Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Rise of Symbolism

Symbolism began as the latin symbolum and had to do with creed and summary. This evolved into the greek root symbolon, meaning "that which is thrown or cast together" and later took on, in the fractured climate of the birth of christianity, the meaning of mark or designation.

It wasn't until 1590 that it came to mean something which stands for something else. This modern transformation was thanks to epic English verse virtuoso and cofounder Edmund Spenser in his poem "Faerie Queen".

As a side note Edmund also graced us with a whole heap of prose advocating genocide in Elizabethan Ireland via a crude scorched earth policy...

250 years later, SYMBOLISM became a movement, with roots in Les Fleurs du Mal , among the sensuous and stoned French poets of the late 19th century. These broke from the clarity and objectivity of the preceding movement in favor of heavily metaphorical idealizations of emotional concepts such as good and evil.

The absolute truth of the symbolists was something approaching the hermetic universal and common spirit, but they believed that any capturing of this truth could only be achieved through indirect methods. The French love of word play and the musical quality of verse diversified and spread through the creative mediums of Europe as an obliquely suggestive general tone.

One interesting feature of the movement is the predominant fascination with synaesthetes. The ability to, for example, see sound, hear or feel color, taste language, or smell shape and form was an appropriately vague manifestation of symbolism itself. While synaesthetes were culturally prized, synaesthesia influenced everybody else to the point that it was difficult to tell how much imagination really played into the whole thing.

Russian composer, pianist, symbolist, and debated synaesthete, Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin created charts relating musical keys to color and a color keyboard indicating the colors that he saw when he heard each note.

His orchestral piece Prometheus:The Poem of Fire debuted in 1915 with a special Luce, or light score. The light score was played on a modified organ that projected lights above the orchestra. Scriabin even encouraged the audience to wear white so that their bodies would become part of the music.

All of this leads me to the story of Simon Barere, the only man to ever die on stage at Carnegie Hall. According to a Time magazine article from 1951, Barere was a pianist with promise. Despite his fanatical popularity among those who were familiar with his work, his career was held from fruition by a world war, the bolshevik revolution, a dead manager, a denied visa and subsequent lost piano, and on and on. Eventually he became a U.S. citizen and settled into cult status in New York. At 54 he was given the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall, backed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. He began in brilliant form but after a few minutes he slumped over on the piano and rolled to the floor, the victim of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Below is a recording of Barere playing Alexander Scriabin's etude Opus 8 No.12:


Lord Sabbat said...


kegbenk said...

yeah. nice post. i enjoy learning about thing stream of consciousness style.

30cent said...

this post is the ish! scriabin was a real cool dude, i love the etudes

andepie said...

epic is a perfect way to decribe this. Thanks dude.

Anonymous said...

Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.
Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this

Stop by my web page: how to make money online