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Dear friends,

I often wonder, as I wander... does an artist have to be "alienated?" And sadly this book on Franz Liszt the virtuoso pianist seems to think so:

My misfortune comes from having heard the concerts of angels and having believed that men could understand them.-Belzac's "Gambara"

How wretched, how truly wretched we artists are! We experience momentary flashes when we seem to have an intuitive grasp of the divine, when we can sense its presence within us, like a mystical insight, a supernatural understanding of the harmony of the universe; but as soon as we want to flesh out our sensations, to capture these evanescent flights of the soul, the vision vanishes, the god disappears, and a man is left alone with a lifeless work, one that the crowd's gaze will quickly strip of any lasy illusions it held for him. -Liszt in "Revue et Gazette" who have no brothers among men,... children of God,... exiles from heaven who suffer and sing and whom the world calls "poets."-List to Sand, "Letter d'un bachelier"

It behooves an artist more than anyone else to pitch a tent only for an hour and not to build anything like a permanent residence. Isn't he always a stranger among men? Whatever he does, wherever he goes, he always feels himself an exile. -Marie d'Agoult & Liszt

Exiled by his own decisions, wandering on purpose, knowingly imprudent, everywhere a stranger and everywhere at home. -Franz Liszt quoting Goethe's: "Letters from Italy"

I prefer to think that we just look funny... no not like that! Aaah Nut I mean, we artists just see some things that others don't, and are nuts enough to try and share what we see. See? Eek Visor Googly

Only those who can't see call us alienated! moust Book Idea And as an artist, it is a joy to share what I can. Fun! Bounce UFO jester ...maybe it's because I have a hyper-active funny-bone.. he he.. Roll Eyes Yes chicken Cat2

Love and light being, Teo Do (Re, Mi, Fa, Soul....) Violin CoolDance Hula Violin Colors Colors

Have the heart of a gypsy, and the dedication of a soldier -Beethoven in Beethoven Lives Upstairs


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  • HappyWanderer
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I went looking in my translation of the Tao Te Ching for the line which describes the sage approaching life as something like a stranger in a strange land, or like a newborn child who hasn't yet learned to smile adjusting to new surroundings.

I'd quote it but I think I have a better translation of that passage in the Psychedelic Prayers book which I'll search out in my library.

It seems to me that it doesn't take long for the smile reflex to set in for a newborn baby so I guess it's a specific metaphor.

I can see it.

Where Liszt waxes a bit weird (and you wonder what he may have been partying on - absinthe, maybe?) - is the angst part of it.

I guess that was your point, that you prefer a more positive view of the freak's perspective (i.e. artistic).

It seems wild that he could be so detached from his art that if he was having a bad day (or life is it were) it would color his whole sense of his own performance to where it felt dead to him.

I think for a virtuoso, especially one who practices too much, and doesn't play "for fun" primarily - that the sort of state of mind that Liszt got into is a pitfall.

It is difficult but not impossible to be too much of a weirdo - and maybe knowing the mechanics of what goes into a performace so well that from time to time the experience of delivering the performance will seem "lifeless" to the artist. This is not a unique experience to Liszt but is a common experience of certain genuises that you'll hear them all speak of at some point in a career. Better in the beginning or middle than at the end of a career to be alienated from one's own art.

Given his music and the intricacy of his embellishments (which he took to more of an extreme than his friend Fred Chopin) - it's not entirely surprising that his sense of his art was a little dreary on some days.

I think you run into the same complaint from performers, where audiences and patrons have one idea of why they are there at a performance and what they are listening to - as opposed to - let's say, what they like and are familiar with. A bad audience, or one with expectations to hear something they like and it isn't on your program - it can make an artist feel like he is just gyrating and whacking keys.

In classical salons, it's not like a reggae band or something else fusionary coming to Askenaz where everyone quickly falls into a groove, audience and performers alike.

There are conventions in classical traditions that can be a bit stiff.

You shouldn't clap between movements. That is an example. The fact is that in some circumstances the same alienating context affects art, even contempory performances.

I think if you can get the spontaneous thing happening whether it's classical or popular a composer or artist can create something playful and interesting in terms of it's consciousness of scale, key, timbres, orchestrations, voicings, rhythms, and all the other ingredients that are on the composer's palette.

You'll find an appreciative audience somewhere - even if it's just the geese by the lake, or a small herd of deer on the side of Mt. Tam. I think the Japanese have the right idea playing shakuhachi flute for the deer.

A human audience can be equally receptive.

It maybe a bit rare. Sometimes humans surprise us too. All the above have to have some sense of being a bit sensitive (your sense that a visionary can be "over"- visionary) and a good audience will approach a performance as something a bit new and strange. In my view that makes the music alive, not dead.

I think I'd want to read what Liszt wrote in the whole context of that passage to get the full drift of what he was getting at. He may have been prone to becoming depressed.

Or it could be he ligitimately felt that from time to time he was a bit detached from his art and it no longer seemed alive to him.


That's really all I can conclude.

I'd have to speculate if he may have felt that way from not enough, or too much absinthe - or not enough of what Berlioz liked to smoke. I think Berlioz was a bit later, if not that much later. I wonder if they crossed paths.

Same town. I love Paris in the winter, when it shivers.

Viva Franz Liszt!
Viva Franz Kafka. . .
Viva Maria (Brigitte Bardot).

Hat 2Hearts
Thank you Teo.
Just keep being your nutty, artistic self Violin Let the notes fly, as long as you don't break the piano Bang

Liszt may have felt alienated at times, but I think he was able to overcome it and accept it as the artists' lot in life.

When I think of Liszt as a creative artist, he appears before my eyes rouged, on stilts, and blowing into Jericho trumpets fortissimo and pianissimo.
-- Frédéric Chopin, quoted in Walter Beckett, Liszt (1963)

When he sits at the piano and having repeatedly pushed his hair back over his brow, begins to improvise, then he often rages all too madly upon the ivory keys and lets loose a deluge of heaven-storming ideas, with here and there a few sweet flowers to shed fragrance upon the whole. One feels both blessedness and anxiety, but rather more anxiety...
-- Heinrich Heine, quoted in Walter Beckett, Liszt (1963)

With Liszt, one no longer thinks of difficulty overcome; the instrument disappears and music reveals itself.
-- Heinrich Heine, quoted in Walter Beckett, Liszt (1963)

Violin 2Hearts CoolDance Wall Kick bat Violin 2Hearts Angel2 Wall Fire Juggle Violin Doggy Love2
Last edited by Inda
Thank you Teo.
This is all very well put.
Artists have always been alienated wanderers, to a degree.

I like this quote from your post:

It behooves an artist more than anyone else to pitch a tent only for an hour and not to build anything like a permanent residence. Isn't he always a stranger among men? Whatever he does, wherever he goes, he always feels himself an exile. -Marie d'Agoult & Liszt.


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