Friday, December 22, 2017

The Wings of Chopin (Vol. 8, No. 9)

After publishing three books with Chopin in the title, and writing many research studies and poems about this fascinating composer (see the covers and links below), I became preoccupied with his followers, dedicating my "musicology" time to Aleksander Tansman and Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki - both with strong Chopin links, as it was pointed out on this blog earlier. Gorecki appears here in June 2017 , August 2017, May 2011, and November 2010.   Tansman is mentioned in March 2017, twice.

To close the year 2017, the year of Fire Rooster in Chinese astrology (that Chopin knew nothing about, and if he had known, would not care much for anyway), it is time to return to Chopin, then.  Here's a poem about listening to Chopin in the car, while driving through Southern California...

The Wings of Chopin                                                                

© 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

Waves of music trail my car.  I drive in a cloud of Chopin, passing –

A horse rider in a sombrero and a stiff jacket. 
The fashion of his village of Jalisco, Mexico. His rattlesnake boots
shine in high noon glare. Sweat on his forehead.

A boy on the skateboard, not yet a man. Spiky Mohawk, 
Silver earrings and the first tattoo of a snake eating its tail. 
He flies over the curb with anger in his dark eyes. Anger and mischief.

Chopin’s arpeggios flutter in the air like flags at a funeral.

A black-clad widow shuffles along the sidewalk 
on swollen feet. Lemons in a plastic bag. “When will it come? 
Death, come, take me. God have mercy. Please.”

Music dies down and returns with a question mark –  a crescendo.

A couple stands leaning against a parked car. His arms 
wrapped around her, they merge into one being, a Swedeborgian angel 
with eight limbs. Her long hair flutters in the evening breeze like Chopin’s fluid notes.

Chords rise in a surge of desire, music soars with love at the summit.

In violet dusk air, his eyes glisten with intent. She is still, 
embarrassed in the headlights, at the edge of a sandy slope 
where black tar ends and the earth begins to breathe.

The nocturne arabesques ascend into indigo, crystalline among the stars.

A child in striped overalls plays at the side of the road, 
cuts lines into the molten asphalt. Hot, acrid air rises above the pavement. 
Shimmering turbulence follows each car. It used to be dirt, threaded by 
herds of cows, heralded by dust clouds, a warm smell of milk and barn.

The etude scales the landscape, measures the dry slopes untouched by snow.
A girl traces the contours of frost-painted flowers on the window. 
She warms a coin at the stove to melt the fern forest. White orchard outside. 
“Look, the glass is liquid,” Grandpa says. “It flows down the pane in waves. 
Wait long enough, the window will be gone.”

Chopin sings and affirms. The elegy floats in mountain air. 
The funereal flags of wind-torn sounds trail my car.

Heraclitus said the river and the ocean. Liquid windows, flowing roads. 
I drive by the rim of the canyon where my world has ended and begun. 

Passing –  passing – fleeing – passing –

There is one Chopin etude with "wings" in its poetic subtitle - given by his listeners and performers, not by the composer himself.  He was not fond of transforming his abstract miniatures into literature...
Here's his Etude Op. 25, No. 9 in G-Flat Major, called "Butterfly Wings" by his fans.

If you read through Chopin Correspondence posted on the website of the National Chopin Institute in Warsaw, Poland, you can find very few references to wings, angels, or birds. Most of these "angelic" or "flighty" references are in letters by others, George Sand was especially fond of talking about angels, calling Chopin an angel, too... Others were a bit less "spiritual" in their language, not carried off on "wings of inspiration." Here is a sample (in Polish for now):

Chopin's teacher, Jozef Elsner, writes to the composer in Paris, in September 1834:

Szkoda, że z Tobą nie mogę się widzieć, że z sobą rozmawiać nie możemy - miałbym jeszcze wiele i bardzo wiele do powiedzenia. Na koniec, abym ustnie mógł podziękować za twój dar dwojako mi tak drogi, wolałbym w tym momencie być ptakiem dla widzenia Cię w Twoim olimpijskim mieszkaniu - co paryżanie uważają jako gniazdo jaskółki - wierzę, bo Cię kochają jak i my. Bądź zdrów i kochaj mnie jak ja Ciebie. Ja zawsze jestem i będę Twoim prawdziwym i życz. przyjacielem
Józef Elsner

George Sand, Chopin's lover, writes to Wojciech Grzymala, his friend, in June 1838:

Niemniej jednak po owym rajskim uścisku, po tej wędrówce przez niebo empiryjskie musimy powrócić na ten świat; biedne my ptaki — mamy wprawdzie skrzydła, ale gniazda nasze są na ziemi i gdy śpiew aniołów wzywa nas ku górze, wołania naszych bliskich ściągają nas na ziemię.

Chopin writes to Grzymala from Sand's summer estate in Nohant, in June 1839:

Moje Kochanie! Otóż i na miejscu po tygodniowej podróży. Doskonale zajechaliśmy. Wieś piękna; słowiki, skowronki, tylko Ciebie, Ptaku, brak. Spodziewam się, że tego roku nie będzie tak jak temu dwa lata. Choć na parę minut! Wybierz moment, w którym wszyscy zdrowi będą i zabnegują parę dni przez miłosierdzie ku bliźniemu. Daj nam się uściskać, a za to dam Ci mleka doskonałego, pigułek. Będziesz miał sobie mój fortepian do dyspozycji. Na niczym Ci nie zbraknie. Twój Fryc.

Books on Chopin by Maja Trochimczyk:

There are also articles and book chapters in volumes edited by others:

  • "Chopin and the 'Polish Race': On National Ideologies and the Chopin Reception," chapter in Halina Goldberg, ed., The Age of Chopin: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004, 278-313.

  • "Chopin i 'polska rasa': O nacjonalizmie i recepcji Chopina," revised chapter from The Age of Chopin, Polish trans. Magdalena Dziadek, Opcje 4 (2006).

  • "From Art to Kitsch and Back Again? Chopin's Reception by Women Composers." In Irena Poniatowska, ed., Chopin and His Work in the Context of Culture [Proceedings of the Second International Chopin Congress, October 1999]. Krakow: Musica Iagellonica, 2003, vol. 2, 336-353.

  • "Chopin in Polish-American Poetry: Lost Country, Found Beauty." Polish American Studies, 67, no. 2 (Autumn 2011).

  • "Chopin and Women Composers: Collaborations, Imitations, Inspirations." (MAH). The Polish Review 45, no. 1 (2000): 29-52.
So, maybe it is OK, that I do not have to say so much about Chopin, any more?