Friday, November 8, 2013

Words and Meaning

Words are somehow more internally illuminated when we encounter them in translation.  Wald, in German, means woods or forest.  Does it matter?

The notion of Woodland Scenes is to me radically different from Forest Scenes.

I recall starting out for a walk on a cold winter afternoon, young, alone in a strange German town, following a trail into a forest of tall, primordial (it seemed to me) trees.  Dark, forbidding, completely strange in every way, it terrified me and I quickly ran for the comfort of the town, that is, of people.

This will always be for me the experience of entry (Eintritt) into the forest of Schumann's Waldszenen, never an expectation of idyllic serenity, rather the opposite.

Then there are the inevitable hunters, always somewhere in the foreground or background, their horns distinguishable already in inner voices in the Eintritt, suddenly upon us in the second piece: Jaeger auf der Lauer (Hunters on the Prowl).

With this pieces comes the first obvious mystery:  An octave D.  What key are we in?  What is the beat?  No clue.  Everything that follows is ambiguous in the extreme.  The point must be that contained within that first duration, that first unaccompanied tone, is the mystery of the forest.  Most likely you missed it, as did I for years, needing to know the answers before noticing the questions.