Why write? (2)

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

A certain Polish composer wrote around the age of thirty: “All that matters to me now, today, is music, my music.  It is the only thing in the world for me.”  Then, aged 50 — shortly before his death and already sick — he wrote:  “I have failed in my music.  I never quite got it.  Only in [xx]  there I had it for a moment, didn’t I?  But the rest — the rest is a failure.”

The thing is — his music isn’t great (as I reflect now, re-listening).  So… is his case a case of someone realizing only at 50, upon reaching fullness of age, in a kind of flash of revelation, that all his life he’d been writing drivel?  If so, his story would be a sad story indeed, but one containing a central kernel of hope:  the hope being the fact that we — some of us — can learn to understand better — even if that knowledge should come too late, as it did for the composer in question, at least it can come.  How much better is such a case than a case of someone who’ll have gone down to his grave without realizing what waste all his production has been.

Or is his case a case of someone writing drivel, seeing it for what it was all along, but persevering all the same?  And if the case is this case, then one must wonder:  how does one dedicate himself to the creation of inferior art?  Does one do this because one hopes that “in time things will get better”?   Or does one do it for some other reason — perhaps in order “to be an artist”?  For the status — whether to impress the unwashed even if it is only self-perceived?

Tschaikovsky, Brahms, Wagner — did they honestly think they were writing good stuff?  One has to wonder:  in a letter to his publisher Brahms refers to his second symphony as a “charming monster”.  A monster it is — but is it… charming?  To whom?  To Brahms?  Because he happened to write it?  Whatever does he mean by charming?


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