Took the slackness, the cowardice of the world for granted. Sammler, with effort, opened a big glass black-grilled door and found himself in an empty lobby. Avoiding the elevator, he located the staircase, trudged the first flight, and sat down on the landing. A few minutes of rest, and he recovered his oxygen level, although something within felt attenuated. Simply thinned out. Before returning to the street (there was no rear exit), he took the umbrella inside the coat, hooking it in the armhole and belting it up, more or less securely. He also made an effort to change the shape of his hat, punching it out. He went past West End to Broadway, entering the first hamburger joint, sitting in the rear, and ordering tea. He drank to the bottom of the heavy cup, to the tannic taste, squeezing the sopping bag and asking the counterman for more water, feeling parched. Through the window his thief did not appear. By now Sammler's greatest need was for his bed. But he knew something about lying low. He had learned in Poland, in the war, in forests, cellars, passageways, cemeteries. Things he had passed through once which had abolished a certain margin or leeway ordinarily taken for granted. Taking for granted that one will not be shot stepping into the street, nor clubbed to death as one stoops to relieve oneself, nor hunted in an alley like a rat. This civil margin once removed, Mr. Sammler would never trust the restoration totally. He had had little occasion to practice the arts of hiding and escape in New York. But now, although his bones ached for the bed and his skull was famished for the pillow, he sat at the counter with his tea. he could not use buses any more. From now on it was the subway. The subway was an abomination.

But Mr. Sammler had not shaken the pickpocket. The man obviously could move fast. He might have forced his way out of the bus in midblock and sprinted back, heavy but swift in homburg and camel's-hair coat. Much more likely, the thief had observed him earlier, had once before shadowed him, had followed him home. Yes, that must have been the case. For when Mr. Sammler entered the lobby of his building the man came up behind him quickly, and not simply behind but pressing him bodily, belly to back. He did not lift his hands to Sammler but pushed. There was no building employee. The doormen, also running the elevator, spent much of their time in the cellar.

"What is the matter? What do you want?" said Mr. Sammler.

He was never to hear the black man's voice. He no more spoke than a puma would. What he did was to force Sammler into a corner beside the long blackish carved table, a sort of Renaissance piece, a thing which added to the lobby melancholy, by the buckling canvas of the old wall, by the red-eyed lights of the brass double fixture. There the man held Sammler against the wall with his forearm. The umbrella fell to the floor with a sharp crack of the ferrule on the tile. It was ignored. The pickpocket unbuttoned himself. Sammler heard the zipper descend. Then the smoked glasses were removed from Sammler's face and dropped on the table. He was directed, silently, to look downward. The black man had opened his fly and taken out his penis. It was displayed to Sammler with great oval testicles, a large tan-and-purple uncircumcised thing--a tube, a snake; metallic hairs bristled at the thick base and the tip curled beyond the supporting, demonstrating hand, suggesting the fleshly mobility of an elephant's trunk, though the skin was somewhat iridescent rather than thick or rough. Over the forearm and fist that held him Sammler was required to gaze at this organ. No compulsion would have been necessary. He would in any case have looked.

The interval was long. The man's expression was not directly menacing but oddly, serenely masterful. The thing was shown with mystifying certitude. Lordliness. Then it was returned to the trousers. Quod erat demonstrandum. Sammler was released. The fly was closed, the coat buttoned, the marvelous streaming silk salmon necktie smoothened with a powerful hand on the powerful chest. The black eyes with a light of super candor moved softly, concluding the session, the lesson, the warning, the encounter, the transmission. He picked up Sammler's dark glasses and returned them to his nose. He then unfolded and mounted his own, circular, of gentian violet gently banded with the lovely Dior gold.

Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler's Planet

ET: Almanac

Sammler in his Gymnasium days once translated from Saint Augustine: "The Devil hath established his cities in the North." He thought of this often. In Cracow before World War I he had had another version of it---desperate darkness, the dreary liquid yellow mud to a depth of two inches over cobblestones in the Jewish streets. People needed theri candles, their lamps and their copper kettles, their slices of lemon in the image of the sun. This was the conquest of grimness with the aid always of Mediterranean symbols. Dark environments overcome by imported religious signs and local domestic amenities. Without the power of the North, its mines, its industries, the world would never hae reached its astonishing modern form. And regardless of Augustine, Sammler had always loved his Northern cities, especially London, the blessings of its gloom, of coal smoke, gray rains, and the mental and human opportunities of a dark muffled environment. There one came to terms with obscurity, with low tones, one did not demand full clarity of mind or motive. But now Augustine's odd statement required a new interpretation. Listening to Angela carefully, Sammler perceived different developments. The labor of Puritanism now was ending. The dark satanic mills changing into light satanic mills. The reprobates converted into children of joy the sexual ways of the seraglio and of the Congo bush adopted by the emancipated masses of New York, Amsterdam, London. Old Sammler with his screwy visions! He saw the increasing triumph of the Enlightenment--Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, Adultery! Enlightenment, universal education, universal suffrage, the rights of the majority acknowledged by all governments the rights of women, the rights of children, the rights of criminals, the unity of the different races affirmed, Social Security, public health, the dignity of the person, the right to justice---the struggles of three revolutionary centuries being won while the feudal bonds of Church and Family weakened and the privileges of aristocracy (without any duties) spread wide, democratized, especially the libidinous privileges, the right to be uninhibited, spontaneous, urinating, defecating, belching, coupling in all positions, tripling, quadrupling, polymorphous, noble in being natural, primitive, combining the leisure and luxurious inventiveness of Versailles with the hibiscus-covered erotic ease of Samoa. Dark romanticism now took hold. As old at least as the strange Orientalism of the Knights Templar, and since then filled up with Lady Stanhopes, Baudelaires, de Nervals, Stevensons, and Gauguins---those South-loving barbarians. Oh yes, the Templars. They had adored the Muslims. One hair from the head of a Sarcen was more precious than the whole body of a Christian. Such crazy fervor! And now all the racism, all the strange erotic persuasions, the tourism and local color, the exotics of it had broken up but the mental masses, inheriting everything in a debased state, had formed an idea of the corrupting disease of being white and of the healing power of black. The dreams of nineteenth century poets polluted the psychic atmosphere of the great boroughs and suburbs of New York. Add to this the dangerous lunging staggering crazy violence of fanatics, and the trouble was very deep. Like many people who had seen the world collapse once, Mr. Sammler entertained the possibility that it might collapse twice. He did not agree with refugee friends that this doom was inevitable, but liberal beliefs did not seem capable of self-defense, and you could smell decay. You could see the suicidal impulses of civilization pushing strongly. You wondered whether this Western culture could survive universal dissemination--whether only its science and technology or administrative policies would travel, be adopted by other societies. Or whether the worst enemies of civilization might not prove to be its petted intellectuals who attacked it at its weakest moments---attacked it in the name of proletarian revolution, in the name of reason, and in the name of irrationality, in the name of visceral depth, in the name of sex, in the name of perfect instantaneous freedom For what it amounted to was limitless demand---insatiability, refusal of the doomed creature (death being sure and final) to go away from this earth unsatisfied. A full bill of demand and complaint was therefore presented by each individual. Non-negotiable. Recognizing no scarcity of supply in any human department. Enlightenment? Marvelous! But out of hand, wasn't it?

Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler's Planet

Saturday, September 16, 2017

ET: Almanac

The commander of the Sixth Division reported that Novograd-Volynsk was taken at dawn today. The staff is now withdrawing from Krapivno, and our cavalry transport stretches in a noisy rear guard along the high road that goes from Brest to Warsaw, a high road built on the bones of muzhiks by Czar Nicholas I.

Fields of purple poppies are blossoming around us, a noon breeze is frolicking in the yellowing rye, virginal buckwheat is standing on the horizon like the wall of a faraway monastery. Silent Volhynia is turning away, Volhynia is leaving, heading into the pearly white fog of the birch groves, creeping through the flowery hillocks, and with weakened arms entangling itself in the underbrush of hops. The orange sun is rolling across the sky like a severed head, gentle light glimmers in the ravines among the clouds, the banners of the sunset are fluttering above our heads. The stench of yesterday's blood and slaughtered horses drips into the evening chill. The blackned Zbrucz roars and twists the foaming knots of its rapids. The bridges are destroyed, and we wade across the river. The majestic moon lies on the waves. The water comes up to the horses' backs, purling streams trickle between hundreds of horses' legs. Someone sinks, and loudly curses the Mother of God. The river is littered with the black squares of the carts and filled with humming, whistling, and singing that thunders above the glistening hollows and the snaking moon.

Late at night we arive in Novograd. In the quarters to which I am assigned I find a pregnant woman and two red-haired Jews with thin necks, and a third Jew who is sleeping with his face to the wall and a blanket pulled over his head. In y room I find ransacked closets, torn pieces of women's fur coats on the floor, human excrement, and fragments of the holy Seder plate that the Jews use once a year for Passover.

"Clean up this mess!" I tell the woman. "How can you live like this?"

The two Jews get up from their chairs. They hop around on their felt soles and pick up the broken pieces of porcelain from the floor. They hope around in silence, like monkeys, like Japanese acrobats in a circus, their necks swelling and twisting. They spread a ripped eiderdown on the floor for me, and I lie down by the wall, next to the third, sleeping Jew. Timorous poverty descends over my bed.

Everything has been killed by the silence, and only the moon, clasping its round, shining, carefree head in its blue hands, loiters beneath my window.

I rub my numb feet, lie back on the ripped eiderdown, and fall asleep. I dream about the commander of the Sixth Division. He is chasing the brigade commander on his heavy stallion, and shoots two bullets into his eyes. The bullets pierce the brigade commander's head, and his eyes fall to the ground. "Why did you turn back the brigade?" Savitsky, the commander of the Sixth Division, shouts at the wounded man, and I wake up because the pregnant woman is tapping me on the face.

"Pan," she says to me, "you are shouting in your sleep, and tossing and turning. I'll put your bed in another corner, because you are kicking my papa."

She raises her thin legs and round belly from the floor and pulls the blanket off the sleeping man. An old man is lying there on his back, dead. His gullet has been ripped out, his face hacked in two, and dark blood is clinging to his beard like a clump of lead.

"Pan," the Jewess says, shaking out the eiderdown, "the Poles were hacking him to death and he kept begging them, 'Kill me in the backyard so my daughter won't see me die!' But they wouldn't inconvenience themselves. He died in this room, thinking of me . . . . And now I want you to tell me," the woman suddenly said with terrible force, "I want you to tell me where one could find another father like my father in all the world!"

Isaac Babel - Red Cavalry

ET: Almanac



But Baruch Spinoza, perhaps the most remarkable thinker who ever lived, went much further still. In a history of philosophy he would have to be dealt with after Descartes, on whom he builds; but in the present connexion it is not the system but the world-outlook that matters, and even this only in so far as it has been effective as the formative principle of representative personalities or the great currents of an age: it does not, therefore, seem essential here to adopt a lecture-room arrangement conforming to the conceptual development.. In his private life Spinoza was neither a saint, as the sentimental eighteenth century asserted, nor a reprobate, as the fanatical seventeenth saw him. He neither put up a fight against the persecutions to which he was exposed, nor endured them like a martyr: he simply evaded them in a cool and collected fashion. His father was a Portuguese Jew who, while quite young, had fled the inquisition to Amsterdam, where numerous fellow-believers had found asylum. But hardly had the Jewish communities found their liberty in the "New Jerusalem," as they called it, before they began to develop with renewed energy that detestable intolerance which has always been characteristic of their religion, and which unhappily the Christian Church inherited in some degree. The spirit of Caiaphas, which determined the whole history of the people of Israel as long as they had national independence, frequently lost its potency in later times owing to external conditions, but it always came to life again when Jews attained to power. And so it was on this occasion. The case of Uriel de Costa, who, for his free religious views, was sent to his death by the venemous persecution of the Amsterdam Synagogue, is a tragic instance. Spinoza was then eight years old. Half a generation later he was engaged in a similar conflict himself. His philosophical interests and activities became known and attempts were made, first to convert him, then to bring him back to orthodoxy by threats. When both methods failed, bribery was tried: he was offered a salary of a thousand gulden if he would remain true to Judaism. Since he was not to be moved even by this, a member of the community felt that murder was indicated. But the attack failed. And now there was no course left to the Synagogue but to excommunicate him. Before the assembled congregation thesolemn ban was pronounced, the concluding words being: "Curse him by day and curse him by night! Curse him sleeping and curse him waking! Curse his comings-in and curse his goings out! May the Lord never forgive him! He will burn with hardness and wrath against this man who is laden with all the curses that are written in the Book of the Law. He will blot out his name from under the heavens!" Thus did Jewry treat a man whose whole offence was that he led a more serious, peace-loving, and unworldly life than his fellow-Jews. But, as it had always been a good old Jewish tradition to stone the prophets, there is nothing extraordinary in this, particularly as Spinoza does not seem to us one of the greatest among the sons of Israel who suffered this fate; for we can only regard him as a curiosity--though a monumental and unique one.

Spinoza himself, through all the screaming of the Rabbis, never lost his calm. Thenceforward he lived in complete retirement, buried in his studies, entirely disinterested and without pretence, and avoiding all contact with worldly pleasures and honours, diversions and disturbances.

Egon Friedell: A Cultural History of the Modern Age

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Haydn Symphony Recommended Recordings

Symphony no. 39: 'Storm at Sea'
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonelli

Symphony no. 44: "Mourning"
RIAS Symphony/Ferenc Fricsay
If sound is too old: Chicago Symphony/Bernard Haitink

Symphony no. 45: "Farewell"
Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra/Adam Fischer

Symphony no. 49: "The Passion"
Gothenburg Symphony/Barbara Hannigan
(go to Spotify with an even better performance from the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Iona Brown)

Symphony no. 59: "Fire"
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Symphony no. 64: "Tempora Mutantur" (there's no equivalent phrase in English)
Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar
If too hard to organize: Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati

Symphony no. 82: "The Bear"
Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Symphony no. 83: "The Hen"
Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Symphony no. 85: "The Queen"
BBC Symphony/Ernest Ansermet

Symphony no. 86:
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Colin Davis

Symphony no. 87:
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner

Symphony no. 88:
Berlin Philharmonic/Wilhelm Furtwangler
if sound is too old: Vienna Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein

Symphony no. 90
Heidelberg Symphony/Thomas Fey
If too hard to organize: Saarbrücken Radio Symphony/Luciano Berio

Symphony no. 92: "The Oxford"
NDR Symphony/Thomas Hengelbrock

Symphony no. 93
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell

Symphony no. 94: "The Surprise
Vienna Philharmonic/Carlos Kleiber

Symphony no. 96 "The Miracle"
London Philharmonic/Sir Georg Solti
if too hard to organize: Royal Philharmonic/Sir Thomas Beecham

Symphony no. 98:
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
if too hard to organize: London Philharmonic/Eugen Jochum

Symphony no. 99:
Concertgebouw Ochestra/Colin Davis
(Davis's second recording with the London Symphony, is even better, it can be found on Spotify)

Symphony no. 100: "Military"
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
if too hard to organize: Orchestra of St. Luke's/Sir Charles Mackerras

Symphony no. 101: "The Clock"
Orchestra of St. Luke's/Sir Charles Mackerras

Symphony no. 102:
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Colin Davis
(if too hard to find) London Philharmonic/Eugen Jochum

Symphony no. 103:
Orchestra of the Lamoureux Concerts/Igor Markevitch

Symphony no. 104: "London"
Orchestra of the Lamoureux Concerts/Igor Markevitch




ET: Almanac

We were advancing from Khotkin to Berestechko. Our fighters were dozing in their saddles. A song rustled like a stream running dry. Horrifying corpse lay on thousand-year-old burial mounds. Muzhiks in white shirts raised their caps and bowed as we passed. The cloak of Division Commander Pavlichenko was fluttering ahad of the staff officers like a gloomy banner. His ruffled hood hung over his cloak, his curved saber at his side.

We rode past the Cossack burial mounds and the tomb of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. An old man with a mandolin came creeping out from behind a gravestone and with a child's voice sang of past Cossack glory. We listened to the song in silence, then unfurled the standards, and burst into Berestechko to the beat of a thundering march. The inhabitants had put iron bars over their shutters, and silence, a despotic silence, had ascended to the shtetl throne.

I happened to be billeted in the house of a redheaded widow, who was doused with the scent of widow's grief. I washed off the dirt of the road and went out into the street. An announcement was already nailed up on telegraph poles that Divisional Military Commissar Vinogradov would be giving a speech on the Second Congress of the Comintern. Right outside the house a couple of Cossacks were getting ready to shoot an old silver-bearded Jew for espionage. The old man was screeching, and tried to break free. Kudrya from the machine gun detachment grabbed his head and held it wedged under his arm. The Jew fell silent and spread his legs. Kudrya pulled out his dagger with his right hand and carefully slit the old man's throat without spattering himself. Then he knocked on one of the closed windows.

"If anyone's interested," he said, "they can come get him. It's no problem."

And the Cossacks disappeared around the corner. I followed them, and then wandered through Berestechko. Most of the people here are Jewish, and only on the outskirts have a few Russian townspeople, mainly tanners, settled. The Russians live cleanly, in little white houses behind green shutters. Instead of vodka, they drink beer or mead, and in their front gardens grow tobacco which, like Galician peasants, they smoke in long curved pipes. That they are three diligent and entrepreneurial races living next to each other awakened in all of them an obstinate industriousness that is sometimes inherent in Russian man, if he hasn't become louse0ridden, desperate, and besotted with drink.

Everyday life, which once flourished, has blown away. Little sprouts that had survived for three centuries still managed to blossom in Volhynia's sultry hotbed of ancient times. Here, with the ropes of profit, the Jews had bound the Russian muzhiks to the Polish Pans and the Czech settlers to the factory in Lodz. These were smugglers, the best on the frontier, and almost always warriors of the faith. Hasidism kept this lively population of taverners, peddlers, and brokers in a stifling grip. Boys in long coats still trod the ancient path to the Hasidic cheder, and old women still brought daughters-in-law to the tsaddik with impassioned prayers for fertility.

The Jews live here in large houses painted white or a watery blue. The traditional austerity of this architecture goes back centuries. Behind the houses are sheds that are two, sometimes three stories high. The sun never enters these sheds. They are indescribably gloomy and replace our yards. Secret passages lead to cellars and stables. In times of war, people hide in these catacombs from bullets and plunder. Over many days, human refuse and animal dung pile up. Despair and dismay fill the catacombs with an acrid stench and the rotting sourness of excrement.

Berestechko stinks inviolably to this day. The smell of rotten herring emanates from everyone. The shtetl reeks in expectation of a new era, and, instead of people, fading reflections of frontier misfortune wander through it. I had had enough of them by the end of the day, went beyond the edge of the town, climbed the mountain, and reached the abandoned castle of the Counts Raciborski, the recent owners of Berestechko.

The silence of the sunset turned the grass around the castle blue. The moon rose green as a lizard above the pond. Looking out the window, I could see the estate of the Raciborskis--meadows and fields of hops hidden beneath the crepe ribbons of dusk.

A ninety-year-old countess and her son had lived in the castle. She had tormented him for not having given the dying clan any heirs, and--the muzhiks told me this--she used to beat him with the coachman's whip.

A rally was gathering on the square below. Peasants, Jews, and tanners from the outlying areas had come together. Above them flared Vinogradov's ecstatic voice and the clanking of his spurse. He gave a speech about the Second Congress of the Comintern, and I roamed along the walls where nymphs with gouged eyes danced their ancient round dance. Then on the trampled floor, in a corner, I found the torn fragment of a yellowed letter. On it was written in faded ink:

Berestechko, 1820, Paul, mon bien aimé, on dit que l'empereur Napoléon est mort, est-ce vrai? Moi, je me sens bien, les couches ont été faciles, notre petit héros achéve sept semaines.
Below me, the voice of the divisional military commisar is droning on. He is passionately haranguing the bewildered townspeople and the plundered Jews: "You are the power. Everything here belongs to you. There are no masters. I shall now conduct an election for the Revolutionary Committee."

Isaac Babel - Red Cavalry

ET: Almanac

I was the one who began.

"Reb Arye-Leib,"I said to the old man. "Let's talk about Benya Krik. Let's talk about his lightning-quick beginning and his terrible end. Three shadows block the path of my thoughts. There is Froim Grach. The steel of his actions--doesn't it bear comparison to the power of the King? There is Kolka Pakovsky. The rage of that man had everything it takes to rule. And could not Chaim Drong tell when a star was on the rise? So why was Benya Krik the only one to climb to the top of the ladder while everyone else was clinging to the shaky rungs below?"

Reb Ary-Leib remained silent as he sat on the cemetary wall. Before us stretched the green calm of the graves. A man thirsting for an answer must stock up with patience. A man in possession of facts can afford to carry himself with aplomb. That is why Arye-Leib remained silent as he sat on the cemetary wall. Finally he began his tale:

"Why him? Why not the others, you want to know? Well then, forget for a while that you have glasses on your nose and autumn in your heart. Forget that you pick fights from behind your desk and stutter when you are out in the world! Imagine for a moment that you pick fights in town squares and stutter only among papers. You are a tiger, you are a lion, you are a cat. You can spend the night with a Russian woman, and the Russian woman will be satisfied by you. You are twenty-five years old. If the sky and the earth had rings attached to them you would grab these rings and pull the sky down to the earth. And your papa is the carter Mendel Krik. What does a papa like him think about? All he thinks about is downing a nice shot of vodka, slugging someone in their ugly mug, and about his horses--nothing else. You want to live, but he makes you die twenty times a day. What would you have done if you were in Benya Krik's shoes? You wouldn't have done a thing! But he did. Because he is the King, while you only thumb your nose at people when their back is turned!

"He, Benchik, went to Froim Grach, who even back then peered at the world with only one eye and was just what he is now. And Benya told Froim, 'Take me on. I want to come on board your ship. The ship I end up on will do well by me.'

"Grach asked him, 'Who're you, where d'you come from, what's your bread and butter?'

"'Try me, Froim,' Benya answered, 'and let's stop wasting time spreading kasha on the table.'

"'Fine, we won't waste time spreading kasha on the table,' Grach said. 'I'll try you.'

"And the gangsters called a council together to decide about Benya Krik. I wasn't at that council, but word has it that they did call together a council. The elder back then was the late Lyovka Bik.

"'Anyone know what's going on under Benchik's hat?' the late Bik asked.

"And one-eyed Grach gave his opinion.

"'Benya talks little, but he talks with zest. He talks little, but you want that he'll say more.'

"'If that's so, we'll try him out on Tartakovsky,' the late Bik pronounced.

"'We'll try him out on Tartakovsky,' the council decided, and those who still housed a trace of conscience turned red when they heard this decision. Why did they turn red? If you listen, you'll find out.

"Tartakovsky was known as 'Yid-and-a-Half' or 'Nine-Raids.' They called him 'Yid-and-a-Half because there wasn't a single Jew who had as much chutzpah or money as Tartakovsky had. He was taller than the tallest Odessa policeman, and heavier than the fattest Jewess. And they called Tartakovsky 'Nine-Raids' because the firm of Lyovka Bik and Company had launched not eight raids and not ten, but exactly nine raids against his business. To Benya, who was not yet King, fell the honor of carrying out the tenth raid on Yid-and-a-Half. When Froim informed Benya of this, Benya said yes, and left, slamming the door behind him. Why did he slam the door? If you listen, you'll find out.

"Tartakovsky has the soul of a murderer, but he's one of us. He sprang forth from us. Half of Odessa works in his stores. Not to mention, his own Moldavankans have given him quite a bit of grief. They abducted him twice and held him for ransom, and once, during a pogrom, they buried him with chanters. The Slobodka thugs were beating up Jews on Bolshaya Arnautskaya. Tartakovsky ran away from them and came across the funeral march with chanters on Sofiyskaya Street.

"Who are they burying with chanters?' he asked.

"The passerby told him that Tartakovsky was being buried. The procession marched to the Sobodka Cemetery. Then our boys yanked a machine gun out of the coffin and started shooting at the Slobodka thugs. But Yid-and-a -Half had not forseen this. Yid-and-a-Half got the fright of his life. What bossin his place would not have been frightened?

"A tenth raid on a man who had already been buried once was a crass deed. Benya, who back then wasn't yet the King, knew this better than anyone else. But he said yes to Grach and on that very same day wrote Tartakovsky a letter, typical of those letters:

Most esteemed Rubin Osipovich,
I would be grateful if by the Sabbath you could place by the rainwater barrel a . . ., and so on. Should you chooose to refuse, which you have opted to do lately, a great disappointment in your family life awaits you.
Respecfully yours,
Ben Zion Krik
"Tartakovsky, not one to dither, was quick to answer:

Benya,
If you were an idiot, I would write you as to an idiot. But from what I know of you, you aren't one, and may the Lord prevent me from changing my mind. You, as is plain to see, are acting like a boy. Is it possible that you are not aware that this year the crop in Argentina has been so good that we can stand on our heads but we still can't unload our wheat? And I swear to you on a stack of Bibles that I'm sick and tired of having to eat such a bitter crust of bread and witness such trouble after having worked all my life like the lowliest carter. And what do I have to show for my life sentence of hard labor? Ulcers, sores, worries, and no sleep! Drop your foolish thoughts, Benya.
Your friend, a far better one than you realize,
Rubin Tartakovsky
"Yid-and-a-Half had done his part. He had written a letter. But the mail didn't deliver it to the riht address. Getting no answer, Benya became angry. The following day he turned up at Tartakovsky's office with four friends. Four masked youths with revolvers burst into the room.

"'Hands up!' they shouted, waving their pistols.

"'Not so loud, Solomon!' Benya told one of the youths, who was yelling louder than the rest. 'Don't get so jumpy on the job!' and he turned to the shop assistant, who was white as death and yellow as clay, and asked him:

"'Is Yid-and-a-Half in the factory?'

"'He's not in the factory,' said the shop assistant, whose family name was Muginshtein, his first name Josif, and who was the unmarried son of Aunt Pesya, the chicken seller on Seredinskaya Square.

"'So who's in charge when the boss is out?' they asked poor Muginshtein.

"'I'm in charge when the boss is out,' the shop assistant said, green as green grass.

"'In that case, with God's help, please open the safe!' Benya ordered, and a three act opera began.

"Nervous Solomon stuffed money, papers, watches, and jewelry into a suitcase--the late Josif Muginshtein stood in fron to fhim with his hands in the air, while Benya told stories from the life of the Jewish people.

"'Well, ha! If he likes playing Rothschild,' Benya said about Tartakovsky, 'then let him roast in hell! I ask you Muginshtein, as one asks a friend: he gets my business letter--so how come he can't take a five-kopeck tram to come visit me at home, drink a shot of vodka with my family, and eat what God has seen tfit to send us? What stopped him from baring his soul to me? Couldn't he have said--Benya, you know, such and such, but here's my balance sheet, just give me a couple of days to catch my breath, to get things rolling--don't you think I'd have understood? Pigs at a trough might not see eye to eye, but there is no reason why two grown men can't! Do you see what I'm saying, Muginshtein?'

"I see what you're saying,' Muginshtein answered, lying, because he was at a loss as to why Yid-and-a-Half, a respected, wealthy man, one of the foremost men in town, should want tot ake a tram so he could have a bite to eat with the family of Mendel Krik, a carter.

"But all the time misfortune was loitering beneath the windows, like a beggar at dawn. Misfortune burst loudly into the office. And though this time it came in the guise of the Jew Savka Butsis, it was as drunk as a water carrier.

"Ooh, ooh, ah!' Savka the Jew shouted. 'I'm sorry I'm so late Benchik!' And he stamped his feet and waved his hands. Then he fired, and the bullet hit Muginshtein in the stomach.

"Are words necessary here? There was a man, and now there's none. An innocent bachelor, living his life like a little bird on a branch, and now he's dead from sheer idiocy. In comes a Jew looking like a sailor and doesn't shoot at a bottle in a fairground booth to win a prize--he shoots at a living man! Are words necessary here?

"'Everyone out!' Benya shouted, and as he ran out last, managed to tell Butsis, 'On my mother's grave, Savka, you'll be lying next to him!'

So tell me, a young gentleman like you who cuts coupons on other people's bonds, how owuld you have acted in Benya Krik's position? You wouldn't know what to do? Well, he did! That's why he was King, while you and I are sitting here on the wall of the Second Jewish Cemetery, holding up our hands to keep the sun out of our eyes.

"Aunt Pesya's unfortunate son didn't die right away. An hour after they got him to the hospital, Benya turned up. He had the senior doctor called in and the nurse, and, without taking his hands out of the pockets of his cream-colored pants, told them, 'I have a whole lot of interest that your patient, Josif Muginshtein, recovers. Just in case, let me introduce myself--Ben Zion Krik. Give him camphor, air cushions, a private room, from the depths of your heart! If you don't, then every doctor here, even if they're doctors of philosophy, will be doled out six feet of earth!'

"And yet, Muginshtein died that same night. it was only then that Yid-and-a-Half raised hell in all Odessa. 'Where do the police begin and Benya end?' he wailed.

"The police end where Benya begins,' levelheaded people answered, but Tartakovsky wouldn't calm down, and to his amazement they saw a red automobile with a music box for a horn playing the first march from the opera I Pagliacci on Seredinskaya Square. In broad daylight the car raced over to the little house in which Aunt Pesya lived. Its wheels thundered, it spat smoke, gleamed brassily, reeked of gasoline, and honed arias on its horn. A man jumped out of the automobile and went into the kitchen where little Aunt Pesya was writing on the earthen floor. Yid-and-a-Half was sitting on a chair waving his arms. 'You ugly hooligan!' he shouted, when he saw the man. 'You damn bandit, may the earth spit you out! A nice style you've picked up for yourself, going around murdering live people!'

"'Monsieur Tartakovsky,' Benya Krik said to him quietly. For two days and nights I have been crying for the dear deceased as if he were my own brother. I know that you spit on my young tears. Shame on you, Monsieur Tartakovsky! What fireproof sale have you hidden your shame in? You had the heart to send a paltry hundred rubles to the mother of our dear deceased Josif. My hair, not to mention my brain, stood on end when I got word of this!'

"Here Benya paused. He was wearing a chocolate jacket, cream pants, and rasberry-red half boots.

"'Ten thousand down!' he bellowed. 'Ten thousand down, and a pension till she dies--may she live to be a hundred and twenty! If it's 'no,' then we leave this house together, Monsieur Tartakovsky, and go straight to my car!'

"Then they started arguing. Yid-and-a-Half swore at Benya. Not that I was present at this quarrel, but those who were, remember it well. They finally agreed on five thousand cash in hand, and fifty rubles a month.

"'Aunt Pesya!' Benya then said to the disheveled old woman rolling on the floor. 'If you want my life, you can have it, but everyone makes mistakes, even God! This was a giant mistake, Aunt Pesya! But didn't God Himself make a mistake when he settled the Jews in Russia so they could be tormented as if they were in hell? Wouldn't it have been better to have the Jews living in Switzerland, where they would've been surrounded by first-class lakes, mountain air, and Frenchmen galore? Everyone makes mistakes, even God. Listen to me with your ears, Aunt Pesya! You're getting five thousand in hand and fifty rubles a month till you die--may you live to be a hundred and twenty! Josif's funeral will be first-class. Six horses like lions, two hearses with garlands, chanters from the Brodsky Synagogue, and Minkovsky himself will come to chant the burial service for your departed son!'

"And the funeral took place the next morning. Ask the cemetery beggars about this funeral! Ask the synagogue shamases, the kosher poultry sellers, or the old women from the Second Poorhouse! Such a funeral Odessa had never seen, nor will the world ever see the like of it. On that day the policemen wore cotton gloves. In the synagogues, draped with greenery, their doors wide open, the electricity was on. Black plumes swayed in the white horses pulling the hearse. Sixty chanters walked in front of the procession. The chanters were boys, but they sang with women's voices. The elders of the Kosher Poultry Sellers synagogue let Aunt Pesya by the hand. Behind the leders marched the members of the Society of Jewish Shop Assistants, and behind the Jewish shop assistants marched the barristers, the doctors, and the certified midwives. On one side of Aunt Pesya were the chicken sellers from the Stary Bazaar, and on the other the esteemed dairymaids from the Bugayevka, wrapped in orange shawls. They stamped their feet like gendarmes on parade. From their broad hips came the scent of sea and milk. And behind them plodded Rubin Tartakovsky's workers. There were a hundred of them, or two hundred, or two thousand. They wore black frock coats with silk lapels, and new boots that squeaked like piglets in a sack.

"And now I will speak as God spoke on Mount Sinai from the burning bush! Take my words into your ears. Everything I saw, I saw with my own eyes, sitting right here on the wall of the Second Cemetary, next to lisping Moiseika and Shimshon from the funeral home. I, Arye-Leib, a proud Jew living among the dead, saw it with my own eyes.

"The hearse rolled up to the synagogue in the cemetery. The coffin was placed ont he steps. Aunt Pesya was shaking like a little bird. The cantor climbed out of the carriage and began the funeral service. Sixty chanters supported him. And at that very moment the red automobile came flying around the corner. It was honking I Pagliacci and came to a stop. The people stood, silent as corpses. The trees, the chanters, the beggars stood silent. Four men got out from under the red roof, and with quiet steps carried to the hearse a wreath of roses of a beauty never before seen. And when the funeral ended, the four men lifted the coffin onto their steel shoulders, and with burning eyes and protruding chests, marched with the members of the Society of Jewish Shop Assistants.

"In front walked Benya Krik, who back then nobody was yet calling the King. He was the first to approach the grave. He climbed onto the mound, and stretched out his arm.

"What are you doing, young man?' Kofman from the Burial Brotherhood shouted, running up to him.

"I want to give a speech,' Benya Krik answered.

"And he gave a speech. All who wanted to hear it heard it. I, Arye-Leib, heard it, as did lisping Moiseika, who was sitting next to me on the wall.

"Ladies and gentlemen,' Benya Krik said. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' he said, and the sun stood above his head, like a guard with a rifle. 'You have come to pay your last respects to an honest toiler, who died for a copper half-kopeck. In my own name, and in the name of all those who are not present, I thank you. Ladies and gentlemen! What did our dear Josif see in his life? One big nothing! What did he do for a living? He counted someone else's money. What did he die for? He died for the whole working class. There are men who are already doomed to die, and there are men who still have not begun to live. And suddenly a bullet, flying toward the doomed heart, tears into Josif, when all he has seen of life is one big nothing. There are men who can drink vodka, and there are men who who can't drink vodka but still drink it. The former get pleasure from the agony and joy, and the latter suffer for all those who drink vodka without being able to drink ti. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, after we have prayed for our poor Josif, I ask you to accompany Saveli Butsis, a man unknown to you but already deceased, to his grave.

"Having finished his speech, Benya Krik came down from the mound. The people, the trees, and the cemetery beggars stood silent. Two gravediggers carried an unpainted coffin to an adjacent grave. The cantor, stuttering, ended the prayer. Benya threw the first spadeful of earth and walked over to Savka. All the barristers and ladies with brooches followed him like sheep. He had the cantor chant the full funeral rites for Savka, and sixty chanters sang with him. Savka had never dreamt of such a funeral--you can trust the word of Arye-Leib, and aged old man.

"Word has it that it was on that day that Yid-and-a-Half decided to close shop. Not that I myself was there. But I saw with my own eyes, the eyes of Arye-Leib--which is my name--that neither the cantor, nor the choir, nor the Burial Brotherhood asked to get paid for the funeral. More I couldn't see, because the people quietly slipped away from Savka's grave and started running, as if from a fire. They flew off in carriages, in carts, and on foot. And the four men who had arrived int he red automobile left in it. The musical horn played its march, the car lurched and hurtled off.

"The King!' lisping Moiseika, who always grabs the best seat on the wall, said, following the car with his eyes.

"now you know everything. You know who was the first to pronounce the word 'King.' It was Moiseika. Now you know why he didn't call one-eyed Grach that, nor raging Kolka. You know everything. But what use is it if you still have glasses on your nose and autumn in your heart? . . .

Isaac Babel - The Odessa Stories

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ET: Almanac

The wedding ceremony ended, the rabbi sank into a chair, then he left the room and saw tables lined up the whole length of the courtyard. There were so many of them that the end stuck out of the gates onto Gospitalnaya Street. The tables, draped in velvet, coiled through the yard like a snake on whose belly patches of every color had been daubed, and these orange and red velvet patches sang in deep voices.

The rooms had been turned into kitchens. A rich flame, a drunk, plump flame, forced its way through the smoke-blackened doors. Little old women's faces, wobbly women's chins, beslobbered beasts, baked in the flame's smoky rays. Sweat, red as blood, pink as the foam of a rabid dog, dripped from these blobs of rampant, sweet-odored human flesh. Three cooks, not counting the scullery maids, prepared the wedding feast, and over them eighty-year-old Reizl reigned, traditional as a Torah scroll, tiny and hunchbacked.

Before the feast began, a young man unknown to the guests wormed his way into the courtyard. He asked for Benya Krik. He took Benya Krik aside.

"Listen, King!" the young man said. "I have a couple of words I need to tell you. Aunt Hannah from Kostetskaya Street, she sent me."

"So?" Benya Krik, nicknamed "the King," answered. 'So what's these couple of words?"

Aunt Hannah, she sent me to tell you that a new chief of police took over at the police station yesterday.

"I've known that since the day before yesterday," Benya Krik answered. "Well?"

"The chief of police called the whole station together and gave a speech . . ."

"A new broom is always eager to sweep," Benya Krik answered. "He wants a raid. So?"

"But when does he want to raid, King, do you know that?"

"Tomorrow."

"King, it's going to be today!"

"Who told you that, boy?"

"Aunt Hannah, she said so. You know Aunt Hannah?"

"I know Aunt Hannah. So?"

"The chief called the whole station together and gave them a speech: 'We must finish off Benya Krik,' he said, 'because when you have His Majesty the Czar, you can't have a King too. Today, when Krik gives away his sister in marriage, and they will all be there, is when we raid!"

"So?"

"Then the stool pigeons began to get worried. They said, 'If we raid them today, during his feast, Benya will get anry and a lot more blood will flow.' But the chief said, 'Our self-respect is more important to me!'"

"Good, you can go," the King said.

So what do I tell Aunt Hannah about the raid?"

"Tell her Benya he knows from the raid."

And the young man left. Three or four of Benya's friends followed him. They said they would be back in about half an hour. And they were back in half an hour. That was that.

At the table, the guests did not sit in order of seniority. Foolish old age is just as pitiful as cowardly youth. Nor in order of wealth. The lining of a heavy money bag is sown with tears.

The bride and groom sat at the table's place of honor. It was their day. Beside them sat Sender Eichbaum, the King's father-in-law. That was his due. You should know the story of Sender Eichbaum, because it's a story definitely worth knowing.

How did Benya Krik, gangster and King of gangsters, make himself Eichbaum's son-in-law? How did he make himself the son-in-law of a man who owned one milch cow short of sixty? It all had to do with a robbery. A year or so earlier Benya had written a letter to Eichbaum.

"Monsieur Eichbaum," he wrote. "I would be grateful if you could place twenty thousand rubles by the gate of number 17, Sofiyefskaya Street, tomorrow morning. If you do not, then something awaits you, the like of which has never before been heard, and you will be the talk of all Odessa. Sincerely yours, Benya the King."

Three letters, each clearer than the one before, remained unanswered. Then Benya took action. They came by night, ten men carrying long sticks. The sticks were wound with tarred oakum. Nine burning stars flared up in Eichbaum's cattle yard. Benya smashed the barn's locks and started leading the cows out, one by one. They were met by a man with a knife. He felled the cows with one slash and plunged his knife into their hearts. On the ground drenched with blood the torches blossomed like fiery roses, and shots rang out. The dairy maids came running to the cowshed, and Benya chased them away with shots. And right after him other gangsters began shooting into the air because if you don't shoot into the air you might kill someone. And hen, as the sixth cow fell with a death bellow at the King's feet, it was then that Eichbaum came running out into the courtyard in his underpants.

"Benya! Where will this end?" he cried.

"If I don't have the money, you don't have the cows, Monsieur Eichbaum. Two and two make four."

"Benya, come into my house!"

And inside the house they came to an agreement. They divided the slaughtered cows between them, Eichbaum was promised immunity and given a certificate with a stamp to that effect. But the miracle came later.

At the time of the attack, that terrible night when the slashed cows bellowed and calves skidded in their mothers' blood, when torches danced like black maidens, and the milkmaids scattered and screeched before the barrels of the amicable Brownings--that terrible night, old Eichbaum's daughter, Zilya, had run out into the yard, her blouse torn. And the King's victory turned into his downfall.

Two days later, without warning, Benya gave back all the money he had taken from Eichbaum and then came int he evening on a social call. He wore an orange suit, and underneath his cuff a diamond bracelet sparkled. He enered the room greeted Eichbaum, and asked him for the hand of his daughter Zilya. The old man had a small stroke, but recovered--there were at least twenty years of life in him.

"Listen, Eichbaum," the King told him. "When you die, I'll have you buried in the First Jewish Cemetary, right by the gates. And Eichbaum, I will have a monument of pink marble put up for you. I will make you the Elder of the Brodsky Synagogue. I will give up my career, Eichbaum, and I will go into business with you as a partner. We will have two hundred cows, Eichbaum. I will kill all the dairymen except you. No thief shall walk the street you live in. I shall build you a dacha at the Sixteenth Stop . . . and don't forget, Eichbaum, you yourself were no rabbi in your youth. Who was it who forged that will? I think I'd better lower my voice, don't you? And your son-in-law will be the King, not some snotface! The King, Eichbaum!"

And he got his way, that Benya Krik, because he was passionate and passion holds sway over the universe. The newlyweds stayed for three months in fertile Bessarabia, among grapes, abundant food, and the sweat of love. Then Benya returned to Odessa to marry of Dvoira, his forty-year-old sister, who was suffering from goiter. And now, having told the story of Sender Eichbaum, we can return to the marriage of Dvoira Krik, the King's sister.

For the dinner at this wedding, they served turkeys, roasted chicken, geese, gefilte fish, and fish soup in which lakes of lemon shimmered like mother-of-pearl. Above the dead goose heads, flowers swayed like luxuriant plumes. Bud do the foamy waves of the Odessan Sea throw roasted chickens onto the shore?

On this blue night, this starry night, the best of our contraband, everything for which our region is celebrated far and wide, piled its seductive, destructive craft. Wine from afar heated stomachs, sweetly numbed legs, dulled brains, and summoned belches as resonant as the call of battle horns. The black cook from the Plutarch, which had pulled in three days before from Port Said, had smuggled in big-bellied bottles of Jamaican Rum, oily Madeira, cigars from the plantations of Pierpont Morgan, and oranges from the groves of Jerusalem. This is what the foamy waves of the Odessan Sea throw onto the shore, and this is what Odessan beggars sometimes get at Jewish weddings. They got Jamaican rum at Dvoira Krik's wedding, and that's why the Jewish beggars got as drunk as unkosher pigs and began loudly banging their crutches. Eichbaum unbuttoned his vest, mustered the raging crowd with a squinting eye, and hiccuped affectionately. The orchestra played a flourish. It was like a regimental parade. A flourish, nothing more than a flourish. The gangsters, sitting in closed ranks, were at first uneasy about the presence of outsiders, but son they let themselves go. Lyova Katsap smashed a bottle of vodka over his sweetheart's head, Monya Artillerist fired shots into the air. But the peak of their ecstasy came when, in accordance with ancient custom, the guests began bestowing gifts on the newlyweds. The synagogue shamases jumped onto tables and sang out, above the din of the seething flourishes, the quantity of rubles and silver spoons that were being presented. And here the friends of the King proved what blue blood was worth, and that Moldovanka chivalry was still in full bloom. With casual flicks of the hand they threw gold coins, rings, and coral necklaces onto the golden trays.

The Moldovanka aristocrats were jammed into crimson vests, their shoulders encased in chestnut colored jackets, and their fleshy legs bulged in sky-blue leather boots. Drawing themselves up to their full height and sticking out their bellies, the bandits clapped to the rhythm of the music and, shouting "Oy, a sweet kiss for the bride!," threw flowers at her, and she, forty-year-old Dvoira, Benya Krik's sister, the sister of the King, deformed by illness, with her swollen goiter and eyes bulging out of their sockets, sat on a mountain of pillows next to a frail young man who was mute with melancholy who had been bought with Eichbaum's money.

The gift-giving ceremony was coming to an end, the shamases were growing hoarse, and the bass fiddle was clashing with the violin. A sudden faint odor of burning spread over the courtyard.

"Benya," Papa Krik, the old carter, knwon as a ruffian even in carting circles, shouted, "Benya! You know what? I think the embers have blazed up again!"

"Papa!" the King said to his drunken father. "Please eat and drink and don't let these foolish things be worrying you!"

And Papa Krik followed his son's advice. He ate and drank, but the cloud of smoke became ever more poisonous. Here and there patches of sky were turning pink, and suddenly a tongue of fire, narrow as a sword, shot high into the air. The guests got up and started sniffing, and their women yelped. The gangsters looked at one another. And only Benya, who seemed not to notice anything, was inconsolable.

"My feast! They're ruining it!" he shouted in despair. "My friends, please, eat, drink!"

But at that moment the same young man who had come at the beginning of the feast appeared again in the courtyard.

"King!" he said. "I have a couple of words I need to tell you!"

"Well, speak!" the King ansewred. "you always got a couple words up your sleeve!"

"King!" the young man said with a snigger. "It's so funny--the police station's burning like a candle!"

The storekeepers were struck dumb. The gangsters grinned. Sixty-year-old Manka, matriarch of the Slobodka bandits, put two fingers in her mouth and whistled so shrilly that those sitting next to her jumped up.

"Manka! You're not at work now!" Benya told her. "Cool down!"

The young man who had brought this startling news was still shaking with laughter.

"About forty of them left the station to go on the raid," he said, is jaws quivering. "They hadn't gone fifteen yards when everything went up in flames! Run and see for yourselves!"

But Benya forbade his guests to go look at the fire. He himself went with two friends. The police station was in flames. With their wobbling backsides, the policemen were runing up and down the smoke-filled staircases, throwing boxes out of the windows. The prisoners made a run for it. The firemen were bristling with zeal, but it turned out that there wasn't any water in the nearby hydrant. The chief of police, the new broom so eager to sweep, stood on the opposite sidewalk, chewing on his mustage which hung into his mouth. The new broom stood completely still. Benya walked past and gave him a military salute.

"A very good day to you, Your Excellency!" he said sympathetically. "What bad luck! A nightmare!" He stared at the burning building, shook his head, and smacked his lips: "Ai-ai-ai!"

- - -

Wen Benya came back home, the lantern lights in the courtyard where already going out and dawn was breaking across the sky. The guests had dispersed, and the musicians were asleep, their heads leaning against the necks of their bass fiddles. Only Dvoira hadn't gone to sleep yet. With both hands she was edging her timid husband toward the door of their nuptial chamber, looking at him lustfully like a cat which, holding a mouse in its jaws, gently probes it with its teeth.

Isaac Babel - Odessa Stories                                                                                

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

JHU Osher: Class 1 - Haydn - Founder of the Tradition - Final Draft

My technique has always been to write out a script and then depart from it as much as I can. So without further ado....

JHU Osher History of the Symphony Class 1: Haydn - Founder of the Tradition

Afternoon everybody! So first I'd like to present you all with a hearty welcome to The History of the Symphony. My name is Evan Tucker, and my best qualification for teaching a class on the History of the Symphony is that I'm the youngest person to have ever listened to one. 

I have to admit that the title is a bit misleading. There is, as with so many things, a dual purpose for the class. One purpose is to listen to a lot of good music, the other purpose is to do our humble best to understand what the music means. We don't have to understand the music on a musical or theoretical level, though I'm sure many of you would  be surprised how easy it is to understand basics of music theory. But moreso than asking you to understand this music in any kind of musical framework, I'm going to ask you to describe the music you hear in all kinds of other contexts - of history and politics, of books and thought, of art and theater, in the contexts of your own lives, and of course, in the context of other music. The problem with music as we generally see it is that any experience we have of it is subjective. If we hear a beautiful slow piece of music as a love song, we have to realize that the music is not necessarily meant as a love song, but in the moment we hear the music, our perception of it is true to ourselves and is therefore, in a sense, absolutely true. So by sharing those perceptions we can encourage and hopefully inspire each other to perceive more and different and more interesting ways to experience the music we hear. 

If you've come to this class, I would imagine that you're here because you're already fond of music, but you also want to understand more about it. What's most extraordinary about music is that music is both just music that can be enjoyed as music, but because it's just music to which no definite meaning can be attached to the sounds, we can associate an infinity of concepts with music. The reason that music has such a universal appeal for so many people is that it has this dual-concept, can both be appreciated as nothing more than pleasing sounds, and that these pleasing sounds may have infinities of meanings behind them. And in order to do this, we're going to have to talk quite a bit about the symphony's place in history, in philosophy, in the totality of the arts, in our own lives, and about how it all fits together. And in order to do that, I think the easiest way to do this is to think of everything we talk about as dual concepts.


And dual concepts, or what I'm going to pretentiously call dualities, will be how we organize this class. The reason I call them 'dualities' is because I believe that more than anything else, it's the divided self, the tensions between our ideals and our realities, that creates new and better thoughts. Every thesis has an antithesis, every pleasant fantasy has a nightmarish mirror image, every person has a mother and father, in the first movement of nearly every symphony, there two main musical subjects that are developed, every song has a root chord, a tonic, and an opposition, a dominant. We'll talk about that in the second half of the class. But this way, you can say to your neighbor 'What the hell is Evan talking about?' and you can point to this part of the lecture and get basically caught up.

I had a friend who used to tell me, exasperated with my tendency to do this, that there are two types of people in the world: those who don't divide the world into two types of people and those who do. Dividing the world into two camps can, obviously, be a very dangerous slippery slope, and if we indulge in what's generally referred to as dialectical thinking, it's very important to understand that it can never be anything more than an intellectual game we can use to theorize about the world and there is absolutely no scientific value to it without going through the exact same process scientists do - thousands of trials and errors through which recorded data and statistics. The whole appeal of the arts is irrational. We're all drawn to them, yet on the surface they seem to contribute nothing of value to society, but like sex, like war, like any form of procrastination, we persist with them. And trying to explain the arts with exact rationality to laymen is exactly what turns people off of the arts because it drains the arts of what seems magical about them. 

Please don't think that you've signed up for a class that has any kind of scientific or philosophical paygrade, because the point is this: Science can explain the facts of how music is made, but four thousand years of recorded culture have not given us any scientific rules about why we experience music the way we do. Science, for all its progress, hasn't even come up with a widely accepted explanation of why humans evolved to listen to it. 

So let me ask you to do an exercise. Do me a favor and imagine for a moment, that you're talking to someone who is completely tone deaf, or an alien who speaks perfect English but has no understanding of music. Now try to explain music in such a way that the person you're talking to doesn't question your sanity. Let's see how easy this is... (point out flaws in people's explanations)

The best possible definition of music I could ever come up with is that it's made of vibrations and patterns through which make you perceive connections and associations in your brain which you never realized were there. So the obvious problem is that how is this description different from what a psychotically ill person experiences? 

But even if music is a collective insanity of us all, there are some insanities in the world which are truly benign, and I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that if music comes from a piece of neurologically faulty wiring that can damage the rest of our brains, then to put this insanity to the purpose of music appreciation, then music is easily the best possible use of our mental defects. 

So the first duality we'll talk about is a duality that is seen throughout the problems of music appreciation. We're going to call this:

POSITIVITY VS. HISTORY

We don't actually mean either positivity or history, but two concepts associated with them. The philosophical concept of positivism vs. the philosophical concept of historicism. And don't worry, like everything in philosophy it's only complicated if you decide to make it complicated.

For a long time, nearly a hundred years, classical musicians have been mostly discouraged from discussing what music means. 'Just play it' is usually what we hear. According to this school of thought, a key like C-Major (play C-Major, play Mendelssohn's Wedding March - probably most famous piece in the world in C-Major) doesn't mean happiness, it just means C-Major. A piece that sounds like you could dance a waltz to it is not a waltz unless the composer specifies that it's a waltz. This kind of thought is called a 'positivist' thought. A positivist thought doesn't mean that a thought is happy or optimistic, it just means that the thought is definite. It means that this concept has an absolute meaning which, if properly studied, can be completely understood. According to positivism, every word and concept we use has an absolute meaning, and therefore if you understand the absolute meaning, you've understood the world better, and maybe you can make the world a little better. 

(see if you can get discussion going about what the problems with positivism might be... attempt at discussion may fail...)

To me, at least, the main problem with this way of looking at the world is that meanings always change. The use and purpose of every object changes from person to person, every person has their own memories, their own associations, their own ideas, their own background which they bring to every meaning. This is called 'historicism' the belief that the truth is something mutable and changes from time to place to person. If there are absolute meanings, then why, after a million years of human existence, have we found proof for the truth of so few absolute beliefs over the millennia? 

What might be some beliefs that have been proven absolutely true?

I'm pretty sure the most provable absolute meanings we've come up with are the meanings by which science and technology work. You can't argue that science is true because every piece of technology exists as a testimonial to the fact that science is correct. The question with science then becomes that if science can poison the entire planet, if it develops so many weapons to kill us all, you have to ask yourself, is finding the truth even worth it? 

So I promise we're going to get to music in a minute, but please just bare with me, because this is important. Let's take the opposite tack for a minute. What do you think might be the problem with this idea that meanings change from person to person and we should therefore always respect people's beliefs?

My biggest problem with historicism, and again, this is a very very very simplistic explanation of philosophical problems about which millions of pages are written, is that it's a very slippery slope to nihilism that says that if there is no absolute meaning, there's no reason to act in the interests of immediate gratification. It's though there is no reason to find any meaning at all. And the idea that everything is meaningless is its own kind of absolute meaning. 

The only solution, at least as far as I'm concerned, is to accept that there can be no truly definite statements about the truth, and that we have to go through life as though we can find them. If we think we can discover the truth, then there is no limit to how much we can inflict suffering on other people in pursuit of the truth. If it's a fact that unbaptized souls go to hell, what's the problem with torturing people in order to make them convert and burning them to purify their souls? But if we think there's no such thing as the truth, then we can justify any action at all, no matter how evil, as being good. What would be the problem with enslaving millions of members of a race for hundred of years just so your family and friends can live in greater comfort? 

And it's this tension between these two beliefs: 1. That the truth is something innate and ascertainable, and 2. that the truth is mutable and changes from place to time to person, that created the spiritual environment that enabled the form of the symphony to spring up - a music that had a religion-like devotion to the severest possible seriousness, but at the same time, is meant to make us worship nothing more than the music itself. There is no way of saying that music means anything at all, and yet it means so much to everyone!


The Symphony the first kind of 'high' or 'serious' music that questions if any kind of actual spiritual transcendence is possible because before the Symphony, the vast majority of 'high' music was church music. Yet many pieces of music, particularly symphonies, clearly imagines that spiritual transcendence can still be achieved. The difference, however, is that there's a chance that we never can. So, the second duality.


TRANSCENDENCE VS. MEANING


What do we mean by transcendence? What do we mean by truth? Let's think of Beethoven's 5th.

(play transition to the last movement of Beethoven's 5th, Szell/Dresden, 22:40)


You could literally imagine anything to this.


What does this sound like to you?


I could name half a dozen images right away. Christ resurrected? Plato's Cave Dweller emerging into the light? The first ever sunrise on Earth? The process of birth itself? The entrance to heaven upon death? Perhaps even the moment of orgasm in sex and the narcissistic triumph that follows it... It's the ultimate piece of music that sounds to millions of people like some sort of transcendence, any sort of transcendence, is possible. But we have no idea what this music means, and we don't need to know. It holds us in terrible suspense, and builds and builds and builds until it breaks through into celebration.


But what if I told you that Beethoven may have had a secret program in mind? Listen those first three notes of Beethoven's 5th's Finale? Can you sing them? (sing) C E G? Do Mi So? LI-BER-TE!


Beethoven wrote this music between 1804 and 1808. This was the period when Austria was under siege from Napoleon's France. It's possible that this is still the most famous music written in any country, period, or genre. But if I told the vast majority of people who've ever listened to this that this is music meant to depict the struggle of the ideals of the French Revolution against forces that conspire to destroy them, a majority probably wouldn't care at all, a lot of people would tell me that I'm obviously wrong, and a few people would regard that view is as a revelation. We'll talk a lot more about Beethoven in two weeks, let's keep listening a bit.


(listen from 24:50 until 'La Liberte' moment)


We're definitely going to come back to this passage in two weeks, but what's worth mentioning is that Beethoven was as fervent a republican as existed in his era, and during the beginning of the 19th century, the entire world seemed to conspire against Republican ideals coming to fruition. The only stable Republic was the United States where Thomas Jefferson was president, a nation that held nearly a fifth of its population as slaves. France tried to create a Republic in which all people were equal, and the result was first the guillotine that killed 20,000 people, then a French Civil War that killed a million, and then the Napoleonic Wars that spread all through Europe and killed 10 million people. Britain and France were in the process of conquering whatever parts of the world hadn't already been conquered by Spain, so they could plunder the rest of the world's resources for the pleasure of a few lucky men who ran the world as their own personal kleptocracy.

There is significant evidence, which we'll talk about next week, that Beethoven meant his Fifth Symphony, just as he did his Third, as a political statement of Republican ideals in a world doing everything in its power to destroy them forever. Perhaps this moment is the moment when these ideals are finally achieved after a struggle which millions of people have already died for and many more millions later would. But what, ultimately, do you do with that knowledge? Does it mean a damn thing? Most people who've heard Beethoven's Fifth would hear that theory and shrug. Who cares as long as it's a good piece of music?


What's important is not that you ascribe definite meanings to a piece, but that you contemplate the music you hear and find meanings that work for you and you only. You can attach meanings to the music that are pictorial and cinematic, or you can tie the music to the sentiments of your favorite poetry or song lyrics, or you can think of philosophical ideas, or you can think of something a friend said to you or realize that the music makes you think of your loved ones. But what's most important is, like all things in life, the relationships you have. This brings us to our third duality.


FRIENDSHIP VS. WORSHIP


(Play Magnificat Harnoncourt)

What emotions does this music inspire in you? Does it inspire a mental picture?


The idea of a personal relationship to art music begins, at least in retrospect, with Bach, though nobody realized it until about eighty years after his death. Bach was nearly as devout a Christian as ever existed, whose letters show that he had at least some qualities in common with people on the autistic spectrum - let's not read too much into that - and therefore didn't require much in the way of relationships with other people (though sex is another story...). The only relationships which truly mattered to him were the ones which he was ordered to have by God, the partner in what was, next to music, clearly the most fulfilling relationship of Bach's life. He probably never had a doubt in his life that wasn't assuaged by the fervor of his belief. But many of Bach's beliefs - religious, political, and musical - were old-fashioned even in his time in ways we're about to get into. Bach wrote music that in many ways was meant for the spirit and ideals of Martin Luther, who lived 200 years before Bach. The most famous man of Bach's time was Voltaire, and there are no two famous historical contemporaries whose outlooks on life are so completely different.

How about this one?

This is the music of Josquin des Prez, a contemporary of Martin Luther who was, before Bach, generally agreed to be the greatest of all Church composers. But this music of a very different spirit than Bach's. It's a little forbidding and cold, it's meant to hold the listener at a certain distance. You're not supposed to love this music, you're supposed to feel awe at it because the intended audience was God, not us, and even if the rest of us weren't exactly bystanders, our interest was sort of secondary. It was hoped that we would be so inspired by this offering to the Almighty that the music would inspire us to feel holy. There was plenty of great music that happened outside of the Church, but we'll never hear it. The vast majority of it was an oral tradition, passed down from one generation of musicians to the next, most of whom were illiterate, and all of whom put a unique spin on their music that caused it to gradually evolve. Authorship as we understand it today barely exists to people who are illiterate. When you don't know anything about books that set down permanent records, when you've never travelled more than fifty miles from your home, it's very difficult to know what's original, so performers took the existing material and transform it to suit the needs of the audience and the talents of the performer. What we now think of as folk songs are songs that have gone through an infinity of permutations over time and whose lyrics and tunes were constantly changing. Folk music was for the vulgar people, secular written music was for the educated classes who wanted to be as free from vulgarity as possible. But Church music was for God and an act of worship.

Church music was like celestial mood music in which we appreciated our nearness to the Almighty, but in a sense, we were just spectators. If you've been to France, think of those enormous Gothic eglises. The enormity of it is important, so is the contrast of light refracted through stained glass against the vast darkness, but the most important part of the impression which Gothic churches make is the empty space. The churches were, by far, the biggest and tallest buildings a pilgrim would ever see in his life. It is meant to give a sense of the eternal and the infinite. Pondering the sheer enormity of the empty space is what gives you that sense of a kingdom without end in which the worshipper could imagine the infinite space of God, and an infinity of angels and blessed souls.

(Turn on Aus Liebe from the St. Matthew Passion - Karajan/Janowitz)

Again, if you don't speak German and had to say what this music expresses, what does it express?

Bach, however, was a Protestant, and therefore believed that God had a personal relationship with every worshipper. God was not an infinite being to feel awed by, he was a divine friend who would be a bridge over troubled water in all your crises. God needed no clergyman to make you feel close to him, and no one but God was so great that he could judge either your conduct or the sincerity of your belief. Protestants needed a music whose spirituality you could feel with the same immediacy that any listener could feel from the eros of any love song.

And yet, the historical moment Bach provided his sinning listeners with this music of a personalized God was, by and large, the 1720's through the 1740's, the same period that saw the emergence of secular and enlightenment thinkers who did more to de-throne God from the center of the universe than any thinkers before or since: Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Vico, David Hume, fairly soon thereafter Immanuel Kant would number among them and so would Jefferson and Hamilton. Once mankind is on equal footing with God, he has a choice to view God as either a friend or an enemy. And he just might start viewing God with animus considering the things humans hav put each other through in God's name. But even if people, particularly back in the 18th century, want to overthrow God, then after 1500 years in which God is the undisputed ruler, God can only be overthrown by using the language and concepts which religion gave us.

The history just of America could be written as a long and extremely fraught struggle to explore the implications of Jefferson's phrase 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal'. But before people can be seen as equals, they have to be seen as free. And it's only been a hundred fifty years since the most powerful two Western Countries, the US and Russia, emancipated their slaves and serfs. It took Western man literally three thousand years to believe in free will, and it will probably take another three thousand years to make mankind realize that every person deserves to be equal. So here we come to our fourth duality:

FREE WILL VS. PREDESTINATION

Imagine yourself in Europe during the first millennium AD, or better yet, imagine yourself stuck in West Baltimore at three in the morning. You see poverty and brutality all around you, people who are treated in all sorts of manners you wouldn't want to be treated, you have no way of alleviating all this desperation, and you worry that if you try, you'll be dragged right into it. If you didn't have a way of numbing yourself to it, of telling yourself that this is the way the world was meant to be, you would never stop throwing up.

There are many, many reasons for Christianity's proliferation in the first millennium, and many of them were quite a bit more generous than what I've just said. But what can't be denied is that the idea that God willed that the world should be the way it is and should never be changed resulted in a social heirarchy into which everyone was born that basically did not change for 1500 years. Imagine what that means for a moment. On the one hand, by our contemporary standards, misery is the lot of 99.999999% of the people who lived in the Middle Ages, and there is no hope of emerging from it. On the other, there is a kind of absolute security in it. You know your place in the world, you know what tasks you have to complete, you know that your sense of self does not matter, and you are certain that whatever trials you undergo, so long as you believe in God with the infinity of faith that you don't believe in yourself, you will experience joys beyond what any mortal human can experience on earth. There is still a chance, however unlikely it seems, that in this world of tragedy, people might have been happier than they are in our world where everyone is, to greater and lesser extents, free to be everything they choose.

It's not that Christianity did not believe in Free Will, but Christianity also believed, thanks to St. Augustine in the 4th Century, that God was omniscient in addition to being omnipotent. However free your will seems, God knows exactly what you would do, when you would do it, how, and why. To the modern mind, that may make our heads explode. But think of this with a mind which is entirely organized by religious concepts. We humans are the divine image, we are not only made in God's image, but we all have the divine spark within us. We are manifestations of God and therefore our minds are wired directly to God's mind, a God who may cut you off and send you to burn in hell forever if you don't act in a Godly manner. This is so unbelievably powerful a way to keep people in check that Christianity, give or take some obvious changes, basically ruled Europe without an interruption for just about 1500 years.

And yet, for all sorts of reasons we won't get into, there was something in the air which made the 18th century the moment when large swaths of educated people adapted something other than a religious mindset.

But, and this is a very Jewish insight rather than a Christian one, in order to throw God overboard when God is the only thing you know, you can only do so by defeating God with God's own weapons, and therefore, you are making just as much a religion out of opposition to God as you ever were when you believed in Him. By professing Atheism, and maybe even Deism, the enlightenment is just as responsible for creating Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Kim Jong-Il as it is for creating Lincoln and Roosevelt and Mandela and Merkel. 

Just think of Rousseau, who wrote at the beginning of the Social Contract that "Mankind is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains." And compare that to this passage from the Second Epistle of Peter: "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a coverup for evil, live as God's slaves." The question becomes, as ever, how do you take these two sides who hate everything about each other and show these two sides how much they have in common and what the benefits are of living together harmoniously.  

The point of the Enlightenment, the moment when the symphony took wing in just the same way that the novel and autobiographical poetry did, was to create things that could both express a divided self or divided spirit or divided community, and find a way of making them whole again. Just think of the meaning of 'symphony', it goes back to old French, 'symphonie', and then to Greek 'sumphonos', and all the way back to Aramaic 'Soomponia'. All four of these terms combine sym - harmonious, with phonia - sound. 



The ability to hold a person's attention through music without text over a long span of time requires enormous contrasts, invention, discipline, and knowledge. Just like a great novel takes all the elements of life experience and fuses them into a whole, a Symphony is an attempt to fuse the very best of extremely diverse elements of music and pay tribute to the millions of different sounds and forms and contents and cultures which music can show us. The Symphony is, as literally as can be said, a musical democracy through which every kind and possibility of music's meaning is sounded together in dialogue with one another. Like all dialogues that are worth having, it can be fraught with tension and there's always a possibility that the dialogue will end in terrible discord or tragedy or pathos. But every dialogue between two opposing forces always holds out the hope for greater understanding, better resolution, and more fulfilling lives. The symphony is the ultimate musical, and perhaps even poetic, statement of a culture that means to live together in peace. And Haydn made it possible, we will talk about how after the break. 

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Second half:

Composers vs. Performers

(Play Vivaldi Agitata Da Due Venti - Bartoli)

So I want you to imagine what music was like around 1750. And it's honestly is easier than you might think it is, because music in 1750 is much more like music in the 21st century than it was around 1875. Nobody listened, or even was much aware, of the long history of music before them. Everybody was playing and listening to music of their own time, and were barely even aware that music of an era before them was worth listening to. 

At this point in history, everything in music was a hustle, and a musician had to be as much a salesman as he was a creative artist. If he wasn't able to advocate for himself, he had no chance to make a living. Musicians were completely beholden to the economic reality, which is that they had to make the kinds of music which people with money wanted to hear. Very few pieces of music were more than four minutes long, and even church music was like a series of songs on an album. The real stars were not the composers but the singers whom composers wrote for. The greatest stars of all were the Castrati, who were in every sense the rock stars of their day - particularly in Italy. Their voices were apparently so virtuosic that they could articulate notes as quickly and accurately as Itzhak Perlman would a violin. If a boy from a poor family was musically talented, the family would have the boy castrated in the hope that his rock star status could lift them up from poverty. At the height of the castrato craze, it was estimated that 4000 children were castrated every year. Can you imagine the kinds of lives these children were doomed to if they couldn't make careers as singers? 

But think of so many rock stars of our day: Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, Sting, David Lee Roth, Jim Morrison, Alice Cooper... what about their appeal, in their primes, did they have in common? 

Each of these rock stars were popular in part because there was something androgynous about them - a kind of primal sexual power that seemed to have both the strength of traditional masculinity and the sensitivity of traditional femininity in a radically strange and primal package that more buttoned up, traditional people, could only fantasize about. They were like the Greek chimeras, both a man and a woman in the same body and therefore sexually complete by themselves in a way that the rest of us could never be. 

In the same way, the great Castrati, particularly in the 1720's and 30's had that primal power over audiences. You'd think that Castrati would be considered utterly sexless, but in fact many of them were known as sexual gods, and the fact that they couldn't 'finish' meant they could 'go' as long as they wanted. And like so many great rock stars of our time, all they needed was one name to be well-known. Siface, Pistocchino, Mateuccio, Nicolini, Senesino, Valentini, Cusanino, Farinelli, Domenichino, Caffarelli, Gizzenino, Marianino. 

The concerts they sung were 100x more like a rock concert than any classical concert today. It was expected that people would talk unless something caught their attention, there would be applause in the middle of arias, people would eat and drink in the concert hall and a lot of food would end up on the ground, and occasionally there would even be booing. The idea that people would sit in these concerts in respectful silence was completely anathema. For Church music, people would remain silent, but opera was a populist, middlebrow artform, and if there was any worshipful element to it, it was a pagan, bacchanalian worship that had almost a sporting element to it. The noble class would sit in their own boxes, the middle class usually in balconies, and the lower working classes down beneath the stage, often standing. Think of it like stadium seating. 

But what about the rank and file musicians who played underneath these stars? Most of them would, like so many musicians today, have to eke out a living by freelancing, and this was the environment in which Haydn had to start making his living. Every Sunday he'd have to go to three or four separate Church gigs to make money, singing at one, playing violin at another, playing organ at a third, writing music for a fourth.  

Composers were not the stars at this point in history. They simply wrote vehicles for the real stars and their music was supposed to be functional showcases which nobody would remember much about. Between the Baroque composers like Bach and Handel on one side and high classical composers like Haydn and Mozart on the other, there is really only one composer who is known to history at all: Gluck. Everybody else has, for the most part, been consigned to the dustbin, however enjoyable or beholden to fashion their music was at the time. And fashion, much like today's music, was the name of the game for most music at the time. Every season, there was new music listened to or played in the home that had something slightly different about it than the music which came before, it reflected the style of the particular year and the zeitgeist, but do we in 2017 care much about what the styles were in 1760 vs. 1761?

And it makes you wonder, for all the thriving music scenes and industries we have today, is any of it built to last long enough to be remembered in 200 years? 

Does it matter that it might not be remembered as long as we enjoyed ourselves at the time, or is everything that isn't eternally eternally out of date? 

Who, if any are the musicians or composers of our lifetimes people will remember centuries from now?



But around 1760 there came a new craze that lasted more than a bit longer, the 'large orchestra' which could produce sounds of a volume and diversity no other musical organization ever could.  And evidently, Haydn's composing made an enormous enough impression on people that when it came time to found a newfangled organization called the 'large orchestra', he was selected by the Esterhazy family to be their new leader, in charge of hiring and administering players, training them to play together, and writing all the music. His title at the beginning of his long career with the Esterhazy's was Assistant Chapelmaster, an older composer was in charge of the church music, but Haydn was in charge of the concert music. A man as rich as Prince Esterhazy would sit in respectful silence, as though he were in church, with a few friends at most, and see what his composer had come up with this week. The next day, there would often be a second performance open to the public, anyone could come so long as they dressed well and sat in the same reverent silence with which they sat in church. 

Which brings us to this half's second duality:

Hooks vs. Sequences

Now imagine for a moment, you've been hired by the Esterhazy family, and when we speak of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Esterhazy's are literally the Hungarian side of that. The second family of the Empire will obviously not equal the Hapsburg family in power, so they have to excel the Hapsburg's in prestige, and prestige comes from culture. The Medicis gained renown by patronizing artists, King James gained renown by patronizing Shakespeare, the Esterhazys would gain renown by patronizing music. So If Prince Esterhazy said on Monday 'I need a symphony this weekend to show my orchestra off to a friend', Haydn would have less than a week to write it and rehearse it. He needed the very best musicians in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for his orchestra, and he needed to write showcases for them if he wanted their services. But because he had the patronage of a sympathetic boss, because he was completely above from the economic realities of most musicians, he could experiment and create things nobody else did or could. 

Now when you had so little time to write so much music with so many people to please, a lot of it, particular in the early days, would not be that memorable without certain special moments - just a lot of meandering sequences, stringing four notes along, then doing the same four a step down, then another step, then up three, down two, back to the home key. A lot of it sounds like Vivaldi or one of the Bach children, and not generally as good. Think of Haydn symphonies like the Hollywood Studio System of the mid-century, maybe only one in every three felt like it was assembled in something other than a factory, and perhaps one in every five was great, if that, but when you take it all together, that still means that 35 Haydn Symphonies are really good, and 20 of them are no less than great. Put them together, you have the literature of the age. And alongside so many ordinary passages Haydn would do something so extraordinary that you knew you were dealing with a budding genius whom, if he had enough time, would extend his art to capacities only a genius could reach. 

In order to catch the audience's attention, Haydn needed what pop musicians now call 'hooks.' Something that makes certain passages of the music stand out from the others. What's an example? Take what happens in literally the last minute of Haydn's 60th symphony. 

(Play Finale of Il Distratto, Harnoncourt)

No matter good or bad the rest is, the retuning is inevitably what you're going to remember. 

Or take the beginning of Haydn's 31st Symphony, the Horn Signal. 

(Play first minute or two of Haydn Hornsignal - Harnoncourt)

Back in the day, hunting was considered such a cultivated pursuit that composers would be charged with writing the music for the horns which would signal that there were people in the area where the horn was so don't shoot there. Obviously Dick Cheney could have used that. There are all sorts of clever, almost extra-musical gimmicks in Haydn like this. But when it's done this well, it's not a gimmick, it's a commentary on daily life. Or take the last few minutes of the Farewell Symphony. Which according to legend was Haydn's way of signaling to his boss that his orchestra needed a vacation, yet also seems to touch something incredibly deep. By the end, it feels like something incredibly lonely and fragile. 

(Play last 3 1/2 minutes of Farewell Symphony - Barenboim)

Now imagine for a moment, Haydn going into the Esterhazy concert hall. On the ceiling he sees three mythological paintings: One is the goddess of morning raising the sun. One is of the goddess of evening setting the sun. In the center is a marriage on Mount Olympus with the sun directly in the middle. 

(Play opening of Morning Symphony - Fischer)

What does this sound like to you?

This is Haydn 6, the beginning of a cycle of three symphonies: Morning, Noon, and Night. And this is clearly the sunrise. You could almost say that this sunrise is the beginning of a sunrise on a new kind of music. One that is meant to be a spiritual, metaphysical experience, but one that, perhaps for the first time in the history of written music, does not necessarily have anything at all to do with God or Jesus or even Paganism but taps directly into the mainstream of secular intellectual life of its time. I doubt Haydn had any time to read Voltaire or Rousseau or Montesquieu, and as a practicing Catholic I doubt he'd have much sympathy for them, but I guarantee that the Esterhazys did read them, and Haydn literally found ways to reconcile, in music, the dialogue between science and faith. Over time, Haydn would become entranced by science, and would write letters about his incredible joy at looking through a telescope to the stars at the Royal Observatory. An experience which made him write his masterpiece, The Creation, in which he depicts the creation of the entire universe. When he comes back to depicting this same sunrise, forty years after writing his Morning Symphony, it's the same music, but this time, not as a budding genius, but as an absolute master who has full command of his material. 

Haydn Creation Sunrise - Hogwood

The difference between these two is forty years of experience. It's the exact same music, but the second time around, with knowledge that only an old master can bring. In those forty years, Haydn became as master an engineer of music as the Three B's, creating thousands of different themes, turning them backwards, upside down, breaking it into separate parts, reassembling it differently, changing the harmonies underneath every time it's restated, and most importantly, learning exactly how to use every instrument for maximum effectiveness. In the same way that Isaac Newton brought us a new conception of physics, or Immanuel Kant of philosophy, Haydn became a scientist of music with questions and hypotheses he had to prove. Which brings us to our next duality. 

Question vs. Answer
(Play Opening of Philosopher Symphony - Fischer)

This is Haydn 22. The music is said to imitate what was called the disputato system of debate, which is almost talmudic in the way it has a question, then an answer. Listen to the horn asks a question, and then the oboe answers it. Is it a parody, an affectionate tribute, does it even have anything to do with debate? The nickname is only recorded a quarter-century after Haydn wrote it. What's important is not whether Haydn meant it this way, but that other people saw it this way. This is the soundtrack for a new age of liberal, enlightened discourse that sees reason as the path on which people will get a better life. 

But in the late 18th century, France came upon the limitations of reason. If your entire life is guided by reason and logic, then your life feels like a prison from which there is no escape, and you'll do anything in your power to smash the walls. The German speaking lands got to this point a generation earlier. A philosophical movement called 'Sturm und Drang' (or storm and stress) and it's not unusual to think this saved them from the overwhelming upheavals of France. Which brings us to the third duality of this half: 

Logic vs. Passion

A young writer named Goethe, whom in Germany is still as legendary as Shakespeare, wrote a famous drama about Gotz von Berlichingen, an adventurer who is a free spirit that speaks his mind in a high society where everybody speaks diplomatic double-talk and was most famous for the line when Berlichingen told the Emperor to lick him in the ass. The next year he wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a passionate young man full of unrequited love whom nobody understands and who eventually kills himself. It seemed to glorify suicide, but at the same time, this sort of illogical behavior may have been the release valve that saved German society from collapsing in the 18th century in the manner of the French. The Germans call this kind of longing Sehnsucht (they have a word for everything). Listen to the sheer rage in the last movement of Haydn 39, known as 'la tempesta di mare' or storm at sea. 

(Play last movement of Haydn 39 - Antonini)

This isn't just a perfect representation of a storm at sea, but a perfect representation of the world and nature as an illogical place, too powerful to control, the exact opposite of how Rousseau thought of nature and the world. Or the finale of Haydn 49, literally called 'The Passion.'

(Play finale of Haydn 49 - Bernstein)

Even in Haydn's era, there was acknowledgement by some people that we are illogical creatures, and passion needs an outlet. Also, can you imagine the virtuosity of these players if they had to learn this music in just two days and play it well enough that a prince wouldn't ever be embarrassed? And if these pieces make you think that Haydn is in some ways too showy and limited by his period in being as expressive as the 19th century which followed him, listen to the slow movement of Haydn 44, the 'Funeral' Symphony, which has come to have great personal meaning for me. 

(Play third movement of Haydn 44 - Fricsay) - stay quiet

Yes, it sounds very 18th century, but listen to the luminousness of it, it's certainly worthy of Beethoven or Brahms, and the way he gets that incredibly full glow of sound is exactly the same way. The orchestra is not lean and propulsive the way it is in Baroque music. Instead, every chord is full, and without our even hearing it, every note, no matter how low, has overtones that sound through the air many notes higher, and all those notes together great that harmonious halo around the music which we think of as beauty. 

Perhaps in a certain way, Haydn was wiser and more realistic than philosophers like Voltaire and particularly Rousseau, because his music seemed to realize that the world was too big to truly be controlled. Perhaps it can only be guided by an invisible hand, for Adam Smith, the hand was economics, for Haydn, as for German thinkers like Leibniz, and to a much lesser extent Haydn's contemporary, Kant, the hand was God, who ran the world the precision of the kinds of giant and complicated mechanical contraptions noblemen of those eras would collect with cuckoos and gnomes that ring bells. All of which was there to show that however complicated, the world still managed to fit together in ways too intricate for us to ever know about. There was a time to every purpose under heaven, and just as light gives way to darkness, darkness will eventually give way to light. Views like this are the ultimate sign of a society that's at peace with itself and survives from one era to the next - as the German speaking lands did until World War I.  

Which brings us to our next duality, pitting Haydn, a composer of two sides, light and darkness, with a composer who naturally held both of the light and dark sides within him simultaneously as no other composer ever has. 

Haydn vs. Mozart

(Play Mozart 40 Andante - Bohm/Berlin) 

However high one puts Haydn in the pantheon, Mozart almost has to be put higher, only because Mozart is Mozart, who seems to have been born with the ability to put every emotion into his music simultaneously in every bar. And not only that, but Mozart seemed born with the innate technical ability that it took Haydn worked for thirty years to develop. It's not that Mozart's early works are as brilliant as his later ones, his adolescent works sound like the work of an extremely gifted adolescent. But Mozart's learning curve was so fast that by the time he was 25, he was in just about every way an even better composer than Haydn. He was particularly better in all those forms that Haydn wasn't so great at - opera, concertos, string quintets, and that's partly because how they thought of music. Haydn was a rank and file player from the earliest age, and he thought in terms of giving each voice equal time. Mozart was a soloist from the earliest age, and he thought like a soloist - most of his music is melody given to one part, and if he uses the whole orchestra equally, it's to show off the way a soloist would show off.

Listen to the last two minutes of Mozart's last symphony. Five separate themes sound out in the orchestra simultaneously, this is a technical feat that has never been done before or since. It's like landing a quintuple axel in ice skating, something only a once in eternity practitioner of the art could ever hope to do. if it you can't quite hear it, it's because so much is going on that if you heard the whole piece in a good performance, your mind would go completely dizzy. 

(Play last 90 seconds of Jupiter Symphony - Harnoncourt)

How did Mozart learn this? In no small part, by studying Haydn's music. Haydn and Mozart became great friends in spite of the twenty-five year age gap, but Haydn surely looked at Mozart's music and realized that he could do still better. 

Because of a ten year friendship with Mozart cruelly cut off by Mozart's early death, Haydn stepped up his game. No more experiments, at least in the symphonies, Haydn knew exactly what kind of composer he was, and his formula for a symphony became as codified as the formula was in Mozart. There would be surprises in Haydn's music, but the surprises had to fit in the framework of the piece. Which brings us to our next duality: 

First Theme vs. Second Theme

Listen to the beginning of Haydn 83, called the Hen for reasons you'll understand very quickly.

(Opening of Haydn 83 - earlier Karajan) 

Two themes so completely different in spirit that they almost seem like they exist in two completely different pieces.  And yet they have to exist in dialogue with each other, they have to find some kind of agreement, and over the course of seven and a half minutes they circle each other like two positively charged magnets until the impossible becomes possible and they can find some kind of resolution. 

(Play Last Ninety Seconds of First Movement Haydn 83 - earlier Karajan)

By the end of his career, Haydn finds ways of making major key melodies sound as bittersweet as anything in Mozart. As one musical friend of mine always says of Mozart, Haydn can now smile through his tears. Listen to the second movement of Haydn 88, which Brahms said was what he wanted his 9th symphony sound like. 

(Play Largo from Haydn 88 - Furtwangler)

And yet, Haydn the jokester, the hookster, is still there. Not just in the Surprise Symphony, which everybody knows so we won't play the obvious joke unless there's time at the end, but in the symphony before it, 93. Which is a gorgeous movement that ends on something so unbelievably unexpected.

(Play beginning of 93 Largo Cantabilethen end, Szell)

This is a crudity that Mozart, who was certainly crude in his personal life, would probably never let into his music. I think it ultimately comes down to a difference of class. Mozart's father was a distinguished musician in his own right and would have been considered at least lower middle class, Mozart spent his youth in the great courts of Europe as a prodigy, while Haydn was pure working class, possibly from Croatian peasants. And to the end of his days, the music of his symphonies was really only different from the dance music of folk musicians in the sophistication of his musical technique. Just listen to a few minutes of the opening of 98. 

(Allegro of Haydn 98 - Harnoncourt) 

This has to be a guy peasant life is like. The music is just too vividly rough. Haydn, like Lennon and McCartney, like Louis Armstrong, grew up working class. He was very proud that his father lived to see him wear the bright blue uniforms of the Esterhazy servants, because it was a sign that he'd 'made it.' The rebellion you find in Beethoven and to a lesser extent in Mozart would never have occurred to Haydn. He had simply risen too high too quickly to ever think that the system didn't work. 

And that brings us to the final duality of the class:

Peace vs. Revolution

These jokes of Haydn's can also be rather savage, it's not just delightful humor. There is a darkness in Haydn that is undercommented on, even if it's a darkness that's always held in balance with light. Listen to a few minutes of Haydn's Oxford Symphony. A peaceful theme against a dark military march. 

(Play Second Movement of Haydn 92, Hengelbrock)

By the last seven symphonies, beginning in my opinion with 98 and not 99 the way most critics say, we are coming to the summit of Haydn's art. Beethoven was already a student of Haydn's, ready to smash Haydn's model. But Haydn's the master of his material, and after these works, there's nowhere else to go. He's achieved the perfect balance he's waited his whole career to have, and was utterly Mozart's equal in symphonies, and if only in this genre and maybe maybe maybe string quartets, perhaps Mozart's superior. If Haydn went past 104, he would just be churning out formulas. 

Listen to the second movement of the Military Symphony and think of just how many moods are caught in this short amount of time. Yell them out if you think you hear one. 

(Play Allegretto from Haydn 100, Harnoncourt, starting at 1:35-3:00, then 4:30-)

Haydn wrote this music in the early 1790s for London, where the aristocracy was very very nervous. Across the English channel was violence unimaginable to them, across the ocean was a new country that successfully rebelled against them, the chaos of revolution and civil war seemed everywhere, but in London, life went on with the same amiable chaos as it always. All is still light in London, but darkness is all around them. 

As an older man, Haydn's music insisted on balance in a world that demanded that old orders be toppled. Musically and probably otherwise, he was kind of conservative by the standards of the 1790s, and he isn't known for his darkness, but that doesn't mean that Haydn was not aware, in some sense, of the gathering storms, and it doesn't mean that he shut it out of his music. Just listen to the beginning of his final symphony, #104, the 'London.' This is Wagner fifty years before The Flying Dutchman. 

This is the opening of Wagner's Flying Dutchman:

(Play Flying Dutchman Opening - Sawallisch)

And now, Haydn's last symphony. 

(Play Haydn 104 Opening: Markevitch 0:15 until Allegro)

The unbelievable Romantic, dark, existential, gothic brooding. Outside of Don Giovanni and the Requiem, Mozart never ventured this far into the brooding, animal neither-world of the spirit as here. 

And yet, Haydn knows exactly how to counterbalance it so that in the end, we remember the the world of light, and it becomes all the more meaningful because we've experienced that darkness. We'll end this by listening to the last movement of Haydn 104 with its Scottish bagpipe drone and Hungarian peasant czardas, but even here, the shadows aren't completely gone. We're just one step away from Beethoven, Beethoven could have easily written this, and in his 2nd and 4th symphonies, basically did. Try to remember that this is all the same piece. This is what I mean by duality, light and darkness, slow and fast, loud and soft, consonance and dissonance. And even if Beethoven takes to a much more extreme level, he still keeps that balance. 

(Play Haydn 104 Finale: Markevitch - 18:50)