Posted by: John Looker | 1 June, 2014

Looking At Mozart’s Piano

 
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Looking At Mozart’s Piano
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“So, here you may see Mozart’s fortepiano …” 

……. Such creamy sensuality, this walnut body!
Short keyboard. And the natural keys all black
and pensive, topped with ebony,
the sharps and flats bone-white and prominent –
so contrary to all our expectations.

“… the pedals as you see are now missing …”

……. This then was the door
through which operas and concertos,
opus after opus, ran post-haste
from the tips of his fingers
and into the world and our hearing!

……. Where though is that other door –
unmarked, unnoticed – through which Music,
fresh-faced and eager, came running breathless
from the skirts of the nine Muses
and into his receptive Mind?

“… in this room the young Mozart composed …”

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© John Stevens 2014

Written after visiting the museum in the Mozart Residence, Salzburg. Some websites:

ABC News item with photograph and description:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/mozarts-piano-returns-home-applause/story?id=17674906

Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg (Mozart’s Birthpace and his later Residence where the fortepiano is on display):

http://www.mozarteum.at/en.html

Wikepedia on the fortepiano:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortepiano

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Responses

  1. Hi John,
    Lovely poem,the Mozart Residence must be a sacred place surely! Some of his spirit and those of his old muses surely lingers there, hopping in occasionally through that secret door 🙂

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    • Yes, it has some wonderful items in it Ina besides this fortepiano.

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  2. Well, the turn of this poem took me by surprise! I didn’t think you were open to such questions! This is what I call the “apophatic muse” question (or apophatic form question). Mozart’s brilliance is of course perfectly sometimes numbingly formal from one point of view; from another, it’s consummately mysterious, exalting and humiliating, pure genius. You got ’em both! Cheers to that!

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    • And cheers to you Tom! “So contrary to all (your) expectations”? I’m pleased!

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  3. As I sit here this morning at my own piano, trying to imagine its having only four octaves, and with my eyes closed, touching imaginary reversed keys of white atop black….I am thoroughly enjoying your poem….so pleasing to all the senses. As with your Jane Austen piece, you’ve taken us to the threshold of another spooky door, and an important, lingering question…just lovely.

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    • Thank you Cynthia, very much. I’m pretty sure you would greatly enjoy this museum, and also his birthplace, a separate house and museum in Salzburg.

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  4. Wonderful! Shared on Facebook. 🙂

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    • That’s brilliant! Thank you, I’m delighted.

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  5. I take libertties here, but your mention of Mozart’s birthplace reminds me of the questions around his deathplace, and my youthful travel to Austria and decision to “do” the musicians by visiting their graves at St. Marx cemetery in Vienna. It was a wonderful adventure. Besides the “unknown” of Mozart’s remains, the Beethoven memorial, and all the wondrous sculptures to which we Americans were not accustomed to see in a graveyard, we landed there in time for an actual funeral cortège and joined the mourners. On the trip back to our hotel, the trolley broke down, and we were left quite a while sitting and waiting near a giant billboard that urged: “Trink Coca-Cola!”

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    • Wonderful story Cynthia! Thank you for that.
      I love the reference to ‘St Marx’ – have the Chinese hacked into your spell-checker? 🙂

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      • Das Mozart Grab is in St. Marx. “Marx” is eine alte Form von Markus, St. Markus. 🙂

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  6. Yes, the last stanza makes a nice leap. I like a poem that takes me some place I didn’t expect to go. To see the piano as a door is an interesting simile: at once not equal to the task—since when has the piano been anything like at door—and yet it is useful in that it allows you to open the door into another realm—where Music himself lives. Simple, effective. It leaves one pondering the miracle of [Mozart’s] music and the silence left in the room when the door was closed—and this particular door has indeed closed. I wonder about the interlaced, italicized comments, though. What purpose do they serve? To me they sort of weaken and distract—as intended?

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    • They weren’t there in the first draft Jim. I introduced them as a way of giving the room and the instrument a stronger physical presence. Then I liked the contrast between the two voices: the (imagined) museum guide, all matter-of-fact, and the visitor dreamy and reflective. It works for me still but I would understand if it did not for others.
      As always, I find it helpful to have honest reactions – something to think about for the future as well as retrospectively. So thanks Jim.

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  7. I, too, was captivated by the last stanza. It is interesting to write about the muse. It forces me to think about my own and my attitudes towards it/them. And how I’d love to have access to the doors that open the muse to others’ minds…Mozart’s included. Intriguing poem.

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    • Thanks Anna. It’s nice to hear that the poem resonates for you too.

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  8. John, I’m going to try again. WordPress is unbelievably frustrating sometimes! This is my third effort to comment on this poem.
    What I liked about this is the two voices: That of the somewhat dispassionate tour guide (words in italics) and the contemplations of the object that is being shown as well as on the tour guide’s words. The contrast between the two voices creates a dramatic tension that serves the poem well.
    “So, here you may see Mozart’s fortepiano …”
    But then the poet/observer’s rich, sensual reaction to the just the fact voice:
    Such creamy sensuality, this walnut body!
    Short keyboard. And the natural keys all black
    and pensive, topped with ebony,
    the sharps and flats bone-white and prominent –
    followed in the last line of the stanza the beginning of the contemplation:
    so contrary to all our expectations.
    The contemplation takes a dramatic turn caused by a counterpointel reaction to the just the fact voice in the second stanza. The voice says,
    the pedals as you see are now missing
    But this very absence adds power to the continuation of the contemplation the poet/observer has made in the last line of the first stanza:
    This then was the door
    through which operas and concertos,
    opus after opus, ran post-haste
    from the tips of his fingers
    and into the world and our hearing!
    The pedals seem almost a stimulus to the idea of the fortepiano as the object of creation, the idea that Mozart’s creativity “ran post-haste/from the tips of his fingers,” into the world that existed in his lifetime, but also into “our hearing” so far into a future that Mozart could not have really postulated its sometime existence.
    This expansive thought then runs into an even more expansive question:
    Where though is that other door –
    unmarked, unnoticed – through which Music,
    fresh-faced and eager, came running breathless
    from the skirts of the nine Muses
    and into his receptive Mind?
    Mozart’s fortepiano is missing pedals and is no longer “the door/through which operas and concertos” ran into the world, but Music obviously is more than the instrument, perhaps more than the man himself. Music, “fresh-faced and eager” ran into Mozart’s “receptive mind” “from the skirts of the nine muses,” using Mozart as a door in much the same way that Mozart used the pianoforte as a door.
    This is another way of saying, I think, that composers or poets or artists are only doors that feed upon the larger substance of their art, partially becoming creative based upon their receptiveness to the art (in this case Music) which the act as a door for inside the history of humankind.
    Then the final dramatic, lost in fact, voice:
    “… in this room the young Mozart composed …”
    stating the obvious, but following upon the contemplations of the poet/observer who has discovered in his sight of Mozart’s fortepiano an essential insight into the creation of music and art. The tour voice states the obvious, but misses the essential, mirroring how most of those who tour Mozart’s living space, and even those who listen to Mozart’s genius and the genius of other artists, miss the importance of what they are seeing or hearing or reading.
    This is a complex poem, John, and well worth our contemplation.

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    • I’m touched that you have given such thought to this poem Thomas and that you’ve tried several times to post your detailed comments.
      I’m also delighted because you have picked up on what I was aiming to do. The poem went through several drafts, acquiring extra layers in the process.
      Thank you.

      Like

  9. Anytime you need a bucket of envy johnno, I have plenty. Thanks.

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