lunes, 22 de junio de 2009

Knoxville, Summer of 1915...

... es una rapsodia para soprano y orquesta escrita por el gran compositor norteamericano Samuel Barber (1910-1981) en 1947. El texto está extraído del cuento del mismo título escrito por James Agee (1909-1955) en 1938.

Agee, más conocido por sus guiones para las películas "La Reina de África" y "La noche del cazador", rememora en su cuento una noche de verano de 1915, cuando tenía cinco años, en Knoxville, Tennessee. El cuento es profundamente nostálgico, entre otras cosas porque al año siguiente, 1916, el padre de Agee murió en un accidente de tráfico, un evento que según el propio Agee cambió su vida por completo.

Barber, que era un contemporáneo estricto de Agee (se llevaban apenas cinco meses), se sintió profundamente conmovido por su texto, que le permitió canalizar su propio dolor por el rápido declinar y fallecimiento de su padre en 1947 a través de la composición de la obra.

Tanto el texto como la rapsodia son auténticas obras maestras del Siglo XX.

Adjunto el texto de Agee conforme fue seleccionado por Barber:

"We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in that time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child." (esta frase no está musicada por Barber, pero constituye el pórtico de la obra)

"...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.

Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.

Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes....

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there.…They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am."

El texto de Agee es maravilloso, especialmente los dos últimos párrafos (Agee afirmaba que lo había escrito de un tirón, y ciertamente lo parece). Obsérvese la combinación de las dos voces: la del niño de cinco años y la del adulto, y cómo esa mezcla de distancia y cercanía es excepcionalmente efectiva.

En cuanto a la música de Barber, en YouTube se puede encontrar la canónica interpretación de Leontyne Price, musa de Barber, en 1968 (lamentablemente truncada): aquí la parte 1 y aquí la parte 2. Quizá el momento más emocionante de la obra es el tratamiento general del penúltimo párrafo por parte de Barber, con especial enfásis en el extraordinario estallido de amor en la frase "one is my mother who is good to me, one is my father who is good to me", y a continuación la plegaria del pequeño por toda su familia. Una vez más, maravilloso.