Juscheld, Quixote: Metastructure or Vision

Frontispiece_to_Frankenstein_1831 (Commons)

In this article I describe Juscheld’s view of the artistic work as visionary structure, particularly in the way an author’s stance and experience of the world structures his or her emotional life, which in turn shapes his or her work. I propose the term “metastructure” as a an approximate, mid-way concept of what the composer understands as “vision”.

One of the persistent criticisms of Cervantes’s great novel [Don Quixote] has been the presence in it of what have come to be known as the intercalated tales: stories the protagonists tell or read to one another that are recounted in full within the framework of the novel but that seem to have little or no relation to the work itself.

(William Egginton, The Man Who Invented Fiction)

“My re-encounter with Don Quixote, Cervantes’ novel continues to provide, if not inspiration, that’d be too much asking, at least much to think about.” The parallels between literature and music are always precarious as I see it, and They are generally based on the postulate of a basic disposition of the mind that manifests itself in different ways in human creative activity[;] although I find it difficult to deny that there is such a disposition, I am more interested in the details that lead from the initial impulse (where that disposition exists) to the completion of the work. “ (Juscheld)

By Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844) - Tate Britain. Private collection, Bath (Commons)
By Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844) – Tate Britain. Private collection, Bath., Public Domain

The issue of “intercalations” in an artistic work is one of the thorniest issues of academic criticism; in fact, one could say, its most precious treasure and the touchstone of the true academician: “I saw it first!”, he says, “I knew it before, ergo sum!”. So be it. It is interesting Egginton’s apart in which he comments on how Cervantes himself anticipated that criticism (in the same note quoted at the beginning, and that in fact reports this entire article) by saying, more or less, that the intercalations were there because the Moor Cide Hamete did not want to bore us; interesting. “Listening to Mahler’s first symphony, that first step to the Dantesque paradise, that resolute crossing over to that other side of creation, the talk of” intercalations “, that analytically speaking abound in the work of that composer, seems to me nevertheless an obscenity: what is behind the artistic material that an author chooses, whether artistically gifted or mature in his mastery, is nothing but that which best colors the spirit that sustains the work.” The composer, or the author,  Juscheld tells us, is not Dr. Frankenstein, although perhaps a modern Prometheus at times. And that is where the organizing principle that is spoken of here, called genius or mastery, resides, that spirit which combines materials (even divergent materials, and perhaps for that reason appropriate), in an organized and emotionally constructive, civilizing whole.

“My publisher (who I do read, sometimes) [thank you, maestro] speaks somewhere of film music, that’s [a place] where the doctor’s [Frankenstein?] monster is hiding in. To prove it, you just have to listen to one of those so-called, so-well-called , “Soundtracks”, where music wanders off endlessly, tickling my curiosity and my emotions just to keep my eyes glued to the screen, emotionalizing my time without knowing where to take me next, and with all the possibilities wasted that’d open up for those themes, sometimes very good, which the author ran into whenever he sat at the piano, or wherever else he gets his notes.”

Egginton continues:

As we’ve seen, the unifying theme of all Cervantes’s writing is how we imitate models while thinking we’re doing what we want.

As the writer says there is something else that must be taken into consideration if one wants to understand the work of Cervantes, a something that because I do not find a reasonable term that describes it, I will call metastructure. I understand that a metastructure does not necessarily define another structure (or better, a set of them) subordinated to it, but it also (or preponderantly) provides cohesion in a sense intelligible to the observer (a reader, a listener, etc.).

“[A]ny author who has come out of the hell of his damned and cursed ego,” Juscheld tells me, “looks back, [to] the bottom of that up, [to] the Luciferian cul de sac, from which they judge him, those eternally condemned. This is something authors and composers sometimes speak of, Cervantes says boredom, but it is suffering, it is always suffering, a suffering that one does not want to talk about, that sometimes you can not talk about, but that is there, in each note, in each phrase, cadence, transition, thematic contrast, harmonic turn, at each trumpet call: always a look back while moving forward, like those infernal figures of Dante, carrying a face on their backs,  carrying a past that is nothing other than a look back, towards the one behind you, cringing at the sight of the spot where they broke through, which is nothing but Lucifer’s backside, the hell that devours you in every moment. “

By Gustave Dore, Albrecht Dürer - Gustave Dore, Albrecht Dürer, Public Domain
By Gustave Dore, Albrecht Dürer – Gustave Dore, Albrecht Dürer, Public Domain

The emotional outburst of Juscheld seems to me to have deep resonances in his work, especially in the oratorio. There, in Apocalypsis Iesu, Juscheld confronts what are (if I may speak in a crude and inconsiderate manner) hours of music to which he has no choice but to provide an “Ariadne’s thread”: a labyrinth of associations, references, a continuous considering and reconsidering, weaving (as only Juscheld knows how to do) two, three, and even four motifs in the reduced space of some bars. It is probable that the composer sees in the work and the life of Cervantes some parallel with his; perhaps Juscheld, disenchanted also with “a society of deaf people,” faces the second stage of his work: the one that he has to stylize and finalize with his style, and fit in his work, perhaps the way Mahler saw it, a whole world. “Intercalate”, in that sense, is as much as saying that the visit of a friend, the call of the beloved, the unexpected smile, every daily distraction or amusement, is a nuisance interspersed in what would otherwise be a focused and uniform life ( as such surely there are).

Revelations 2:18 – Letter to the church of Thyatira – Apocalypsis Iesu oratorio – Juscheld

Juscheld’s rant about hell and the damned has profound resonances in his opus,  informing the details that organize the artistic material, and especially in his Apocalypsis Iesu. Each composer, each literary author, confronts the blank paper prompted (“pushed”) by an experience (or a suffering) of the world that persecutes him, a vision that he never gets to see at all and that he pours on paper as he can, and with whatever he may have at his disposal. Beethoven, the maestro, twisted the sonata form to make it talk to the rest of us as no one did before him: he communicated with music while others entertained. Mozart, the great one, saw it also, and that way musical forms remained open (not exhausted) since then. As Debussy came to see it, the work is his own form.

At that time, and faced with a work like Don Quixote, or perhaps a symphony, all are associations. More than structures one should discover the real form of that work, which is nothing but the halo of the author, his celestial body, a tree whose roots are both here and there, which reaches us from the sky while sinking into the abyss. But how can this be explained to those who have no eyes to see, to those who insist on foolishness and immerse themselves in the purely material, tied to the straitjacket of the merely intellectual?