Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rhapsody in Blue

Another day for Rhapsody in Blue, just like yesterday, another day when nothing really matters. Having tea with Gershwin.

Bernstein takes me by the hand, and we walk through America, an America that wove itself new and full and bustling out of a million dreams every second, and an orchestra, endlessly stretching until the horizon, plays the Rhapsody in a never ending liquid train of blue that ebbs and flows, comes and goes, like the sea washing this America's shores and the people therein, and all their dreams combined, rising and swirling, hunting and longing, and everything happens without anything, every moment hung up like the tiniest note on a sheet, and yet everything in this marvellously dazzling train that allows us never to stop, never to look back, never to tire, just as it never seems to, never wants to, tire.

Next to me, Bernstein with seeming effortlessness dreams out all the strong and subtle, languid and dancing machinery of piano that keeps this train going, not with his hands (his still gently holding mine) but with his brows, his deep eyes, all the world’s most exquisite pianos rising behind his forehead, stretching out to the orchestra, until the horizon, across the coming and going of this auditory landscape, all features bursting alive and filling everything around us with, yes, this America.

Before the crescendo of crescendos happens, I feel it rising around us, like a wave, storm, a swarm, and for an instant Bernstein leans back at my side, a little sideways, and our ears, now, stretch until the sky, welcoming this inescapable swelling and overwhelming acceleration of our train, lifting us not higher but wider, until we stretch out over all this dream landscape and everything clashes, washes, dives into us and outward, rippling until the end of our orchestra, which has now become this America, just as we have, this vertiginous construct of shimshimmery dreams and realities, and everything happens endlessly interlaced, entangled like an equation birthing boundlessly new equations, until the very horizon around us rises up, folds itself towards us, inward, only to blossom gently with this imagined flower, immeasurably encompassing this gigantic machinery we have been dreaming up, until it all falls away on a whim, it seems, dissipating into the empty space it filled.

Bernstein still holds my hand, and we look, with eyes a little glazed, at the moments stretching out behind us, take a sip of that tea, and continue onward, again, towards the horizon, where else.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Looking West

“A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western Seas.”
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of The Rings, Book Six, The Grey Havens

When I walk down the street I live in, with its mobile phone bodegas, one Euro shops, veiled women and perfume bathed boys, it leads to a bridge over the little river Wien, sharing its name with the city, that runs into the Danube further down, having passed through and underneath the city’s central districts.

Passing over that bridge, my view is directed, always and inevitably, westward. And in this certain instance, the direction almost perfectly matches the real compass quarter. The view thus leads upstream towards the edge of the city, passing castle Schönbrunn and leading on to the hills of the Wienerwald beyond the periphery. Naturally, this is an imagined view, as far as the mind’s local horizon carries it, in fact obstructed by a slight bend of the river, bridges, houses, and other structures. What it shows, though, at all times, is a corridor towards the West, a gaze that leaves the city rather than moving towards its centre (which would be, theoretically, gazing into the opposite direction), a gaze also that reveals the endlessly different and beautiful skies of the moment and, catching the right times, the western directions possibly greatest treasure: the sunset.

In me, this view is at all times a powerful conglomeration of emotions and associations. Gazing out of the city, seeing much more of the open sky than many other times, down in the deep canyons of Viennese streets, but there is more to it than that. For, most times I pass this bridge, it is on the way to the city’s main (international) train station: the Westbahnhof. And every time I go there, or to other large train stations, be it to embark on an own journey, or to pick someone up or see them off, an almost irresistible longing to travel envelops me. Boarding a train with the most remote destination possible and letting it carry you away, through gradually less familiar lands and landscapes, always this same longing. Thus has passing over this bridge and gazing West taken on my intense longing for journey, and every time I cast that look, I am captured by the same feeling.

In this very personal sense, the direction of West has a very distinct and special emotional meaning to me. It means embarking on a journey into the direction of sunset’s most beautiful light, travelling through the night and re-emerging into a far away day. Is that not, in a sense, the same longing Tolkien imprinted his Elves with? It might be me and my associations, but marching to the Grey Havens to board a ship that will carry you hence into the West, over the mighty sea, is just that emotion I was trying to describe. That certain sense of longing, intertwined with the most beautiful melancholy of parting and moving on.

Soon, I will take my Grey Ship and journey on into the West. My days in Vienna are drawing to their close.

In that time the last of the Noldor set sail from the Havens and left Middle-earth for ever. And latest of all the Keepers of the Three Rings rode to the Sea, and Master Elrond took there the ship that Círdan had made ready. In the twilight of autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of the Bent World fell away beneath it, and the winds of the round sky troubled it no more, and borne upon the high airs above the mists of the world it passed into the Ancient West, and an end was come for the Eldar of story and song.”
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age