Rosebud = the name of the dear childhood sled that rich man Citizen Kane cherished. Elegy = a poetic work consisting of disparate ideational elements that create a unity of their own. In order of appearance: a slide choreography of the famous opening lines of Walther von der Vogelweide’s DER REICHSTON (“Ich saz ûf eime steine”–“ I sat upon a stone”), of Franz Schubert’s AN DIE MUSIK, of the “Yellow Fog”-stanza of T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and of composer Jon Nelson’s TURBULENT BLUE.
Walther von der Vogelweide’s “Ich saz ûf eime steine” begins with a verbal picture of himself in deep thought, bringing to mind Rodin’s sculpture of “The Thinker”:
Ich saz ûf eime steine
und dahte bein mit beine.
dar ûf satzt ich den ellenbogen.
ich hete in mîne hante gesmogen
daz kinne und ein mîn wange.
dô dâhte ich mir vil ange.
wie man zer welte solte leben.
I sat upon a stone
And crossed my legs.
On them I planted an elbow
And into my hands
My chin and cheek.
There meditated I with much angst
On how one should live one’s life in this world.
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is, without a doubt, T.S. Eliot’s best-known poem. I use the second verse paragraph, in which fog is depicted as a yellow cat. The physical description of fog coming in to an urban scene is echoed or mirrored in the verse, which features iambic septenaries, hexameters, and pentameters, soft rhymes like “drains” and “pains,” and soft consonants like “p,” “l,” and “s.” The scene depicted has always been for me one of indifferent desolation.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
Franz Schubert’s AN DIE MUSIK is, to me, pure art and needs no further explanation:
Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb' entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt!
Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf' entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!
Oh lovely Art, in how many grey hours,
When life's fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Carried me away into a better world!
How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times,
Oh lovely Art, for that I thank you!
In ugliness, like urban blight, there is sometimes beauty too. This is what, for me, Jon Nelson has tried to show us in this work. Here is his description:
“A certain degree of turbulence is required to initiate any sound, whether this impetus is a whorl or air, a gush of fluid, a surge of friction, or a sudden impact. As a musical instrument responds to this unstable flow, its physical properties provide feedback that reigns in the chaos, stabilizing the sound into a mere periodic tone. Using both sampled materials and physical models of sound, this composition strives to create a surreal sonic world in which the real and imaginary coexist.”
This work was commissioned by the Institute International de Musique .
I shot “The Thinker” at Columbia University with my Canon D-7; the graphic of Walther came from the Picture Collection of the New York Public Library. I shot most of the slides for AN DIE MUSIK and “The Yellow Fog” hither and yon in Austria in 2009 and 2010 with my previous camera, a Nikon D-90, and the new WTC with the D-7. The slides for TURBULENT BLUE are visual variations of those for AN DIE MUSIK. I edited all photos and made them into digital images in Photoshop and synched them to the audio in Proshow Producer.
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