It’s a thought, says the composer. It’s a construction, says another composer. It’s a series of equations, says the mathematician. It’s the art of combining sounds, says the musicologist. It’s an emotion, said the amateur shyly. It’s a revelation, says the poet. It’s the language of the soul, says the writer. She’s a hussy, plague the annoyed philosopher to be outdistanced with more force and charm. It is a divine miracle, says the religious. It’s my life, said the musician. It’s my livelihood, says another musician. It’s … begins the indecisive. It is! Slice the man of spirit. What’s this? Asks the deaf man.
Everyone agrees that it is a mystery.
I was there in my ravings when I had dinner with pianist Redo Lupus and conductor Lawrence Foster. They had just played together three Beethoven concertos in Lyon. The concert had been a great success and the lively conversation was mingled with the sound of the forks. At the time of dessert, the two musicians, as if they were alone in the world, remembered the memories of musicians. They spoke of a phrase of Mozart as one speaks of a great wine or a beautiful woman. Sometimes with passion, sometimes in a low voice. Passing from French to English to Romanian and perhaps to other languages that I did not know.
And then, not having the cloak of false scholars but the freshness of two very old children, they began to sing, their eyes shining. Listening carefully, continuing the beginning of the other’s sentence, supporting a modulation, caring for the expression. One started to tap on the table, the other to mark the rhythm of the foot. When one emitted a motive, the other supported harmony. In their very silences, the music continued on its way.
At the table, some listened to them and smiled, others did not follow their idea. The table next door looked at them, all stupefied or hilarious, except one who recognized the air and hummed too. We were no longer in this banal restaurant, to this day and at this late hour of the night. The two musicians were no longer them. We were not only us anymore. We were music, like two shepherds playing the flute in the mountains, two fiddlers in the Warsaw ghetto, and kings in the valley of tears. We could have been in prison, chained, that we would have been free. Nothing could reach us.
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From that day, of course, I have experienced other musical emotions, but I have never found, in my life, more beautiful and true definition of what music is. Because she does not speak out. She sings loudly or inwardly. She lives, throbs. And the human soul, suddenly, vibrates in unison with the universe. There is music.