Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sensual Disentanglement

This Saturday marked the joint festivities of the Lucerne City Festival and Lucerne Altstadtfest in one day, topped off by the yearly grand fireworks in the evening. Set over the bay of lake Lucerne, they can comfortably be seen from almost any point along the city’s shoreline, though the real clou is the fireworks being synchronised to music – the latest vogue in fireworks, already old in fact, that has quickly become a must-have for almost any pyrotechnical show.

What, though, of the fireworks? Firstly, I wished I could have seen them, once again, as the very first fireworks I’ve ever beheld. The sad routine of experience and expectation degraded this well done performance into mere flashes of colour, accompanied by their respective thuds and grumbles. Why, I wondered while I tried to open my eyes a little wider than usual, does it have to feel so used, so same-old same-old, when in fact it still is something very special and outstanding to behold? It would have been nice to format that certain memory, before the occasion, and experience the whole thing as a first, again, with respective goose-bumps and day-long remembrance on my retina. I most vividly remember the feeling after my first day riding rollercoasters, lying in bed in the evening, as a child, still feeling the thrill with my whole body, riding the coaster again and again in my head, until I fell asleep.

What, though, of the music?  I am prepared to give Händel his much deserved allowance and excuse for composing such an exquisite accompaniment to fireworks as he did in his Music for the Royal Fireworks, but mid-18th century has been a very different time of perception, at least for me. Then underscoring (royal!) fireworks with music must have been a suitable means of rounding off the occasion and, maybe, enhancing and retouching any shortcomings in the actual pyrotechnics. But nowadays, isn’t it a shame to stand there, already mostly apathetic to true emotional explosions to go with the real-world ones, and have ones senses be further polluted by (on top if it: cheesy) music supposedly in synch with the visuals? Is not one sense and a bit of the rest enough to get us excited? It feels as if we are see-sawing ourselves into more and more of multi-sense pollution to stir whatever emotional response we have for things that much to quickly have become happenings of every-day life and repetition to us.

So I would like, if I may, to invite the though for an imaginary minimalist fireworks. Set on a lake, maybe, or a different landscape with sufficient auditory qualities and a clear view, against the backdrop of a, preferably, slightly hazy night sky (this being an occasion to steal the stars’ show for a while), it requires absolute natural silence from both the audience and the performance itself. No musical underscore, no fanfares, no narration. The audience stands or sits quietly, as in any regular performance and appreciation of (classical) music (yes, coughs and sneezes are, naturally, always included) and all is left for pure fireworks. Solely the sounds of explosions fill our ears, and all else is left for our eyes to take over, take in, fill our minds and foreheads with. Not overly glanderous bouquets of rockets going off to fill the whole scenery, but continuing the minimalist intention, single shots fired, viewed and left their respective time and stage-time. To really take in one thing at a time. Would that not be very desirable, at least sometimes? I very much think so.

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