Saturday, 24 January 2009

Further thoughts on Carmina Burana

Thanks to Operachic (see below and link at right), I've been thinking of Carmina Burana again. Little wonder it's used in movies and adverts –instant arousal, mass behaviour. Which poses the question of how music can be used for different ways. Also about interpretation and performance. As an insight into medieval (and other) life, CB is fair enough. The Middle Ages were brutal. If you were lucky you got high on ergot and died by the age of 40 anyway. Dionysian riot probably meant even more to grim lives. The picture above is Breughel, The Battle between Carneval and Lent. Eat, drink and be merry for Lent is coming and with it, hardship. And you might not be around by Easter. Click on the picture, it expands so you can see the detail. The Greeks and Romans did things like that, too, so there's a context to the yob mindlessness of our times.

If Carmina Burana is performed in something like the O2 dome there is no way it's going to be about music and history. A stadium that size means spectacle, mass hysteria, the equivalent of a Party rally with roaring mob and fixed certainty. What people are responding to isn't the music. At least the po-faced "noble" Fischer-Dieskau version doesn't whip the crowds to emotional violence. Medieval people did faith as an escape from chaos and suffering. Lack of inhibition was OK if you could cloak it as religion or the anti-religion of superstition. So imagine an interpretation that goes beyond narrow "Nazi"connotations and opens out the wider context. In many ways it's even more disturbing as it means there's evil in all of us if we aren't careful. There are lots of "nazis" around even if they use different ideologies. The Buddhist belief in reincarnation comes from the idea that we are here on earth to learn from past mistakes. Step on a cockroach and in the next life, you'll be a cockroach. So presumably a bad cockroach comes back as bacteria. Cheer up, back to the Youtube Carmina Burana below.

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