Monday, March 23, 2009

Messiaen with my head

Olivier Messiaen - Reveil des Oiseaux (The Awakening of Birds) - I woke up this morning at 5 with an aching belly and a spinning brain, from nothing more than the general excesses of a well-lived life, particularly the part of my life lived over this weekend which included a four mile walk on the levee while the dog cavorted among the smells of the river, a smartly done, well-attended art installation, examined the details of coveted high-end consumer electronics I am getting for my birthday, date night, picnic at the park with friends where the merits of various painters and authors were discussed - it was, as they say, all good. It was if I checked the right boxes on the sushi menu of life. Then at 5 am, the gong of anxiety rang, perhaps to counterbalance things. Trying to go back to sleep for two more hours in the dark felt a lot like The Awakening of Birds, slight dissociated twinklings, pecking around low to the ground like birds and suddenly taking flight also like birds. Things occasionally would stir up into an orchestral gale and would as quickly subside.
Olivier Messiaen - Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) (listen) If you have read Alex Ross' The Rest is Noise then you likely became an instant fan of this odd but powerful piece by Messiaen even if you hadn't heard it. Unless you are immune to the suggestive power of prose, and then, if you are, why read it? This odd quartet for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, composed for the instruments and players at hand in the prison camp in which he was interred, is inspired by revelations and is comprised of movements with enthralling names like "The abyss of birds" and "Tangle of rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time." I will have the fortune of witnessing parts of it performed by people I know before a film produced by other people I know this Saturday the night before my birthday. I cannot imagine this impending birthday has me in a tizzy - it's the 5's that always get me - and I am declaring upfront that 40 is new Übermensch and where life begins and who actually cares about such things anyway, and maybe in writing all this, my anxieties will be duly processed and like a bird, fly out of me.

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