Philippe Herreweghe Johann Sebastian Bach: Ich elender Mensch, Leipzig Cantatas

§ Conspicuous yet Invisible

There are few people today who are not at least aware of J.S. Bach’s fame as a composer. Yet, for most so-called educated people this awareness does not extend beyond a mere recognition of a famous name. Even among those actually acquainted with his music, those who profess delight upon listening to his great art, there seems to be but little, or a shallow, perception of it as “peaceful” or “spiritual”, or other such vague terms which render an appreciation of his great as little more than another page in the catalogue of classical music.

As a layman himself, the author does not presume to possess a detailed knowledge of the theoretical organization of the music of J.S. Bach, but this is not a prerequisite for serious listening and the development of a profound acquaintance with layers of music and the relations between its elements. There is nothing stopping us from using our brain’s innate ability for selective attention and classification, which allied with an open listening channel to intuition can be used to find a plethora of beautiful proportions and patterns; this would enable us to start to understand the relations the latter have with the effects they produce inside and around us.

The appreciation and attention that is lacking is not of a technical kind, for academicians and musicians of all stripes have used and abused the lessons and voices found on the surface of J.S. Bach’s music. Disgraceful depictions in the metal genre appear in the most tackiest of fashions, dragging crown jewels through the mud and excrement of sub-par music limited by a limited understanding and a mundane mentality. A higher vision would allow one to see into patterns and then into the multitude of connections and the effects thereof as far as the eye can see (or the ear can hear), thus being able to abstract and carry the lessons discovered in three-fold attainment.

§ Weaving with Voices

The underlying methodology of Western classical music could be described metaphorically as the weaving of threads into a tapestry; very little other musical tradition, if in fact any at all, anywhere else, developed the art of music-making to such a degree. As one approaches Bach on the timeline of this tradition, one sees music evolving in the way that genres of any kind do, independently of the area of human endeavor, that is, by developing permutations and variations of a seed idea.

The advent of J.S. Bach, however, marked those particular discrete points in a tradition when a leap and transformation is achieved by a stroke of genius, whatever the so-called genius actually implies (most probably dedication, devotion, talent and something else, perhaps); he thus marks a towering achievement on dimensions beyond the normal permutations and variations that are normally brought forth as grains of sand.

For Bach, all instruments are to be treated as singing voices, but human interpreters are also brought closer to an instrumental usage; a special kind of baroque music is thus created, a profound and non-trivial methodology is birthed from this man that essentially opens up a new dimension (spans a new linear space?); this stands rather at odds with the Italian school of Opera, its divas, and represents a stark contrast on a deeper level of attitude towards life; where the one is transcendental, impersonal and devoted, the other is narcissistic and emotionally dependent on the attention of others —it would seem that the religious of music of J.S. Bach could actually exist in a void, and it would gain a life of its own, but Opera, on the other hand, exists for the soul purpose of feeding egos and tickling sensual emotions.

We might attribute the origin of this development to the particular soil on which J.S. Bach planted himself; being an adept of the organ, it does not seem, in retrospect, a surprise that the concept of music as series of pure threads of sustained vibrations would lead to the aforementioned melding of human vocal chords and instruments into the purest concept of musical voices to be used as variations in timber as phenomenal manifestations in the service of music, rooted in the noumenal organ arrangements from which they were likely, conceptually born.

What separates J.S. Bach from the rest is not merely the technical and theoretical solutions which he brought about, but the fact that he produced these in order to bring about such merging and purification of the musical ideal as his holistic vision demanded; he carved a new musick in order to crystallize a bridge, a link, which would work through a more organic instrumentality —in essence, an auditory spell that would evoke the sinking and consuming aura that his soul appears to have longed for.

§ Herreweghe’s Touch of Life

There are plenty of recordings of J.S. Bach’s music, though sadly most are oriented towards producing commercial products for the refined or the pretentious, pandering to today’s would-be elites and erudites. The explorations are not exhaustive nor spiritual, but rather educational, in that stale way that only modernity can produce, and often feel detached.

What stands out in Herreweghe’s several interpretations of J.S. Bach’s cantatas is his talent from bringing out the most expressive in singular voices, while at the same time emphasizing their place in the midst of the sonic tapestry; that is to say, he does not turn the cantatas into opera jingles for the ego-stroking of singers and soloists, nor does he flatten everything in order to present a monolithic face as a testament to the greater whole.

Herreweghe seems to accomplish this feat of uniting an apparent duality through a dynamic approach that does not require the performance of discrete switches between modes, or at least he does not order these to be done in an overt manner; instead of clearly defined areas where main voices are chosen to lead, and others where the tutti is executed, the potential of the thread-weaving embedded in J.S. Bach’s masterful composition is allowed to shine through and assume organic form in this interpretation.

The result is a constant cooperation amongst the instruments that allows for a alternation and tagging, breaking with static functions and rather allowing for a limited kind of mobility within hierarchical functions; spontaneity works by changes being organically allowed to enter on a continuous rather than step-like manner which may also allow for the deeper impact of digressions while at the same time sustaining them with grace.

Leading voices are clear, but they are joined, rather than merely supported by the other instruments; and though not all can be prominent at once, nor in the same manner, the presented dynamic answers to the needs for an organic whole that may coalesce into an elemental force of its own, as true musick must of necessity become when properly performed.

C.R.U.E.L. Cantus

C.R.U.E.L. nos muestra una percepción de la realidad más demente que cósmica, abrazando fuerzas del subconsciente en lo que parece una acción de suscitar y evocar fuerzas subconscientes —esa parte de nosotros sujeta a demonios a los cuales el humano común sirve de inconsciente esclavo y perpetuo alimento. En Cantus especialmente, y mas aún que en las obras anteriores, se sienten enfocar los instrumentos a el mantenimiento de una tensión particular, con cadencias enfáticas de fuerte inclinación percusiva, dándole así un tono más fácilmente asimilable desde Abajo. Lo que vemos como el cuerpo principal de la presente obra es, tal vez, menos de dos tercios del total, y el resto consiste en sutiles sonidos, susurros y breves teclados espasmódicos de los cuales surge el metal como forma concreta.

La búsqueda y descubrimiento de este proyecto todavía se estaba concretando para cuando se dejo venir el presente demo, el cual muestra un C.R.U.E.L. de una voz  propia más clara que antes, si bien no del todo destacada todavía; para ver a un C.R.U.E.L. del todo desarrollado tendremos que esperar posiblemente para el siguiente álbum entero, el cual seguramente reunirá las lecciones aprendidas durante la última década y finalmente refinadas hasta el preludio suave y restringido que es Cantus.

Como mucha de la música por individuos de esta talla, el oyente ha de aproximarse a la recepción del arte con detenimiento y respeto, por directo y sencillo que parezca de primera mano el material; en el caso de la presente obra, ese lugar es uno que sea adecuado para rituales herméticos y obscuros, lugares que faciliten la introspección, y que permita por medio de un enfrentamiento y encarnación de pasiones suprimidas una unión en máxima expresión con ellas. Para esto podría ser utilizada esta música, para quien tenga la valentía de mirar directamente y hacia adentro como corresponde; cada quien lo hace a su propio riesgo, y el humano corriente, por supersticioso o con ínfulas de superioridad moderna, puede ser excusado, y reírse y pasar de largo le sienta mejor.

En Cantus, además, se nos otorga una banda de sonido que, percibida y seguida como si fuese la pauta de un ritual, promete abrir cuartos abandonados y pasadizos olvidados a los lados mas recónditos de nuestra mente y la inmediata realidad velada. El canto, en su uso tradicional y religioso, tiene como objeto primeramente alterar el estado interno del practicante; yendo más allá, sin embargo, y en una vena quizás un poco más esotérica, también la de alterar la composición de los alrededores por medio de este cambio en el practicante en calidad de portal entre lo visible y lo invisible, lo evidente y lo oculto.

A Recount of Transmutations – SEPTEMBER MMXVI entry

hv-ojo-rutilanteDifferent people listen to music , watch movies or look at paintings with different attitudes, perceiving different things based on a variety of conditions and outlooks.  Some specialize in or are drawn towards one more than the others, and approach the message codified therein either through sentiment or technical study, and in some rare cases, using both in a unified method.  This is usually termed an appreciation of art, and most people who consider themselves serious in such an endeavour see each distinct art form as a separate medium.  Each of them expresses human concerns over situations in what is believed to be fantastic depictions that seek to relieve one from the burden of reality by escapism or a direct confrontation of the crisis-causing affair.  This is the overruling view upheld by the school of thought that confuses its materialism and underhand cynicism for “rationalism”.

The esoterist extends the previous approach to everything he can and may perceive, not only works of art.  And rather than limiting his interpretation to a consequence of homo sapien’s “imperfections”, chooses to follow the path deeper and further by taking perceptions as flashes of cosmic truths through the filter of our senses.  In doing so, the aforementioned limitations of our species  are not ignored or overlooked, and instead, there is a conscious choice of looking at the proverbial glass as half-full.  This is simply the choosing of the path that maximizes the raw power latent in sensations and the mind over the self-pity of those mentally tormented by what they cannot comprehend.  It consists of hurling oneself onto the arms of the mystery, leaving behind the fear that makes hearts cling to the thin thread of what they can know for certain.

“knowing almost everything about almost nothing”

The intention of the writer is to bear testimony to the transmuting effect transcendental works of the ars musica can have over the soul.  That said influence cannot have taken place over a period of time long enough to perform radical changes in the psyche is something the author is willing to admit as a possibility given the incontestably recent publication dates of the works in question.  What he will not yield, however, is his knowledge of the inner transformations to which these works have been incontrovertible, though perhaps not indispensable, accessories, no matter how limiting the reader deems the relatively short exposition period to be for possible developments.

These were holistic works of art of the highest order, and no manner of reduction was here possible without entirely losing sight of their identity.

None of these works belonged, at the time of their initial reception, to the sphere of styles at the very center of the author’s heart.  And so, there was little emotional enticing in the way of an outright hook, and instead, it was the perceived mystery of musics which appeared to contain much more than was at first apparent which lured him in.  It was, in a most confusing manner, at once obvious and elusive.  Technical analysis revealed much, indeed, and yet too little.  For where in most cases a detailed and sensitive application of theory that gives aural effects in context their due in a station of great import may tell us what is incumbent upon us to know in order to contemplate them as they are, the works under discussion eluded all such attempts and little information came from them that accounted for anything reasonably.

These were holistic works of art of the highest order, and no manner of reduction was here possible without entirely losing sight of their identity.  The only possible answer, then, seemed to be to open the doors of intuition ajar, allowing the senses to be flooded and the imagination run amok, so that the music itself would take one wherever it would.  As this is a testament to their influence over the author, the reader is advised to take all remarks regarding these works with a pinch of salt, understanding that while the comment bears a strong relation to its object, much of it may be the unique growth in the writer’s mind of a seed planted by the artist.

Cóndor’s Nadia
Condor NadiaYear: 2013

In Nadia we find a melancholic romanticist aura uniting with the decisive purposefulness of the classic heavy metal riff applied through death metal technique.  It unites the European day-dreaming of the 19th century with the rugged realism that the American colonizer faced decades after the independence still.  Cóndor shows us one possible take on the Latin-American foundation story in which some may see themselves as heirs to Conquistadors and early European settlers.

The music is a slow enchantment, the picture is dark yet hopeful, the author’s personal experience with the work is one of slowly falling in love, and doing so time and again in different ways when the music is caught again in a different angle.  Nadia is a tale of will cutting across desperation and confusion as an immense and unknown land is braved.  A wondrous and strange land in which the initial search for glory turns to inner search and the eventual definition of a different weltanschauung, as a foreign race and its original culture react with a new land and conditions to give birth to a new people: the grandchildren of Latin Europe.

The intent of Cóndor’s Nadia is to recognize in European heritage transformed by the vicissitudes of America the real ethnic foundation for modern Latin-American individuals of predominantly Iberian ethnic origin.

What this unexpected Colombian masterpiece transmits is a sensing of the concrete possibility of achieving group identity as Latin-Americans with a certain ethnic background.  The importance of this message may be easily brushed aside given a predominant anti-colonial and nationalist1 indoctrination, which in unintended conflation with the subreptitious concepts of Cultural Marxism, leaves room only for extreme individualism and condemns one to entrapment within the animalistic cycle of survival and pleasure2.  We are taught we are “Latinamericans”3, as opposed to the Spaniards who butchered “us, innocent and pacifist peoples of America”.  It is easily ignored that many of us have more in common, by way of cultural and ethnic inheritance, with said conquerors than with most long-dead, or in the process of dying, aboriginal groups.

The intention is not to belittle the true American aboriginal groups that survive, and it is the belief of the writer that these have an ordained right (that is, not a legal right, but an inherent volition to be heeded) to self-sufficiency and actual free will.  It is, however, important to distinguish that multiculturalism is by no means a true identity, and that group identity is an important element for beings deeply rooted in social behavior, such as humans undoubtedly are.  So, while colonialism and imperialism are to blame for the resulting mess, each pocket should be quick to recognize its origin and nature as resulting from region-specific situations.

The realist who seeks answers to questions of origin in natural roots and our relation to the universe will understand that no manner of superficial social engineering can sever ages-old spiritual and genetic ties.

The present work is by and for those Latin-Americans that are precisely what the etymology of the compound term implies: Latin blood on American soil.  Where Latin refers to the European countries who speak languages directly descended from that of the Romans, and American refers to the true meaning of the word indicating the whole of the American continent.  The intent of Cóndor’s Nadia is not to tout those who fit the bill as Europeans, but to recognize in European heritage transformed by the vicissitudes of America the real ethnic foundation for modern Latin-American individuals of predominantly Iberian ethnic origin.

The answer to be found here is that countless ladinos who find no answer to the question of true belonging can look for one in their customs and traditions as they are, and not the folkloric fantasy concocted by post-independence oligarchs or the sorry remnants of leftist ideals.  Until now, most of them wallow in inner spiritual decadence patched up by inadequate monotheism, or crying with arms wide open for Utopian socialism to summon God the proverbial protestant father incarnate in Big Brother government to blame for their problems and magically provide immediate solutions.  The realist who seeks answers to questions of origin in natural roots and our relation to the universe will understand that no manner of superficial social engineering can sever ages-old spiritual and genetic ties.

1 “Nationalism” in its most materialist sense; that is, promoting allegiance to a government that does not seek the ultimate welfare of a people, and instead function as vampiric overlords of an alienated population.  In a particular Central American country the ruling class is predominantly of Arab and Jewish origin, identifying as such while finding their official status as “Latinamericans” as incidental though heart-warming.
2 The alternate is that which posits the divine and the transcendental as a center.  This is a path in which life is lived for more than its own sake. The individual can then see himself as part of a whole and something greater than himself, thereby reaching out and achieving true fulfillment that is beyond any materialist conception.
3 Which in formerly Anglo-Saxon America radically degenerates into an entirely fictitious (like most cultural and historical concepts at the center of their fancies) ethnic group called “Latinos”. To give the reader a hint of the degree of misrepresentation, an aboriginal tribe member from deep in the Amazon is as much a “Latino” as a pure descendant of African slaves born in Rio de Janeiro, or Italian immigrants born in Buenos Aires. In that sense, “Latinos” is even far more nonsensical than the self-appointed misnomer “Americans”, by which U.S. residents is meant.

Abyssum’s Cum Foeda Sanie Ex Ore cover

Year: 2014

The author’s personal, inner spiritual relation to the music of Abyssum specifically, and the work of Rex Ebvleb in general, is beyond any words which can be summoned up and impressed upon these characters.  Useless will be any attempt to transmit the intense sensation of simultaneous challenge in dread and contradictory empowerment in experiencing a first-hand emotional perception of a vast multi-dimensional universe entirely out of control and conception by common simian beings. Only a few are privy to this great vision.  The reason for this is that the core of it is an enigma at the base of humankind’s relation to the cosmos, which one either knows since birth, or one is completely unable to see even if told about it.

This is transcendental elitism in its purest sense.

Although acquaintance with Cum Foeda Sanie Ex Ore extends only one year and a half into the past, the contours of the obscure ideas it depicts in wave and word were at the heart of the author’s suspicions, buried under layers of suppression and indoctrination which took decades of inner upheaval to peel off.  In hindsight, it must be realized that our crossing of paths with Abyssum when we did was not, nay, could not be, an incidental occurrence. The timing was too perfect, the coincidence of a necessity for a next hint and the matching teaching leading down the path towards herein found too fortuitous.  As if answering the summons of my eager mind at a time when a sense of a new direction was utterly needed, not from confused helplessness, but from a natural intimation following a final sundering of chains.

A first encounter with Abyssum happened through its only publicly available work on the Internet, Thy Call.  This was not a band I had been aware of for a long time which suddenly seemed to appeal to me.  Rather, it contained puzzling pictures of obscure vastness and depth that did not match the author’s standards but defied any sort of direct rational attack. This elicited special and focused attention, which found more yet grasped little.  It slowly became a source of healthy obsession, the kind that breathes new life into a seeking spirit battling through and against the mundane with no lighthouse or guiding star.  The only way to portray a semblance of the impressions of my overwhelmed senses became at once a personal exploration and meditation, and a misplaced duty to sing of its glory to those who did not know about it.

For it can be discovered that Abyssum’s music is unique, both in realization and in nature, though only a direct witnesses to its manifestation can prove that to himself.

The author’s calls were repeatedly answered and an unexpected helping hand appeared, which not only provided invaluable advise but also yielded information which led to the creator behind the music.  Responsive to worthy and responsive souls, the author would like to believe, a chance was was granted to delve into Cum Foeda Sanie Ex Ore.  The total work of Abyssum brings forth a vision of the cosmos as a dark and morally-neutral place that is fascinating for worthy minds willing to brave its dangerous confines beyond the limits of the illusion of mortality and petty social constructs.  This is transcendental elitism in its purest sense.

In this MMXIV edition of old compositions brought forth in new form, Abyssum is shown stronger than ever, ever evolving and heaving with a vibrant energy one usually sees only in the untamed genius of a few young projects.  A brief yet necessarily incomplete description of the music could be given as subtle layers of keyboard melodies, supported by tremolo-picked torrents of simple root-note-carrying distorted guitars, and underscored by destructive drum patterns.  If the author’s hand were forced to draw a musical comparison, he would, in this moment, say that Cum Foeda Sanie Ex Ore unites the technique of Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse with the progressive atmospheric buildup and overarching story-curve of Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.  The comment would be useful, but entirely mistaken and misleading.  For it can be discovered that Abyssum’s music is unique, both in realization and in nature, though only a direct witnesses to its manifestation can prove that to himself.

What makes Abyssum’s music difficult to handle for most people is that it allows for no middle ground and no half-measures, a full and holistic picture must be at least glimpsed, otherwise all is for naught, and this musica will pass by unnoticed as the dark shade it is. The answer to this is plain and simple, yet complex and beyond the grasp of most: this is not just music, it is the channeling of essences into sonic form.  Let him who hath understanding reckon the truth of these words.  Here lies not an argument for the changing of logical minds, but a recount of the existence of other worlds which can be seen through the eye of Darkness, a written testimony for other worthy and seeking spirits.