Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bewitched, enchanted, and downright seduced

Yes, this is about music again, a topic I can't help returning to. And this is one of those fugitive pieces, remembered quite vividly from my childhood: one that wriggled away and escaped. I think it was the title that popped into my head yesterday, in the tiniest bubble possible, but  at first I got it wrong: I thought maybe it was The Amazing Flutist, and I couldn't remember the composer's name.

It took a while. Then when I finally I winkled it out, The Incredible Flutist by Walter Piston, I realized that what we had listened to all those years ago was not even our record. I believe it belonged to my brother, who for some reason toted it home with him when he came back from university. I'd be maybe 10, he'd be maybe 20.


How often did we listen to it? Twice? If that. But if you take the time to listen to this, you'll see why at least parts of it lingered on in my memory. And yes, if you are at all familiar with Stravinsky's Petrushka, you'll likely notice that this is very much in the same mold.

Yet, in place of the frenetic near-delirium of Stravinsky's work, there is an innocence, even a purity in this suite: and some of it is just eye-fillingly beautiful, takes me aback. I don't know all of the story (for this is just a reduction of a full-length ballet score, one that was very rarely performed for some reason), but I can guess that the Flutist was a sort of enchanted/enchanting Pied Piper figure who attracted women rather than rats.


These folk tales often have an underlay of eroticism in them. If you look up the literal meaning of enchant, it means to gain power over someone by casting a verbal spell, an incantation. If you look at words like cantor, it's obvious we're in the realm of sacred (or profane) song. This seems to be implying (or shouting!) that music can be an extremely powerful means of seduction.

Let's not get into Justin Bieber or Mario Lanza or whoever happens to be the heart-throb of the day. Music hath charms, whether sung or piped or fluted. I once knew a man - an incredible man - who played a flute (and a saxophone and a piano and a clarinet and a -) who enchanted me for five years, without his ever knowing it.

So enchantment can even be involuntary. On his side, or her side, or both.

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