The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Friday, August 10, 2007

Les Indes galantes



This is my favorite opera by Jean-Philipe Rameau (1683 - 1764). You can find more information on it in the Wikipedia article.

My exposure to classical and avant-garde music has been very eclectic. After going from Bach to Bali and back again, I finally figured out that my golden age of music is 17th and 18th century France. Perhaps this period most matches one of my aesthetic and philosophical first principles, best summarized by Frederich Nietzsche:

Oh, those Greeks! They knew about living: for this, it is necessary to stop courageously at the surface, at the drapery, at the skin, to worship appearances, to believe in forms, sounds, and words, and the entire Olympus of appearances! Those Greeks were superficial- out of profundity!

-Frederich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

French baroque music for me is profound in its utterly decadent sense of superficialness. Who else could set the Lamentations of Jerimiah for the Office of Tenebrae to such achingly beautiful arrangements like this one? If you've listened to Delalande's De Profundis, you will also get this sense of terrestrial beauty that does not pretend to reach higher than it can go, but the heights it does reach are truly astounding.

Perhaps Lully will never reach the popularity of Bach or Mozart for a variety of reasons (not that Lully is obscure, but still...) Maybe it's because he and his contemporaries are so darn FRENCH (it helps in my case that I have a dash of French in my racial Mexican sopa). There is a sobriety in their aesthetically "superficial" drunkeness, one that is very much at home with being human, and loving human things (unlike Bach, for example, who always wishes to storm the heavens with fugues). If there is a music I can listen to all day long, it is theirs.

3 Comments:

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous James said...

Great post! Any chance we can get your top ten favorite CDs in this category?

 
At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you like other operatic composers of the period? Handel?

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Handel: love the operas. I guess as a cop-out, I would have to say that my favorite opera by Handel is Giulio Ceasare in Aegypto, though its been years since I have listened to Handel operas. I used to collect them like others collect stamps, but that was a long time ago when I had money but no life. My favorite oratorio by Handel is Judas Maccabeus.

Vivaldi has some good operas. And I guess Gluck gets an honorable mention. Purcell is divine. I really never got much into Italian Baroque opera, and I can barely stand Italian 19th century operas, though they have their moments.

 

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