Sergei Rachmaninoff’s thoughts on composing which I read this afternoon at an internet site provided a significant insight into the man. They also helped me understand my own motivation, my own raison d’etre, for writing poetry and prose. "Composing,” wrote Rachmaninoff, “is as essential a part of my being as is breathing or eating.” Composing music, he continued, “is my constant desire.....an urge within me to give tonal expression to my thoughts. I am a Russian composer and the land of my birth has influenced my temperament and outlook. My music is the product of that temperament and so it is Russian music; I never consciously attempt to write Russian music, or any other kind of music. What I try to do, when writing down my music, when composing, is to say simply and directly what is in my heart. If there be love, or bitterness, or sadness, or religion, these moods become a part of my music.”
These sentiments are so similar to my own in relation to writing prose-poetry that I open this piece of writing by quoting Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff also said that he wrote down on paper the music he heard within him, as naturally as possible. “I write for myself,” he emphasized. His separation from his native land was a wound that never healed. He suffered a nostalgia for his homeland to the end of his life and it made composing difficult and infrequent. That inner melody he had heard in his homeland was gone. One music critic wrote of Rachmaninoff and he was “a composer who belonged in the Parthenon of Great Composers for three reasons: he wrote one gorgeous melody after another; he had a totally original style; and his music moved more people per performance than any other composer, with the possible exception of Tchaikovsky. Very few listeners with classical music tastes have not been touched by the emotional message of this great musician.
I feel about my writing, my prose-poetic work, in very similar ways about my literary composing as Rachmaninoff did about his musical composing. I certainly write from the heart; but I also write from the mind. I am moved not so much by my country as by my religion. This is what occupies my mind and heart to overflowing. My writing is no doubt a product of my temperament, of my moods. My compositions act as a release and they allow me to say simply and directly what is occupying my spirit at that moment and what has built-up over more than half a century. –Ron Price from website: web.ukonline.co.uk/nso/Rachmaninov, 4 August 2007.
Your outward stoicism,
your icy demeanour when
mechanism that it was,
acquired slowly, painfully
in your youth, a sensitive,
naturally withdrawn young
man—who knew depression--
you were so unlike me.....
I, like you, knew depression
transformed, re-used themes
again and again and juxtaposed
certainty’s and doubt’s—life’s
contrasting inner-private dynamics.
Your compositions in the first
fifty years after that Manifestation’s
release from His physical limitations,1
energizing the whole world as it did--
and mine fifty years later---after
the centenary of His ascension---
part of some mysterious force
and its transformative effects,
some rendezvous of the soul,
some ventilating, quickening,
onrushing wind amplifying
perspectives at an auspicious
juncture in history and my life.2
1 From Bahá’u’lláh’s death in 1892 to 1941, Rachmaninoff composed.
2 1992: the centenary of Baha’u’llah’s ascension-my poetic life begins.
5 August 2007