Giacinto Scelsi and the Universe

The definite, most likely the ultimate climax of music is Giacinto Scelsi (also in the respect that it makes the term climax appropriate/inappropriate and therefore transcends it). What you hear in the improvisations/compositions of Giacinto Scelsi is the universe. Tender and powerful. Ethereal and abyssal. Sublime and intimate. Uncanny yet ever providing home. Both the deep silence and the glamour/clamor of being. Curved space which makes the infinite. The fluctuations within which the absolute establishes/relates to itself. Space and time are relative, absolute is the ? field from which they emerge. Colours show up, shifting from blue to a more red, then yellow, into the colour of light. Within the pure sound, the OM, distortions arise and transform, that is how the OM relates to itself. Eccentric loops and attractors. The movements, within the whole concept. The compositions/improvisations of Giacinto Scelsi are the Ear of God. Thus spake Zarathustra.

Giacinato Scelsi, Count d`Ayala Valva, was born in 1905. Not much is known about his life for he was a very reclusive man. He was said to have been a beautiful child with long blond hair. As a young man he traveled through Europe, studied in Vienna, had contact with fellows like Salvador Dali or Henri Michaux, married an English aristocrat and traveled to Africa and the Far East. After his divorce and unhappy with his work he fell into existential crisis and had to be hospitalised. As legend goes he spent his days in the mental hospital sitting at the piano and playing a single note. At age 50 his actual period as a highly idiosyncratic composer began and lasted for 25 years. During this time he hardly cared for his ouevre to become published or performed. Shortly before his death in 1988 his work was discovered and became accessible to the public. It was acknowledged that the history of Western music had to be rewritten and that Scelsi was at least a forerunner of Ligeti.

Most music (and most art indeed) is insipid (if it is debatable at all). Yet Scelsi´s music is NOT insipid. Scelsi was not actually avant-garde i.e. something which is fresh and virgin in the first place and then becomes insipid. Scelsi was a loner who tried to connect to the universe. To do so he abandoned composition altogether and supplanted it with improvisation undertaken with help of the piano or the ondioline. He explored the possibilities of sound and its multiple facetes. The purpose of the game was to connect to a higher, transcendent reality.

Those who want to make art but don´t properly know about it say art is about self expression. It don´t!!! Art is basically science, philosophy (and ethics). Science is about the exploration of the rational aspects of existence and art is about the exploration of the irrational aspects of existence. In order to be able to explore the irrational aspects of existence it is true that art is about the self expression of the artist. Yet in the sense that the artist has to cultivate and grow such an important self that his subjectivity obtains objective quality. The great genius is the most subjective and the most objective personality. He is both most idiosyncratic and hyper-normal.

In accordance with his artistic approach Giacinto Scelsi eradicated the traces of his subjectivity. He saw himself as a vessel, as an intermediary. He banned all pictures of him and erased his signature, respectively transformed it into a line under a circle, as a symbol of Eastern provenance. He said all the other composers just want to appear in the newspapers. He did not have any desire for that. He desired experiencing openess of the mind, to the universe, to creation. All the other composers in the Musik-Konzepte series appear with their portraits on the cover. Scelsi appears with the line under the circle.

The journeyman artist wants to express himself. The brillant artist, in addition to that, searches for new modes of expression. The genius, in addition to that, tries to connect with the world. The hyper-genius, in addition to that, tries to connect with the universe. The (hyper-) genius wants to initiate a transformation. He wants to transform material into something new and, in doing so, exposing the core of the subject. It might well be that before his inner eye the (hyper-) genius sees a field of intensity and now wants to initiate a transformation on that field of intensity. He wants to turn the field of intensity inside out, he thinks he will then, in seeing what´s behind it, see what´s at the core of it. That´s what his main activity is. Count Scelsi turned the intensity of sound inside out. The sound now reached infinity. It became the universe.

My favorite record dealer, Gramola am Graben, told me that only once in some years someone comes around and asks for a Scelsi record. #trigger People would say Scelsi is strange, and scary. Yet Scelsi was very healthy, and normal. It´s people who are strange and scary.