[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

GG: The Firebird that is creativity...

Hello all--

Can't sleep. Saw this interesting passage in Otto Friedrich's bio on GG
(pp171-172.) Thought this might open some discussion:

     We can never know why so little of the music that G thought of
writing, and talked of writing, ever got written... Part of G's failure as
a composer perhaps did come from the distractions of other activities, of
radio and writing and all the disturbances of daily life. "I have the
feeling that he was the kind of person who was constantly engaged in
research," [David] Diamond says, "constantly writing these lectures or
these liner notes, and you know how time-consuming these things are. And
that was a kind of avoidance of getting to composition. When you have that
kind of musical intelligence, composing is not hard. What is hard is just
getting to that paper and sitting down with the ink... and composing." 
     Part of G's failure undoubtedly came from the curse of perfectionism,
part perhaps from a deeply felt lack of first-rate creative talent --
creative genius --part simply from a reluctance to explore the limits of
his own imperfections. "He hated it that everything came out sounding like
everybody else," says Leonard Bernstein, who has known his own conflicts
between performing and composing, between one's own work and the influence
of masters. "He said, 'I can't bear it.' I said, 'Well, a lot of Beethoven
comes out sounding like Haydn, a lot of Schubert comes out sounding like
Mozart -- what're you going to do?' A lot of Mahler comes out sounding like
everybody who ever wrote music before Mahler. It's a deep inner sound that
a composer makes, which comes from the depths of him. Stravinsky stole from
Tchaikowsky and Beethoven and Bach and Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel and -- but
there's that Igor screaming through it all, an amazing individual voice.
And G said, 'Well, I guess that's what I don't have.' And he couldn't stand
it. He said, 'It's either Schoenberg or Brahms, what I write.' He showed me
some sketch of something he had worked on, as if to prove how bad he was as
a composer. He said, 'Look at this -- ' I wish he had gone on, because I
think he would have arrived -- he would written some fascinating music.
That I'm sure of."
     Lacking that personal voice -- or feeling that he lacked it -- G got
great satisfaction in his later years by adapting the ideas of others and
creating those marvelous transcriptions of Strauss and Wagner. But as for
original work, he finally decided on a completely different course,
rejecting all the overworked conventional forms of musical composition and
starting to experiment with something quite new, a quite different kind of

Any artists out there identify with the terror of the blank music sheet,
the blank canvas, etc.? I know I feel it. Much safer to spend my
late-nights with email discussion lists than to face myself alone in the

If this weren't enough, feeling a bit petty, gossipy just now: Anyone know
what G thought of Stravinsky personally? I remember reading somewhere (J.
Cott?) that G was not particularly crazy about Igor. Am I way off on this?
Didn't G think he came off as too self-important? I love the photo in
Payzant's book with G and the two maestros: Bernstein and Stravinsky.
Perhaps this idea in my head that G wasn't fond of Igor (Actually, it's in
the record that G didn't favor Stravinsky's music) has colored my
perception, but doesn't it look like G is looking at Igor with a bit of
restrained ridicule. Is G suppressing a laugh or what? I don't know,
perhaps I should go to sleep.