Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"You Have Taken Away My Laughter"

Last night I heard a truly amazing song cycle by Shulamit Ran, whose music I do not know, Moon Songs, sung by the truly amazing soprano Lucy Shelton, who had collaborated in its writing and who was performing with the Da Capo Chamber Players.

In the verse called "Prayer to Pierrot" the singer begs Pierrot (as in Lunaire) to bring back the laughter.  Indeed, it is a prayer in which I join wholeheartedly.  Where has the laughter gone?

There is hardly a trace of it in a New York concert hall in which new music is being performed and listened to.  I found myself laughing aloud only once:  at a sudden blues chord played by the violin/cello duo.  How did that get in there?

And now, the morning after, I wonder who listens anymore in such a way as to permit the laugh reaction to blurt out or even to cross one's face.  It has all become so sanctimonious; we are all so frightened.  We will not learn to laugh until we forget that we are supposed to know something before we allow ourselves simply and vulnerably to listen.

Pages and pages of program notes only impede this process.