Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zazie: "J'ai vieilli."

Zazie's dream to ride the metro finally came true, but, we can assume, she never experienced it because she was asleep at that time (she could have recognized her ride while she was dreaming, but who knows?). Her desire was similar to Robert Schumann's infamous Innere Stimme in his Humoreske, not really materialized, or resided somewhere between dream and reality.
Perhaps my remembering of Louis Malle's Zazie dans le metro is irrelevant here, but my capricious mind remembered it anyway. Rainy Sunday. I am watching Slavoj Žižek's lecture titled The Return to Hegel on YouTube.

Here he mentions Shumann's Humoreske to explain Deleuze's notion of pure difference, in the context that, to put it roughly, Deleuze's anti-Hegelian argument is actually Hegelian. I am not qualified to say something about Hegel and Deleuze. But, I think I can say something about repetition and difference.
Schumann could not forget contingencies. This alone is not unique of him. All the composers might know that their compositions are just contingent. It might be a professional attitude for many composers to pretend as if the things have happened inevitably. Forgetting about contingencies is rather a wisdom for them to flourish. On the other hand, what is unique about Schumann is that he sometimes tried to present what might have been (and this probably was a tragedy of him). Actually, as he got mature, he renounced this kind of attempts (this probably was also a tragedy).The irony is people still appreciate his early works. Though I like many of his later works, I understand there are good reasons for appreciating his early, mainly, piano pieces. Reading his scores already is a fun (when it comes to the Innere Stimme, singing this is actually a fun. I wonder why no one records this with his or her own voice, in a manner Glenn Gould or Keith Jarrett could do). They are full of captions, like some of Erik Satie's scores. But Satie might have been more cynical about the captions. Young Schumann was more engaged to the oscillation between the sayable and the hearable (if ever was such a word).
Isn't it possible to say that Humoreske is a story of his renunciation of this oscillation? In the first half of the piece he indulges the contingencies, but in the second half he does not look back any more. And then he smiles while crying. Borrowing Žižek's term, I dare say Humoreske is a "vanishing mediator" for the composer.
The first note F# alone may already play such a role. At the beginning, he composes the sequence F#-G-C-F as if he is framing a moving merry-go-round. Each time F#-G-C-F repeats, it appears differently. Sometimes F# is heavier than G, sometimes G is heavier than F#. At last it clearly starts from G: F# vanished. Here F# represents a hesitation and an anticipation. F# hesitates to go to G and anticipates G at the same time. F# already conceives the whole story of Humoreske. As F# vanishes, it closes the first chapter.
By the way, in the first half his gesture of connecting each segments makes me smile. It is almost childlike. Why was he bothered with writing such bars? These just emphasizes how capricious his way of rendering is. Unlike Beethoven, his repetition does not come across as inevitable (Beethoven tried to make repetition sudden and inevitable at the same time), but as "there might have been the other ways." I think he was fully aware of it and even he consciously repeated what he had done in his earlier works.
And then he says farewell to his early capricious manner. But, before this, he still had to dwell in the second chapter, which is still within the first half. This chapter, which starts with the Innere Stimme, may be his farewell. It starts at the point that the voice is already vanished.

I was surprised when I found Sviatoslav Richter clearly playing this Innere Stimme. Here I note that I am not interested in whose interpretation is right, though I feel his interpretation not so effective. I understand his attempt to make the repetition of this part different. Richter did not obey the composer's order, but this does not bother me; I do not think his interpretation did change the essence of the piece. Many old pianists were not so loyal to composers (see how Rachmaninoff played the same composer's Carnaval). Feinberg also partly played the Innere Stimme. But those pianists did not alter the essence of the pieces.
Feinberg did something more interesting. Schumann actually did not repeat the exact. When reintroducing itself, actually it first appears as a form reduced to just a sequence of chords and the bass:

Then Feinberg stresses the notes of the Innere Stimme when playing these chords, as if he listens to the resonance these notes generate.
In musicology, I think, repetition is not the exact of experiencing the same, because the listener "ages." The second time is not the same as the first time. Simple repetition is rather an attitude: "Let's pretend aging did not occur." How to slow this aging might be many composers' concern.
Under some conditions even simple repetition can slow aging. The context gives different meanings to the second time. At some point Schumann might have known it. And he might have thought his early works full of captions became too witty for him. In a way, he already knew that in order for him to produce "pure difference, (not sure if I understand this term correctly)" writing down Innere Stimme was no longer necessary. The sequence F#-G-C-F told him so. And then he was determined "Ok, this is the last time I write in this manner," I imagine. And I also imagine, after finishing Humoreske, he muttered "J'ai vieilli," like Zazie did in the end of the film. I do not know how to say it in German.

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