Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Burgess on Mozart; Anxiety during Peaceful Times

The second movement of the Anthony Burgess text called "K. 550 (1788)" begins with a word pattern that imitates the melodic rhythms of the first phrase of the music:

"THE black day is coming. What black day is coming? The black day is coming for you, me and everyone. How soon now? Quite soon now. The shadows closing, shadows closing. I can see nothing."

Throughout the text Burgess juxtaposes images of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette with the music of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K.550. Here he imagines them on a rowboat on a quiet river in summertime. Even these relaxed and peaceful moments have powerful anxieties woven into them.

This tension is also reflected in the score. The unexpected chromatic line in the cellos and basses [0:04-0:07] and the chromatic melodic tail [0:25-0:27] are the first indications of disruptions and unexpected detours in this movement.

There are two-note figures that are separated from their own resolution by silences [0:21 and 0:23]. These figures take over the center of this section of this movement [1:22] and the first half of the form closes with an amazing chromatic progression from [2:31-2:45].

Burgess captures the spirit of the music itself:

"Black, bleak and bitter. The blue night’s arrived now. The blue night is with us. How urgent sighs the wind. So listen. I listen. The candles flicker, fleck the shadows. We eat. Some do not. We eat. So we eat."

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