The composer who claimed he was God--or is it subject to interpretation?

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The composer who claimed he was God--or is it subject to interpretation?

Post  pinhedz on Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:55 am

TinyMontgomery wrote:

As you have probably guessed, I am talking about Alexander Scriabin, one of the few composers who took the whole romantic concept of eternity and fragmentariness and lead it right "into the mystic" (not completely unlike the directions later explored by Jazz spiritualists like Albert Ayler or Van Morrison's pre-New Age experiments). His music sometimes borders on kitsch but on the other hand sometimes touches unpreceded territory that sounds familiar yet incomprehensible.

His piano sonatas are the most emotional works of the genre this side of Scarlatti and I've listened to them quite a lot recently. Does anybody know (and / or like) his music?

TinyMontgomery wrote:

A little teaser: About the Piano Sonata No. 7 in F sharp major "White mass"

Intimidated by the giant shadows cast by Beethoven and Schubert, composers in the succeeding generations of the nineteenth century were reluctant to write piano sonatas. Such keyboard masters as Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, and Liszt did not collectively produce ten. In the twentieth century, the piano sonata largely recovered on the strength of Scriabin and Prokofiev. Of Scriabin's ten numbered sonatas, the second through fifth are his most popular. Less widely performed, the Seventh, an imaginatively crafted work, enjoys the reputation of a rewarding work and was his own favorite. Like all of the sonatas after the 1903 Fourth, it is cast in a single movement. This work has been called "the world's first 12-tone composition." Serial it is not, but it is on the threshold of serialism and sounds like it. It is typical of the music Scriabin was writing in his late period in its mystical and ethereal moods and advanced harmonies. The work, dubbed "White Mass" by the composer, imparts a weirdly ceremonial air, its music evoking bell-like sonorities as well as chant and a mystical sense relating to the composer's Eastern-influenced religious ideas. In approximate sonata form with three subjects, it is full of poetic directions in French that set the mood throughout, for example: mystérieusement sonore (mysteriously sonorous); avec une sombre majesté (with sombre majesty); avec une céleste volupté (with heavenly delight); très pur, avec une profonde douceur (very pure, with profound sweetness); avec une volupté radieuse, extatique (with radiant, ecstatic delight); comme des èclairs (like flashes of lightning); and finally, avec une joie débordante (brimming over with joy). The sonata nervously and violently opens, tolling chords first seeming to calm the roiling, only to spur later. Whenever the music settles to reasonable calm, it turns mystical, but soon flares up again with tension always hovering, even through playful swirls and cold trills. Midway through, just before the recapitulation, the music intensifies in a brutal, bizarre buildup with dissonance and percussive chords abounding. The mood soon shifts again to a more mystical manner, subsequently suggesting various, even extreme, moods, culminating in a fortissimo 25-note arpeggiated chord. Finally, the sonata ends in a peaceful, ethereal mist. This work typically has a duration of ten minutes.

Pinhedz wrote:

I'm a very big fan.

I don't know that he ever claimed to be God, but I did guess who you meant, because if anyone had, it would have been him. I don't think he was ever completely insane, but he seems to have been psychologically disturbed to some degree and was certainly one of a kind. All his life he had a morbid fear of getting an infection, and he died young, when a facial blemish became infected.

He had some far-out ideas, such as associating particular notes with particular colors, and even smells. He planned to present some of his works with a light show and smells to go with the music. And he made up his own rules of harmony.

I like best of all his very last solo piano works (op. 65 -- op. 74). They're still tonal, but he's stretched the rules almost to their breaking point. At the same time, his writing is much sparser than it had been earlier in his carreer, with just a few, carefully-chosen notes. At this stage I think of him as a classical counterpart to Lennie Tristano.

His grand-niece lives nearby, and I sometimes get to talk to her when she comes to my orchestra's concerts. Here's a little online blurb about her...

http://scriabinefoundation.org/directorbios/scriabine.html

Hozni wrote:

Karlheinz Stockhausen claimed to be the ultimate manifestation of the Swadhisthana chakra.

TinyMongomery wrote:

pinhedz wrote:
I'm a very big fan.

I don't know that he ever claimed to be God, but I did guess who you meant, because if anyone had, it would have been him. I don't think he was ever completely insane, but he seems to have been psychologically disturbed to some degree and was certainly one of a kind. All his life he had a morbid fear of getting an infection, and he died young, when a facial blemish became infected.

He had some far-out ideas, such as associating particular notes with particular colors, and even smells. He planned to present some of his works with a light show and smells to go with the music. And he made up his own rules of harmony.

I like best of all his very last solo piano works (op. 65 -- op. 74). They're still tonal, but he's stretched the rules almost to their breaking point. At the same time, his writing is much sparser than it had been earlier in his carreer, with just a few, carefully-chosen notes. At this stage I think of him as a classical counterpart to Lennie Tristano.

His grand-niece lives nearby, and I sometimes get to talk to her when she comes to my orchestra's concerts. Here's a little online blurb about her:

http://scriabinefoundation.org/directorbios/scriabine.html

Thanks for this thoughtful posts. I also the later piano works as they explore vastly interesting territory on which tonality is merely a signpost of sorts.

He actually claimed to be God in one of his mystical diaries. Simple as anything: "I am God". Period.

TinyMontgomery wrote:

Hozni wrote:
Karlheinz Stockhausen claimed to be the ultimate manifestation of the Swadhisthana chakra.


Oh, but he was!

Pinhedz wrote:

The story goes that Scriabin's mature works are based on a sequence of notes--in fourths and flatted fifths--that he called the "mystery chord:" C, F#, Bb, E, A, and D. This chord was supposed to have some kind of mystical power to solve the mysteries of the universe--or something like that.

I found this on a blog (by somebody named Geoff Polk). I don't think I believe it, but I thought it was a good read:

"The mystery chord of the composer Scriabin would bedevil audiences,
causing dizziness, flushing, the inability to speak
for several days, moonsickness, fainting, and questioning
of one’s path through life. Aware of its strange power,
Scriabin, the dark mystic-eccentric Russian, used it sparingly."

"Conceived on a carriage driven through Moscow one snowy evening,
Scriabin hearing a new piano sonata in the air,
when his eyes fell on a young blond woman standing
on a street corner, her eyes, moist from the cold
or tears, meeting his. Scriabin, married with children,
felt a profound longing, wishing she were in his carriage
so that he may kiss her, without words, jumping
head first over a cliff. But the carriage moved on
and Scriabin lost sight of her in the crowd, left
with only a sound in his head, ten notes,
none of which making any sense together, but somehow
they did. Nine notes would have incomprehensible dissonance,
but with the tenth, came the new, mournful, unbearable
truth that matched his feelings. A small consolation,
perhaps, for what he desired and couldn’t have."

Pinhedz wrote:

TinyMontgomery wrote:
He actually claimed to be God in one of his mystical diaries. Simple as anything: "I am God". Period.

I wonder if he'd been reading Nietzsche or something?

Or maybe he just meant that he had more ego than superego: "Don't tell me the rules--I make my own rules."

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Re: The composer who claimed he was God--or is it subject to interpretation?

Post  pinhedz on Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:00 am

Modern performances often try to realize Skriabin's vision of mixing sound with light:








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Re: The composer who claimed he was God--or is it subject to interpretation?

Post  pinhedz on Thu May 08, 2014 2:18 pm

pinhedz wrote:He had some far-out ideas, such as associating particular notes with particular colors, and even smells. He planned to present some of his works with a light show and smells to go with the music. And he made up his own rules of harmony.

Different orchestra directors keep trying to get this thing right:


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Re: The composer who claimed he was God--or is it subject to interpretation?

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