Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Humor Found, She Sleeps

The other night I couldn't sleep. Restless, fidgety, nervous, I watched the glowing digits of the clock fade from one hour into the next: 12:11. 1:20. 2:33. 3:13. At four a.m. I threw the covers aside, wondered if insomnia could get any more ridiculous, and then, chilled, pulled the blankets up to my chin again. I couldn't sleep because I needed to know: did Anton Webern have a sense of humor? If I invited him over for dinner, if I cooked him lentils with tarragon, and if we opened that bottle of wine I've been saving, would he laugh? Would Anton joke around with me? Could the man who wrote the curse of my very existence counter his analytic seriousness with wit and wry humor? Or was he just, cerebrally, mean?

I had to know.

So I began to read.
Ever fewer people--no, that's part of the lecture!--can nowadays manage the seriousness and interest demanded by art.
This was Webern's opening remark to those attending the fourth of his salon-style lecture series. (Vienna. Early thirties. Imagine being a fly on the wall.) The lectures are comprised in the slim volume The Path to New Music (Theodore Presser/Universal Edition, 1963/1960).

I laughed and laughed and laughed at his interjection --"no, that's part of the lecture!"-- and then, finally, I fell asleep.


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