Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ainadamar, the Fountain of Tears

When I was a highschool freshman, one day my music teacher brought in a then-new (vinyl!) recording of "Ancient Voices of Children" sung by the incredible Jan DeGaetani; music by George Crumb setting poetry by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Lorca and Xirgu

"Gacela del niño muerto"

Todas las tardes en Granada,
todas las tardes se muere un niño.

("Gacela of the dead child"

Each afternoon in Granada,
a child dies each afternoon.)

Struck me right square in my little ninth-grade head, that.

Crumb's music, which is as beautiful on the page as it is to hear because he sometimes fashions his scores in circles, crosses, or even spirals, and the poetry of Lorca too have stuck with me ever since.

A few years back we travelled to Santa Fe to hear Golijov's opera Ainadamar, which is about the murder of Lorca.

Dawn Upshaw, a personal fave, was spectacular and the score was full of hand-drums, flamenco guitars, and long-spun-out vocal rhapsodizing. The recording is even better than my recollection of the live performance. Great stuff.

Back to Lorca:


enters, and leaves,
the tavern.

Black horses
and sinister people
travel the deep roads
of the guitar.

And there’s a smell of salt
and of female blood
in the fevered tuberoses
of the shore.

enters and leaves,
and leaves and enters
the death
of the tavern.

When I read poetry in translation I like to see the original alongside the English.


La muerte
entra y sale
de la taberna.

Pasan caballos negros
y gente siniestra
por los hondos caminos
de la guitarra.

Y hay un olor a sal
y a sangre de hembra,
en los nardos febriles
de la marina.

La muerte
entra y sale
y sale y entra
la muerte
de la taberna.

Death is so common.

Of course today is the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. I was in gradeschool then and I didn't understand why Americans kept shooting its best leaders, what with the Kennedy murders and all.

Now I have a somewhat better idea about why such things take place.

Death is common. Uncommon people die. But death progresses quickly enough without our help, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Eli Blake said...

It is true irony that on the anniversary of the King assassination, former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson died.

Robinson was not just another football coach (though his 408 wins is still a college record).

In an age when Alabamas and the Louisiana States that then populated the Southeastern Conference would not accept black athletes, Robinson took thousands of those young men who they refused to look at, and made them better men. Not just better players (though he sent over 200 players on to the NFL), but better men, better citizens and better leaders, many of them learning to excel in whatever walk of life they ended up in-- all in the shadow of and while maintaining his dignity while standing against the racism that sweltered in the South in that day.