Tuesday, September 10, 2013

concerning the Snell sisters

I've been Facebook friends with the Snell sisters for several years. Janet is a painter, Cheryl a poet and fiction writer.

They like music.

It's weird, but I somehow get the sense that they like music the way I like music. They know and deeply appreciate the older masters -- Beethoven and all those other guys, up to Modernism. And here's where it gets more unusual: I suspect they also like music composed by the Modernists!

Years ago, I wasn't sure about that kind of music. It took me a while to become thoroughly captivated by that strange stuff, Modernist stuff beyond Debussy and Scriabin. But when it finally "took," it took hard. That dissonant, atonal, rhythmically bizarre music is wonderful! It's like a soundtrack for existential paranoia. It complements a metaphysical bent of mind that enjoys curving over into a condition of the surreal. It sounds like time being turned inside-out. Fantastic!

First for me came Sacre du printemps, then Shostakovitch and Prokofiev. Soon, I found myself entranced by the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Henri Dutilleux, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Alfred Schnittke, Olivier Messiaen, Roberto Gerhard, Toru Takemitsu, Witold Lutosławski, Bohuslav Martinů, László Laitha, Allan Pettersson, Vítězslava Kaprálová, and Eliott Carter. Others.

For me, there is something moody, equivocal, and beautiful in this music that moves to new laws of structure and harmony. Whatever it is, it's not quite the same thing as noirish and horror film scores, old and new. It's music composed just to be itself, like Beethoven's and all those other guys'. Even the less-astringent stuff -- Martinů, Laitha, Kaprálová -- has an eccentric quality that is alluring. 

I don't know much about Janet and Cheryl.  I'm not even sure where they live. Somewhere up north, I reckon. I don't know how they perceive time or what they make of finding themselves inside reality. I do know they are exceptional people -- deeply and quietly intelligent.

Why do I think they like Modernist music? Because Janet's paintings strike me as having a Modernist-Expressionist sensibility informing the brush. Because Cheryl's poems -- especially those hypnotizing video poems -- strike me as spirit-states and abstract impressions become almost palpable, like the music of Dutilleux and Carter.

The Snell sisters have a website: Scattered Light.