Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam

Amparo Serrano de Haro

 

Essays

An De Bisschop

Amparo Serrano de Haro

Dave Sinardet

Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

Lasha Bugadze

 

Amparo SERRANO DE HARO

Amparo SERRANO DE HARO (her pen-name is Ara de Haro) is a PhD, Tenure Professor of Art History and writer. She has received a Fulbright Grant and the endorsement of the Spanish Ministry of culture in numerous projects. Her line of inquiry is directed towards the study of iconography and symbolism in art (traditional as well as contemprary). She is actually working on a book on Surrelaism. She has 14 published works : novels, essays and stories. With her last novel ‘La luna de Artemisia’ (Artemisia’s moon) she received the Marguerite Yourcenar’s writers award 2013. She is a member of the European Cultural Parliament and The Renaissance Society of America (RSA). Serrano de Haro works and lives in Madrid.

The music of the spheres: the RCO Meets Europe concert tour

Amparo Serrano de Haro
Amparo Serrano de Haro © Lucas Daniëls

 

Beginning

We are born under the sound of a drum.

But it is not the sound of war, it is the sound of life, of peace.

Our mother´s heart is our first song, our first rhythm, our first word, the form of the path to come. We knew not then that we would have to leave, to wander, that living is walking.

This drum, the heart, was very close to us, we felt it like a big and bountiful sun, when we still hadn’t opened our eyes to the world, not even to our own existence.

We were born in its warmth, and it’s music, in the tender memory of our beginning, when everything was still possible.

Process

We set out to walk. Everyone at his own pace. Everyone with his own rhythm. The song we were born with, our oldest and most secret hymn...

Starting in August 2016, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam will visit all 28 member states of the European Union in the course of two and a half concert seasons.

Robert Schuman, the father of the European Union, described it’s creation as a slow, step to step process… towards communication and peace. To attain this other music, this space that englobes us.

It is the realization of the other as inseparable from our own existence. And only this reality can force us out of the closed nature of our own song, like out of a little garden, and open us to the mystery of other voices, other harmonies, music wide and deep as the sea.

In its first notes, its first embrace, there is the sense of a place, this melody of memory, unknown but familiar, personal and yet shared: lulled by a thousand notes, immersed in the streams of a thousand lives, alive in the time of a symphony, a thousand deaths away.

The breathing of music like breath itself, to each other, and to a community of others and the world. Each note to the next, becoming a stream, becoming a river, rushing into the sea. A thousand threads of a precious tapestry, that like Penelope’s, is never finished, never over, but voice on voice, variation on variation, magically reconstructs itself and starts anew. Europe as a polyphonic, polymeric, poly-homeric unity.

The idea and the realization of this tour, under the auspices of J.C. Junker, President of the European Commission, is a metaphor that serves to highlight the unifying force in the diverse yet common, musical heritage of Europe.

The force that must unify Europe is the will to communicate (in the words of political philosopher Larry Siendentop) and it is the also the will to communicate that characterizes the working process of an Orchestra.

History

Music like other traditional European arts has achieved its liberty in its gift to the collective destiny, thus creating a paradox: a tight rope between the personal private creation and the general understanding, or re-creation of it. Music has made citizens (and revolutionaries) out of all men and women through the breathtaking evidence ( the joy and pathos) of the common “good”: a shared experience at the same time, all together…like before or after a battle but with no armament and no argument, in a present that encompasses the past and the future.

Although it started as an expression of oneself and the group, made for work and rest, for joy and sorrow, for love and death, like all European arts there were those who set out to own it: the Church and the Nobility thought they could put it at their mercy, at their service. But musicians escaped out of this golden cage like birds or like the wind itself: God, destiny, their Art, the people, many reasons to fly, since nobody can own a beauty that is written on time. Only the heart can remember.

And the orchestra is the perfect and poetic synthesis of this paradox : very private and public at the same time. The only great European forest that really exists. A cross-stitching of patterns, of notes and melodic forms and silences and harmony and chaos, that is, sentimental, emotional, and, yet also absolutely logical.

Voices, notes, melodies, original and old, multiply into the echo of the orchestra and create a new world of rain and thunder, a new flood out of every tear. But this world is an immortal floating paradise, that will not go under water, but survive, old and new alike, exotic like a siren or a griffin, and yet green and common as the grass.

There is no perfect understanding of music, same as with friendship or love, it is a language with no code. Like it happens with colors, music is evident, yet elusive, abstract and figurative, a personal, but also a general, idiosyncrasy.

The only thing to do, the best, is to surrender to it, and leaving aside our individuality, like an old and wrinkled coat, accept its invitation to be one and all, a giant wave of noise and a small speck of sound.

The spontaneous unity in which it throws us, this equality that does not abolish individual difference, but subsumes it, cannot easily be turned into discourse or words, but rather be lived as an experience.

Anthem

The role of music as a common tongue, as a shared inheritance in Europe explains the choice of its anthem.

The Anthem of Europe is in itself a perfect example of the interrelation between artistic languages and genres: from the poem to the symphony, from musical instrumentation to a chorus, from popular music to classical and back to popular again.

Although it is originally based in the joy and exultation of a young Schiller, free of his (not so metaphorical) chains for the first time, this poem called “To joy” (in German: An die Freude), later included in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphonie, reveals in so doing, the palimpsestic nature of Europe’s culture. As well as its capacity to turn tears into wine.

Just before the anthem takes place, towards the end of the Symphony, there is a big orchestral explosion of epic proportion in what it is possible to interpret as symbolic of Beethoven’s public and private tribulations.

We all known that it took Beethoven around thirty years to musicalize this verse for which he had always felt a deep admiration, and was deaf when his Ninth Symphony was played for the first time, he was not be able to hear it, nor the applause, and could only follow it in his score.

And it is easy to feel in this long and magnificent work, echoes of the French Revolution, of the European wars that ensued, and of the path of blood and fire with which Napoleon traced a new map of Europe.

In spite of the terrible acts that had taken place, it had been possible for all the men and women of good faith to employ the terms of liberty and equality, not just in a literary sense, but in a real political and social context, and this had been like a streak of lightening that shed the fire of hope in the middle of the storm. That is why in the Ninth Symphony we find so much emotion, passion and destruction, but also moments of peace and happiness.

So what for some scholars was based originally in a popular song, becomes again popular. From the original adaptation arranged by Herbert von Karajan for the European Union, derive different versions made for every taste and style of the cultural spectrum.

However, it’s real sense emanates from the Ninth Symphony, where it occupies a place that is, of desperate hope borne out of suffering, hope alive in turbulent times. A warning that is still valid today.

Stars

The music of the spheres is a Pythagorean concept that later is retaken by Aristotle, and that has traveled through European philosophy and thought taking diverse aspects, from the “real” to the esoteric. It presupposes that the movement of the stars and planets form some kind of music, inaudible to the human ear, but it is this music of perfectly proportioned energy that governs their harmonic laws and explains that they can co-exist in space without interfering into each other’s orbit.

The European Union flag, designed by the artist Arsène Heitz, a painter from Strasbourg, consists of twelve golden stars that circle in a blue background and seems related to that long time venerated idea. And it is evident that the number twelve is a solar symbol that responds to many facts and legends, from the day as a twenty-four hours unity divided by two, twelve months, twelve zodiac signs, twelve apostles and twelve knights of the round table, that are the pillars of European sense of time, totality and perfection.

And it is also interesting to understand how the movement of the stars corresponds to the magic mathematical proportion between them that expresses the quality, or “tone”, of the energy which defines them, different and yet equal.

After having looked at the stones in the road when we lift your eyes above and look at the stars; the infinite is in our grasp even if not in our lives frame. To know one’s way is not always evident when looking down on earth: sometimes it takes a step into a larger space, dark yet familiar, in which to feel that this music, called classical, is ours.

Orchestral music, makes it possible to consider the idea of ' equality through diversity' – more than just as an utopian concept, but as a true organizing principle.

Bringing together 120 musicians from over 25 different countries, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra...is a powerful statement of the reality of European ideals and the value of making diversity work towards an harmonious conclusion.

An orchestra is a firmament of possibilities that includes us, that projects us in the future and yet remembers our past: until the horizon of the stars.