Duncan McGibbon, Poet


Unsaying Joy, The Poetry of Anne-Marie Fyfe.




            Anne-Marie Fyfe has a way with ghosts and her poetry conserves the power she has to address them and by addressing them she addresses us. Her first séance was a collection of twelve poems called “A House by the Sea” which she brought out in 1995. She takes us into this house by summoning its absent population on a long journey called childhood over uncontrollable seas. She disarms rhetoric by stealing a few devices and using them well. In an interview Matthew Sweeney once referred to his poetry as an ‘imagistic narrative.’ Her rhetoric tells the narrative of absence through such images as the flicker of car headlights, the amassing of domestic detail, the metonymic enchantment of numbers, the piety of a landscape and its sensuous detail. She tracks the memory of a loved one, a father, a husband, her children, through the implications of popular songs, the ambiguity of recollection and the power of the unstated. Unlike Seamus Heaney, she does not evoke collective identity, but intimate, familial belonging. Throughout her work she maintains an assured femininity.   

            In “Late Crossing,” (1999), she evokes the lost through the living and the living through the lost. Death is brought in so frequently it becomes her familiar, a boundary for relationships that defines an angered love. To read her poems is to know the ambiance the remark comes from. Yet in a poem such as, “Midnight Mass” the concern is peripheral to the relationship with those she fears, accuses and loves.


            It happened during the final hymn

            in the front row of the side chapel,

            faces from years, years back, stood


            to sing – a veil of hope,

            the weary world rejoices

The kind that, living,

            would have huddled at the back

            skipped communion to light up.


                                 The fragment from the hymn, ‘Oh Holy Night’ is in fact a misquote. The line in the hymnbook runs “a thrill of hope.” for Anne-Marie Fyffe

hope is a veil that gives the disembodied an unreal, yet warrantable embodiment. In the same poem she orders the ghosts “Down ! / On your knees,” yet the hymnbook has ‘fall.’ Not for her the inner motion of faith, but the command of a poet that the ghosts should amend their deaths, their absence. In “Where There Is Hope” from the same collection, the virtue lies in the unseen life within her, an embodiment of the future that mirrors the boundary between the dead and the living. The fourth section of “Late Crossing” sits uneasily in the context of the preceding poems of childbirths and family life. The Neruda quote, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines,” does not legitimise the reprint of most of the “House By The Sea” poems in this section. The poem that titles the collection is in fact a re- titling of “Christmas Journey” and it loses the Isiaian and seasonal connection with the lines;

             where a sole harbour lamp

            signals an end to

            the longest night.
                                               The beautiful and unreal ritual of her father’s death sits uncomfortably with the angry vitality of the rest of her second book. Yet ghosts I suppose cannot rest any more between the pages of a book, than they can in their graves.   


            Poetry is the relationship of an utterance and its hearer. In “Tickets From A Blank Window” what we hear changes again to an utterance of loss as a concrete displacement. The images mutate from the Acmeist taughtness of “Leavetaking” to a more Poundian restlessness. In “Montana”, Anne-Marie Fyffe pays homage to the American archetype of her journey metaphor. Yet the journey is now more forced.


            the only other travelling my way

            is tight on my tail gate.

                                              past memories have come back to insist. This is why the collection focuses on the living, forced into a death, displaced in time, territory and habitation. The poems depict a helplessness in the human condition. The old, the bereaved, the homeless and the sick must sit out their deaths.  The sea has come inland. Revisitings are revisited.  There is less time for the definite or the indefinite article. The tender concern of “Fledgling” is less vocal than the strident, Plathean voice of “The Elephant Game”. Only in the last section does the pace even out, where the death of her mother is evoked in poems of great beauty. The reality of death confers a greater concreteness, but also a greater complexity of language on her style. In “Chartreuse” she continues the theme of displacement, but with a greater confidence.

                                                        I search

            The night-long map for a woman

            wearing my mother’s face. Her face.


            In “The Ghost Twin” (2005), she addresses us by addressing herself. In the first section she successively invades her self as a writer, as she travels, visits prisons, her mother, the homeless, attempts at brief encounters in Aldebrugh and takes the underground. A sense of real unreality, or rather a concrete meaninglessness also invades her. Pigeons, a child-like mechanical contraption (stair lift?) which is a melancholy baby without “the birds in the trees” and with canonised children’s characters, unannounced devices and a street shooting noticed, but unnoticed by a  woman shopping for shoes all tell that reality is unreal enough. It is enough to witness it. Numbers abound, naming buses, trains, films, devotions and starved relationships. The language is sharp, multi -faceted and full of energy. The Cardiff prize-winning, “Curacao Dusk” with its bald narrative is neithersurreal” nor an “honest admission that walking out of our front doors of a morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century often feels rather like this.” (Martyn Crucifix in Magma 34) It is an unconsoled and unconsoling witness to an unreality in life that challenges the unreality that death creates. It rejoices in unsaying joy. Mourning has become a brilliant defiance.

             Yet the same journey of images runs immanently through the collection.  The final section concludes with a return to the sea journey. Yet it is navigated with unparalleled stylistic power. The words snap and hiss with a confident originality. The displaced persona who is the ghost twin retraces the late crossing to the house by the sea. On the way the intense solipsism of a child who is herself is conveyed with a new intensity. You feel she is no longer alone. Addressing herself as another, she challenges the shibboleths of her childhood with a new vigour and arrives at her point of departure which is another unassuming, anti- Hemingwayan departure.


               “…Limousines ease into a thrum

               of homefaring strangers. The sun also sets.”

                                                                                    Poetry can only succeed if it can access the ghostly inexistence we call diction. Her words do not make the power of her poetry. They are events that address us. Their power in is in the address.



Duncan McGibbon ?30/03/06


Homage to the Oboe



Part One: The Myth of the Reed


Poets praise the oboe because its sound fuses together words and music in the myth of the blown reed. Poets share two difficult vowels in a digraph, with the name of the most mythologised of musical instruments, the oboe: poet, oboe: word-myth and sound -myth.


First let’s hear the oboe. Our music is drawn from Twentieth Century English music for solo oboe. Listen to Mary Chandler (1911-1996),who studied under Leon Goosens and Harold Craxton, create a sound-myth of the dawn from her suite Summer’s Lease, written in 1981. Its potential for rising from low to high notes evokes the emergence from night of urgent clear images in the day.


1. Dawn: Mary Chandler http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/w/11403/Mary-Chandler-Summer%27s-Lease


2. That harsh, dignified, yet wild tone is unique among instruments. Now let’s hear the reaction of a poet, in a word-myth, to the sound of the oboe. In the East an instrument called the shawm also shared the myth of the reed. In the poems of the great Twelfth Century poet and Islamic theologian, Rumi, humanity is a reed blown by the wind in the wilderness. This echoes the biblical accounts not only of the exultant shawm and pipe (Exodus 30.11, 1 Kings 1.40, Isa 5.12, and Matthew 11.17) but of the as the ‘bruised reed’of Isa 42:3, as well and of the “ reed” broken in the wind in Luke 7:24, which inspired Pascal’s definition of man as a “thinking reed” in his Pensée. The human reed’s longing for God makes it sound across the silence of desolation. Here is Rumi’s rubai  in the modern edition, A rubais is a four-lined verse, or quatrain:


The sound of music from day to night,

a quietness with a brightening;

a song from the reed in plight’

If the song ceases, we cease outright.


3.Let’s hear another evocation. This time of Spring. First Grace of Light was written by Sir Peter Maxwell-Davis (b. 1934) and first performed on 7 November 1991, at the BBC Concert Hall, London, in memory of Janet Craxton. A passage of themes probes the power of the oboe. The piece takes its inspiration from a poem by George Mackay-Brown that celebrates the first grace of light in the Orkney daffodils that bloom in the early Spring:


Spindrifting blossoms

from the gray comber of March

thundering on the world

splash our rooms coldly with

first grace of light… (Play)


4. What we call the “Conservatoire” instrument, otherwise known as the Gillet (Geelay) key system with its forty-five pieces of keywork, can still trace its origins to the impact, on the returning Crusaders, of the Arabic Zurna, a relative of the Shawm,  in the 11th Century. However, the history of this sound is older than that. We have no poetry to hand that could bring alive the sound of  the Egyptian double flute, or the Cycladic one. We have little, or no, music for the Greek flute, the Aulos. Instead we have the words on the power of words and music, of a Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barret-Browning


A Musical Instrument


What was he doing, the great god Pan,

 Down in the reeds by the river?

Spreading ruin and scattering ban,

Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,

And breaking the golden lilies afloat

 With the dragon-fly on the river.


He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,

 From the deep cool bed of the river:

The limpid water turbidly ran,

And the broken lilies a-dying lay,

And the dragon-fly had fled away,

 Ere he brought it out of the river.


High on the shore sat the great god Pan

 While turbidly flowed the river;

And hacked and hewed as a great god can,

With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,

Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed

 To prove it fresh from the river.


He cut it short, did the great god Pan,

 (How tall it stood in the river!)

Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,

Steadily from the outside ring,

And notched the poor dry empty thing

 In holes, as he sat by the river.


"This is the way," laughed the great god Pan

 (Laughed while he sat by the river),

"The only way, since gods began

To make sweet music, they could succeed."

Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,

 He blew in power by the river.


Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!

 Piercing sweet by the river!

Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!

The sun on the hill forgot to die,

And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly

 Came back to dream on the river.


Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,

 To laugh as he sits by the river,

Making a poet out of a man:

The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, --

For the reed which grows nevermore again

 As a reed with the reeds in the river.


The principle composition which we are going to hear celebrates a Latin poet, Ovid, whose Metamorphoses  were written in fifteen books, probably around AD 8. The Latin reed- instrument he would have known was the tibia which was also the name of the shank-bone. Ancient fragments of animal bone have been found, dating thousands of years back, with piercings that could have been for sounding notes. However, the tibia too was sounded through a reed and it also developed from the Etruscan subulo. Hence the association of the tibia with Pan’s attempted seduction of Srynx who was transformed into reeds which Pan then plucked and let the nymph sound her pain through the notes.


Six Metamorphoses after Ovid was written by Bemjamin Britten (1913-1976) in 1951. Its opening piece portrays the eponymous, anarchic God of the oboe. The movement is marked Senza misura, or "without measure."This, combined with its frequent phrase-ending fermatas, or long holds, gives the piece an ad libitum feel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh96omI0bYE



(Read)5. Pan from Metamorphoses


6. Here is William Golding’s Elizabethan translation of the story:


Among the hillés of Arcadié, that Syrinx had to name.

Of all the Nymphes of Nonacris and Fairie farre and neere,

In beautie and in personage thys Ladie had no peere.

Full often had she given the slippe both to the Satyrs quicke

And other Gods that dwell in Woods, and in the Forrests thicke,

Or in the fruitfull fieldés abrode: It was hir whole desire

To follow chaste Dianas guise in Maydenhead and attire,

Whome she did counterfaite so nighe, that such as did hir see

Might at a blush have taken hir Diana for to bee,

But that the Nymph did in hir hande a bowe of Cornell holde,

Whereas Diana evermore did beare a bowe of golde.

And yet she did deceyve folke so. Upon a certaine day

God Pan with garland on his headé of Pinetree, sawe hir stray

From Mount Lyceus all alone, and thus to hir did say:

Unto a Gods request, O Nymph, voucésafe thou to agree

That doth desire thy wedded spouse and husband for to bee.

There was yet more behindé to tell: as how that Syrinx fled,

Through waylesse woods and gave no eare to that that Pan had sed,

Untill she to the gentle streame of sandie Ladon came,

Where, for bicause it was so deepe, she could not passe the same,

She pit’ously to chaunge hir shape the water Nymphes besought:

And how when Pan betweene his armes, to catch the Nymph had thought,

In steade of hir he caught the Reedes newe growne upon the brooke,

And as he sighed, with his breath the Reedés he softly shooke

Which made a still and mourning noyse, with straungnesse of the which

And sweetenesse of the feeble sounde the God delighted mich,

Saide: Certessé, Syrinx, for thy sake it is my full intent,

To make my comfort of these Reedes wherein thou doest lament:

And how that there of sundrie Reedes with wax together knit,

He made the Pipe which of hir name the Greekes call Syrinx yet.



Marked Vivace ritmico, the second movement of Britten’s Metamorphoses  explores Phaeton's ride on the chariot of his father, the sun god, Helios. The inexorable, rhythmic eighth notes evoke images of this ride, first ascending as Phaeton soars too high, then descending as he plummets to Earth. The sense of fate is a particularly Greek, proper to the aulos, whose fated breath turned to sound is always grim in the hands of mortals.


7. Phaeton



8. Incidentally, the use of the name Syrinx to describe Debussy’s flute composition was not his but an editor’s. The composer and the writer of L’Après-Midi D’Une Faune knew the proper myth. As the next poem makes clear, the reed is essential to the myth. In 490 BC, Midas of Akritas was given first prize at the Pythian games for playing the aulos. Pindar, the elegiac poet wrote this ode in his praise.


12th Pythian Ode




Woman of a city where Persephone lives, that loves its grace,

the earth’s finest among those who must die,

I beg of you, you who occupy handsome houses

in the hill country over the plain of Acragas,

where sheep graze, I beg of you lady,


Take in this trophy that Pytho’s victory won.

that praises Midas. I beg of you

take the man too, the best in Hellas

in the skill Pallas Athena found

when she sewed into sound the bitter sorrow

of the Gorgons,




whom Perseus heeded,

dropping in measured agony

under the vile snake-curls

of the chaste girls whose third sister

he slaughtered to slaughter again

the men and women of island Seriphos.

Yes, it was he who struck blind

the perverse race of Phorcus

and settled fatal nuptials

on Polydectes to repay

her drawn-out bondage forced

on his mother’s bridal bed:

Yes it was he lopped off the poll

of beautiful Medusa, he, Perseus,




the son of Danae, whom

men speak of as born from

a chance tempest of molten gold.

Yet once the virgin deity freed

that hero we love, she gave birth

to the singing oboes’ many-voices

so the hoarse grief of Euryale

heard from her jabbering mouth

should echo in a melody,

found for death- foundered man.

She dubbed the drone many-headed,

that treasured aulos sound

that calls the people to contest.

as it swells through thin bronze




blown on bound reeds

found by the river-meadows of Kaphisos,

that nymph who dwells there

by the choral-squared city

that honours the Graces.

who shadow all dance with their reeds

The merit of men, if ever won,

is never without strife.

Yet a God perfects it, even to-day.

None can escape his fate,

but in time one wish is granted,

yet another taken away.


9. The picture of the reeds growing in the river at Orchomenos is that of a desolate place, inhabited by the mousai, the wastes, where the muses celebrated unchallenged. It deliberately parallels the Homeric view that the aulos was the instrument of the country, whereas the lyre was of the town, so much so that Plato and Aristotle, not often ones to agree, both banned the instrument from their ideal republics because of its wild associations.


The myth signifies the struggle between the citharoedic, or string-based and auloedic, or wind-based, styles of music, of which the former was connected with the worship of Apollo, and the latter with the orgiastic rites of Cybele, (Kibelli)which paralleled those of Bacchus. Yet as for respectability,the aulos was the symbol of Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry, not the lyre, which was the symbol of Erato, the erotic muse. The counter-myth of Marsyas shows us Athena throwing away the aulos that comforted the Gorgons because it distorted her mouth. Marsyas picks it up, is abused by Athene and challenges Apollo. In punishment, he is skinned alive,a fate he apparently survives. Respectability also returned in the association of the Roman piferari’s oboe with the shepherds at the birth of Christ from music such as Bach’s Symphonia in the Christmas Cantata all the way to Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ.


We’re going to hear Britten’s third piece now, Niobe. In contrast to the previous movement, the third takes a slower Andante tempo. Marked piangendo, or "weeping", the piece is stylistically intended to evoke images of Niobe's tears. Towards the end, this figure becomes increasingly dramatic before ultimately dying away:


9. Niobe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMzrVYM6Bpo&feature=related


The association of the oboe with specific lament, especially of unrequited love, is one of the most enduring in the mythology of musical instruments. Salvatore Quasimodo’s haunting elegy Oboe Sommerso captures the desolation of heart-break


Clutching hurt

put off your notice

in my hour now, thirsty with loss.

An oboe metres

cold joy

that pleases leafage outside time

that is mindless and not mine:

evening falls inside me,

it is the settling of water

and from my hands stained with grass,

wings dart in a hollow sky

the shuddered heart drifts,

to leave me bare

to the debris of my daytime.



10. Bacchus is the title of the fourth piece in Britten’s suite. The voice of Marsyas too is evident. The piece's lively character is divided into four sections, marked Allegro pesante, Più vivo, Tempo primo, and Con moto, respectively: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN8hD3Cfce0



The mediaeval shawm and the Spanish dulzaina derive from the Islamic shawm.The baroque oboe first appeared in the mid-17th century, when it was called the hautbois. Pronounced oh bois, in France, this name was also used for the shawm, from which the basic form of the hautbois was derived. Major differences between the two instruments include the division of the hautbois into three sections, or joints (which allowed for more precise manufacture), the elimination of the pirouette, the wooden ledge below the reed which allowed players to rest their lips, and the wind-cap, a cap placed over the reed that enabled shawm players to produce greater volume. Dryden praises the ‘hautboy’ in his Alexander’s Feast


The praise of Bacchus, then, the sweet musician sung;

Of Bacchus ever fair, and ever young.

The jolly god in triumph comes;

Sound the trumpets, beat the drums; [50]

Flushed with a purple grace

He shows his honest face:

Now, give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.

Bacchus, ever fair and young,

Drinking joys did first ordain; [55]

Bacchus' blessings are a treasure,

Drinking is the soldier's pleasure;

Rich the treasure,

Sweet the pleasure,

Sweet is pleasure after pain. [60]


Bacchus' blessings are a treasure,

Drinking is the soldier's pleasure;

Rich the treasure,

Sweet the pleasure,

Sweet is pleasure after pain. [65] which Handel set to music almost half a century later with exquisite parts for the oboes.


11 . Narcissus

The fifth and longest movement, Narcissus, is marked Lento piacevole, or "slow and pleasant," and evokes images of the titular character's tranquil fixation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp3Qj-PH-jA&feature=related



12. This brings the hautbois indoors where, due to its more refined sound and style of playing, it took up a permanent place in the orchestra, where it receives the close attention of mirthful poets. From Dame Edith Sitwell let’s hear


What the Goose-Girl Said About the Dean


Turn again, turn again,

Goose Clothilda, Goosie Jane.


Bright wooden waves of people creak

From houses built with coloured straws

Of heat; Dean Pasppus (Passpuses )long nose snores

Harsh as a hautbois, marshy-weak.


The wooden waves of people creak

Through the fields all water-sleek.


And in among the straws of light

Those bumpkin hautbois-sounds take flight.


Whence he lies snoring like the moon

Clownish-white all afternoon.


Beneath the trees’ arsenical

Sharp woodwind tunes; heretical—


Blown like the wind’s mane

(Creaking woodenly again).


His wandering thoughts escape like geese

Till he, their gooseherd, sets up chase,

And clouds of wool join the bright race

For scattered old simplicities.


from Coterie, 1919



13.Arethusa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12kJSrD6lVo&feature=related



Britten concludes his work with a pleasant and meandering piece that evokes images of the beautiful Arethusa and the flowing water of the fountain she became.


14….and now in the noontide of the instrument, with the long flowing notes of  Noon by Mary Chandler from ther earlier  suite, we’ll take a break.




Part Two :the Tone of the Real


15. Dawn (Cold, Grey Light and First Stirrings) 1:16 Welcome back. We are going to depart from the myth of the reed to turn to the oboe’s power to ennoble sad reality. So let’s have a colder dawn; word truth and sound truth The second extended piece is by Paul Reade (1943 -1997) called Aspects of a Landscape.  He begins with a raw and un-traditional evocation of dawn. The association with mourning a lost one is made more poignant in the alliance of the oboe’s timbre with the human voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUk9UANoFWw


This my poem of mourning, my words of truth.


16.Elegy for Barbara M. Pedder


I’d thought you’d showed me most of what I knew

until your unseen loss; people die; they go.

As kids, day-long, we’d pester and pursue

our Mum and Dad for news when you would show.

Mum’s little sister dressed in pattern-book Dior

who brought us ten-inch, forces-discount records,

adding a laughter to Middlesbrough’s bore .

We felt the life, the oboe in your words

and heard The King And I, the Oistrakhs.

My first Kodak shot was the last of you.

That thoughtful loveliness, so marked the tracks

that day by Brock Hill Road we stumbled the view;

the sea alive there, skylarks, the quarry,

a boy, grass under mesmerising blue;

you were a harrier attacking worry

on that lea hill in summer-tranquil Kent.

I empathised the way you saw, then thought

and did not merely note what routine sent.

We left you alone there that soft autumn.

My father told us all that you had gone,

whom we had left alive, your aging un-begun.

Averse to homework, I kept the TV on,

watching costumed pirates singing crap.

Dad let me, knowing silence would weigh hard;

your raw, final lesson’s stinging gap

a final crack whose hollowness I guard.

Nothing’s worth it, (Did I do nothing from then on?)

Nothing is to note your friendship’s wonder gone.


Out of a landscape, birdsong is another real association, often cruel and competitive.:


17 Birdsong 0:34 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUk9UANoFWw


18. The 19th C French poet, Baudelaire has the instrument evoke a conceptual, but pastoral landscape in a poem that most critics regard as the first to be truthful of the Modern Age. His aesthetic reverberations behave like poetic birds.




All nature forms a shrine from posts that live

to utter words that ring confused from time to time.

We track a symbol-forest, yet sublime

that peers at us through knowing eyes to give,

like distant echoes long and intertwined

of some deep and shadowed universal,

as vast as night and daylight in reversal

The scents, the colours and the tones combined,

those pelt-perfumes so fresh in an infant,

as soft as oboes, as green as meadows

and others rotten, rich and exultant,

that stretch to where infinity flows,

like amber, musk, incense and benjamin

that sing enrapt, of soul and sense within.


So let Baudelaire’s symbols sing!


19. Bird-Movements 0:42 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUk9UANoFWw


20.In Asides on the Oboe Wallace Stevens sets up a stark conundrum. Written between the wars, it witnesses the death of Gods (Boucher is the anthropologist not the painter) and the fading of their power. Yet suffering releases a power to the philosopher’s man, for whom cuckoos call on the eve of Fascism that has grim earnestness.



The prologues are over. It is a question, now,

Of final belief. So, say that final belief

Must be in a fiction. It is time to choose.

That obsolete fiction of the wide river in

An empty land; the gods that Boucher killed;

And the metal heroes that time granulates -

The philosophers' man alone still walks in dew,

Still by the sea-side mutters milky lines

Concerning an immaculate imagery.

If you say on the hautboy man is not enough,

Can never stand as a god, is ever wrong

In the end, however naked, tall, there is still

The impossible possible philosophers' man,

The man who has had the time to think enough,

The central man, the human globe, responsive

As a mirror with a voice, the man of glass,

Who in a million diamonds sums us up.




He is the transparence of the place in which

He is and in his poems we find peace.

He sets this peddler's pie and cries in summer,

The glass man, cold and numbered, dewily cries,

"Thou art not August unless I make thee so."

Clandestine steps upon imagined stairs

Climb through the night, because his cuckoos call.




One year, death and war prevented the jasmine scent

And the jasmine islands were bloody martyrdoms.

How was it then with the central man? Did we

Find peace? We found the sum of men. We found,

If we found the central evil, the central good.

We buried the fallen without jasmine crowns.

There was nothing he did not suffer, no; nor we.


It was not as if the jasmine ever returned.

But we and the diamond globe at last were one.

We had always been partly one. It was as we came

To see him, that we were wholly one, as we heard

Him chanting for those buried in their blood,

In the jasmine haunted forests, that we knew

The glass man, without external reference.


Now the musician himself in Oboe Trials, reads his own poem about the truth of competitive exam-trials, between two portrayals of birds.


21.Sun Dance (Two Birds In The Sunlight) 1:15 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TlxTnMGT7o&feature=related



22.Oboe Trials

For Michael Britton,

Manager at T.W. Howarth and Co. Ltd., London


Questing for that authentic and

truly original sound,

beautiful, yet not beautiful

Elemental physicality and ringing


Universal in aspect but individual

in its shaping and projection

A heroic task where many of the

noviciate have fallen hitherto

A seemingly endless round of

proving and reproving

Forgive the longueurs and cut to

the chase

Caveat Emptor

Requiem in pace


23. Conflict (Birds Fighting) 0:58 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TlxTnMGT7o&feature=related


The voice of Rumi creates a metaphysical landscape that expresses the conflicts within his Islamic belief.


24. Ghazal 2765; Wailing and Drunk Like a Reed Flute

As the flame’s rapture rises you will dance,

you whose hearts the moths entrance.

It moves, then, the body, when the sleeper’s soul returns?

When the spirit comes back your life will advance

When the apocalyptic music burns

on the massive mount, its echo sets you askance.

How can dust hold when the sun yearns

and Spring breeze wants to dance with a branch?

Flame and fumes are twisted by he who discerns

the face of one who grows souls not by chance.

Moon, idol, wrought from the unbodied force that gurns

with a joke and a farce, the sweet wound will lance.

It shortens us. It raises us in turns,

the shadow of the phoenix’s glance

We wail as drunken as a shawm reed

on beloved lips riding the wind See straw prance,

wobbling in the path of an amber bead !

My heart blood, fat as the gnat, I lance,

boiled to a liver-pottage, soaked in mead.

We are alone with our ecstasy’s need

in the shouting crowd who trample plants:

coarse servants without, yet the God indeed.

I give you this from humble King Tabriz,

so god-filled in his mighty trance.


25. Lament 1:38 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i9I1Oj-n9A&feature=related



26. Tennyson’s Dying Swan needs no introduction! There is some sense of an entire way of looking at life suffering a change. Note the orientalism in the description of the shawm and yet The plain was grassy, wild and bare,

Wide, wild, and open to the air,

Which had built up everywhere

An under-roof of doleful gray.

With an inner voice the river ran,

Adown it floated a dying swan,

And loudly did lament.

It was the middle of the day.

Ever the weary wind went on,

And took the reed-tops as it went.



Some blue peaks in the distance rose,

And white against the cold-white sky,

Shone out their crowning snows.

One willow over the water wept,

And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;

Above in the wind was the swallow,

Chasing itself at its own wild will,

And far thro' the marish green and still

The tangled water-courses slept,

Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.




The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul

Of that waste place with joy

Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear

The warble was low, and full and clear;

And floating about the under-sky,

Prevailing in weakness, the coronach stole

Sometimes afar, and sometimes anear;

But anon her awful jubilant voice,

With a music strange and manifold,

Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold;

As when a mighty people rejoice

With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold,

And the tumult of their acclaim is roll'd

Thro' the open gates of the city afar,

To the shepherd who watcheth the evening star.

And the creeping mosses and clambering weeds,

And the willow-branches hoar and dank,

And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,

And the wave-worn horns of the echoing bank,

And the silvery marish-flowers that throng

The desolate creeks and pools among,

Were flooded over with eddying song.


27. Let’s let Tennyson’s Oboe push the boat out! Thank God for the oboe!

The final movement of the Landscape is called Celebration




28. Finally, we reach the oboe at evening, the other time of day with which the oboe is associated. It is a time to return to the solitariness of sleep, but with the erotic and orientalist associations that Nineteenth Century composers elicited in operas and ballets such as Moussorsky’s Persian Dances from Khovanshchina (Covansheena) (1872-80), Verdi’s  O Patria Mia from Aida of the same year, Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance from the Nutcracker of 1892, Delibes’ Lakmé (1883)  and Strauss’ Dance of Seven Veils from Salomé in 1905. Yet modern poets too appreciate its sensual eventide sound.

The Spanish contemporary poet, Rafael Alfaro’s evocation of the evening’s heartbreak with the high-wood of the hautbois contrasts with Quasimodos’s daytime debris There is a skirl of the Spanish shawm, or dulzaina in Rafael Alfaro’s Alta Maderna


High wood-haut-bois, oboe:

the forest learns the fleeting

song of the nightingale to say it

with your tongue, then self-absorbed.

And the heart greens

man in his booth, and the kiss

closed his lips with that dress

the air of beauty and light is not used.

and everything is fine song. And guess

the return of Mozart. Look,

vivace and true, as it is,

and immortal. And trembles in the air called

after their joy and melancholy.

And his hands sprout most agile

and ears and sound living.

Hey ecstasy over their birds!

Perhaps only when we hear,

perhaps because we only hear

the voice of the forest, the heart of man,

grace and sanity and madness

the nightingale is, he's singing

in the oboe, in its branch flowers

night in the woods of wonder.



29. Music

Conrad Aiken queries the whole reality of music-making until it fades into night.It is a remarkable fact among modern poets, Baudelaire, Quasimodo, Aiken and Alfaro that the tone of the oboe is expressed in the colour green, the colour of hope.


The calyx of the oboe breaks,

silver and soft the flower it makes.

And next, beyond, the flute-notes seen

now are white and now are green.


What are these sounds, what daft device,

mocking at flame, mimicking ice?

Musicians, will you never rest

from strange translation of the breast?


The heart, from which all horrors come,

grows like a vine, its gourd a drum;

the living pattern sprawls and climbs

eager to bear all worlds and times:


trilling leaf and tinkling grass

glide into darkness clear as glass;;

 then the musicians cease to play

and the world is waved away.


30. Mary Chandler evokes the night for us.

This time in a mesmeric ostinato of high-notes eventually dying to a low fade.

Nightfall Mary Chandler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J7EcuAG73cBach







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