Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter Music

With a High Pressure stuck firmly over the Ukraine pushing the incoming Atlantic weather systems 'up-and-over', we are having a spate of foggy mornings. The empty daytime skies allow the sun to raise ground temperature and then, with the fall of night, plunge it, in the early hours, into an icy bath.

Low flying crows punctuate the greyness with their coarse guttural utterances.

Warm milky tea, hot olive-oil-based-butter-substitute covered toast and 'Rip-the-sky's-corsets-off' (also known as Rimsky-Korsakov to the more effete) on the CD player.

I noticed a couple of days ago an urge - Russian 19th century symphonic - creeping up on me.


Strange I thought, how some national music styles fit so nicely with the seasons.

Winter is Russian.

Whether the snow and extremes of a Russian winter are reflected in the music, or, having spent many winter nights in the concert halls of Moscow, I associate the music with winter I couldn't say.

But one of those swirling, bum bum on the base drum, wind whistling first violins, sting-sting-woodwind tunes sends my imagination to -25 C, crunching through the snow near the 17th Century orthodox church in Bitsevski Park: Beard caked in ice, nose on the point of numbness, ears burning. Mad Russian pensioners in their underpants jumping through holes in the frozen surface of ponds. French and German soldiers, in retreat, freezing to death.

English music is summer.

It's a blue mis-remebered hills of childhood, wandering through empty green fields, playing in enchanted woodlands mixed with an adolescent, cold-white-wine-and-cheese-quiche, early-romance summer.

Once the Williams skylark ascends, or Elgar's enigma goes hunting - its 'Oh to be in England' open poetry season.

The French have a sort of summer - but they take it too seriously - its an urban-rush 'I'd prefer to be somewhere else' summer. They remember the little, unimportant things.

And once you are off into Spain - forget the seasons, hold on to your passions. Hot but sultry, immobile windmills to get angry at.

China does a wonderful autumn.

Like Chinese landscape painting Chinese music mixes an infinitesimal range of images moving quickly into focus - sometimes startlingly close up, then faintly distant. It's music that out-Picasoes Picaso - and did so centuries ago.

Rich autumn colours, fruitful, full of promise with that edge of death - the boy on the oxen has grown a long white beard and smiling, moves into the mists.

Spring I'm usually too busy to listen to music. And Russian springs are very short, English Springs too long.

(Now, which books go with the seasons?)

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