Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Those fair corpses that litter the grooves of our records

My recent listening has taken me deeper into vinyl territory and today I bought my first new LP in more than 30 years. The identity of that vinyl will not be revealed until a post some time in the future, although some of my ultra-knowledgeable readers may be able to identify it from the graphic above. For some of us vinyl adds something that digital formats lack, but for almost all of us live music adds an essential but intangible quality that recordings lack. Quite why the most high-end audio system can never match the sound of live music is a mystery. But the following explanation of the shortcomings of sound reproduction systems from Harmonies of Heaven and Earth by Joscelyn Godwin may provide the answer. And please, before dismissing the explanation as amusing nonsense remember that some greatly respected musicians, including Jonathan Harvey and Bruno Walter, were profoundly influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Take care while I travel...
The inevitable question, which could not have arisen before Edison's phonograph (1877) is, What happens when the tones are reproduced mechanically via a record or tape? Rudolf Steiner, speaking in 1923 shortly before his death, had condemned the gramophone as a source of music. Of course the gramophone of that time could only produce a travesty of live music, but according to his follower Ernst Hagemann the rejection was more than aesthetic. In an extraordinary passage on the borderline between occultism and farce, Hagemann solemnly described his own research with clairvoyantly gifted people in order to find out what happens to the elementals' function when music is mechanically reproduced. Not every detail was satisfactorily explained, but the consensus of several clairvoyants working independently was as follows.

On applying their second sight to the surface of gramophone records, they found them thronged with elemental forms - all dead. Looking through a magnifying glass, they could see even more of them! These, they said, are the lifeless replicas of the elementals who were constellated in the air, entered the microphone, and were 'shadowed' upon the record matrix during the original live performance. In order to carry over these dead copies into the physical world via the reproducing device, one needs the cooperation of other living elementals - tiny Gnomes, to be precise - whom the clairvoyants were able to perceive in the diamond or sapphire stylus. (One recalls that gemstones are traditionally associated with these earthly spirits). Through the Gnomes' agency, the very same kinds of elementals - presumably Sylphs and Undines - could be seen emerging from the loudspeakers as had been originally captured in the recording process.

So far the inadequacy of recordings was not proven. But the clairvoyants had more to say. At live concerts they did not just enjoy the visions of beauty which the music throws off into the air above the stage, visions which several artists have tried to capture. They also saw the concert hall beset by Spirits of Undine, vile, spider-like beings who swarm around whenever beauty is manifest, and crawl into our ears and noses while we are entranced by it. Everything must have its opposite, in order to create beauty. Man has to have the stimulus of the ugly. The greatest artistic natures, Hagemann says, are those who have felt this conflict the most keenly - even to a physical degree. During recording, however, it is only the beautiful forms who enter the microphone and whose fair corpses litter the grooves of our records. The ugly spirits (who actually are no more evil than the manure with which we nourish our roses) are absent, and so the full artistic experience is lacking.
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Philip Amos said...

While your travelling, Bob, I'll wonder if your new purchase has any connection -- and here I get enigmatic indeed -- with a game that involves skimming flat stones across bodies of water. (--: Safe journeying!

Pliable said...

Philip, when I observe what is happening elsewhere in the classical music industry I do find my toes curling. But that is the only link I can think of to that recent vinyl purchase.

While we are speaking I would like to bounce an idea off you. I am thinking of starting a crowdfunding site to silence On An Overgrown Path - for every £100 raised the blog would stay silent for a week. Would you or anyone else fund me?

Philip Amos said...

Fund you to deprive myself of one of the great pleasures of my life?! I think not. But there is another blog which I should most cheerfully fund to stay silent forever, chuckle chuckle.

No, 'twas not the sport of curling I had in mind. Rather, a game whose name relates to avian wildlife.

Graeme said...

How difficult is it to find good styluses?

Graeme said...

Travelling round Northern France, I found myself listening to France Musique. Frank Bridge. Arnold Bax. And the incomparable performance of In a Summer Garden by Barbirolli . Presented in a way that suggested the presenter knew what he was saying.... Cf Petroc Trelawney