Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Certain Dark Things

I mentioned in my Music Notes column last Sunday (Sept. 27) in the Asbury Park Press that the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra is performing my short piece Certain Dark Things on their concert at the Count Basie Theatre 3 p.m. Sunday Oct. 18. The piece was originally written as a piano solo dedicated to my wife, Lauren and orchestrated a couple years later.

The title comes from the Sonnet 17 of Pablo Neruda. Lauren had given me the poem as a gift a few years ago. I have tried several times to set it to music, failing each time, mostly because I can't come up with an accompaniment that satisfies the warm spiritual and sexual turbulence of this poem. The melody is easy and I have half a dozen different solutions sketched out. But the harmony and the underlying rhythms … that's another matter.

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Is there codependency there? Yeh, probably. But who cares? In the moment of its expression, what is captured is the overpowering sweetness and despair of love mutual and complete, yet antagonized by outside forces, the honking traffic of mundanity. The lovers here are pressed together "between the shadow and the soul" like flower petals in a book and their devotion, their allegiance, their tryst, is apparent to no one but themselves. Something in that image is so sad, so ecstatic and so perfect. It is the final union, the perfect transcendence of Otherness that rejects bright daylight joy and the spark of individuality and yearning. It closes the circle as near to God as we can get.

Certain Dark Things, then, is my instrumental answer to the problem, an attempt to capture some small aspect of the poem in sound without the direct explication of words. I don't attempt a broader spiritual or theological meaning. Just using the poem as inspiration for an emotional state that is carried through here. Another day, the music inspired by the same source could be quite different. But today, it is thus.


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