Poetically Speaking

A new acquaintance gave me a recording of her performance of John Cage-style piano preludes by Christian Wolff, a composer unfamiliar to me. These independent pieces were composed “with the intent of giving the performing pianist space to develop individual ideas.” Between each selection, poems by Friedrich Holderlin (1770-1843) were read by German narrator Bernt Hahn. Not only was I struck by how the Eastman-trained pianist was able to capture the poetry in her music, but I had never heard the German language so beautifully spoken. Although I didn’t know what he was saying, and it was challenging for me to interpret the contemporary music, through both I could feel the essence of the poetry.

The power of imagination and art is at the level of soul, where we do not consciously know what is happening. Therefore, we cannot engineer it, do not need to understand it, nor can we fully stop its effects! ……Perhaps, like the prophetic mystics of all traditions, the great artists of each generation can help us transcend our dualisms and move us beyond the exclusionary frameworks that are comfortable for us . . . if we have the ears to hear or the eyes to see and the willingness to engage! ~ Richard Rohr

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