Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Stravinsky and technology

Arthur C. Clarke once suggested that the invention of eyeglasses (an event that occured around 1350) may have actually launched the Renaissance by doubling the useful productive life of writers, artists and scientists.
That salutary reminder that beneficial technology existed some time before the internet comes from The Size of the World by Jeff Greenwald, an author who has featured here before. His book has little to do with music but much to do with rethinking priorities, which is why we can learn a lot from it.

But back to eyeglasses. Schubert was near-sighted and, apparently, always wore them, even while sleeping. Which, given that contact lenses were not available until the end of the nineteenth century, makes the numerous portraits of him not wearing glasses puzzling. I can find no pictures of Beethoven wearing glasses, but he did compose a Duett mit zwei obligaten Ausenglasern (Duet requiring two pairs of spectacles) for viola and cello. The title of that duet has never been explained, but does it matter? As a modern composer, who is associated with Stravinsky and does wear glasses, said about one of his own works, "That's a title given by the gods".

Stravinsky image credit Elisabeth Spiedel. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Joe Barron said...

I believe the word is Augengläsern - "eye-glasses," same as English. And "mit zwei obligaten" should be three words, imho. The Germans do combine words, but not all!

Nice post, btw.

Pliable said...

Joe, thanks for that. I have corrected the article. Eventually I get there, with a little help from my friends.

Incidentally, I notice from your Blogger profile that you are a newspaper editor in Philadelphia. I am starting to get nervous as I write these posts ...

Seriously though, you have a nice blog -http://liberateddissonance.blogspot.com/
I've added it on my sidebar.