Monday, October 26, 2009


Dear readers,

This is very worth a look -- a setting of Sibelius' tone poem Luonnotar to some beautiful video photography of northern Finland and the Arctic:

Those of you new to this particular piece can read more about Luonnotar here. I had quite forgotten how beautiful this composition was, and the video above reminded me.... Watching the end of it particularly, those towering mountains of ice in the sea, while listening to Sibelius' music, one feels in the presence of an old and terrible beauty.

Few traditions have spoken (or sung) of the beauty of singing and the power of song as the Scandinavians have:

The old man said from the stove:
'Here there has been heard
either heard or seen
ever in this world
no better singing
no more careful cunning man
than when I cooed, I
carolled as a younger man
sang upon the bay's waters
and echoed upon the heaths
cuckoo-called in the spruces
recited in the backwoods.
My voice was great and graceful
my tone very fair:
as a river then it ran
as a stream it flashed
travelled like a ski on snow
a sailing ship on the waves.
But now I cannot recite
nor this can I rightly tell--
what has stifled my great voice
laid my sweet voice low: now it
does not as a river run
nor as waves ripple, but it
is like a harrow among
treestumps, a pine on hard snow
like a sledge on seashore sands
a boat on dry rocks.'

(From the twenty-first book of the Finnish Kalevala, Keith Bosley's translation.)

Such of a love of song shines in modern singers from that region of the world, no less; ABBA's Thank You For the Music comes to mind.

Not that I want to sound superlative -- one might praise the American blues or a number of other traditions for their celebration of the way 'that nothing can capture the heart / as a melody can' as well as the Swedish or the Finnish. But something in me today longs for the subarctic.

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