Dave Allen, Hotbed of Intrigue, 10 Jun 2009

Kile Smith’s Where flames a word, the final world premiere in the Celan Project, and the first to incorporate a prose work by Celan. Gives a sense of immanence and of tremendous, overwhelming size and the struggle to comprehend it. Middle section, the prose setting, has text that reflects a struggle for language, a conflict between “green” and “white” language, and the build-up of clusters suggests language at war, green and white each fighting for their own space… the Smith piece was really impressive: a strong sense of lapping waves, of drawing closer to that nagging, inscrutable secret that seems to haunt Celan. One odd thing: ending on the word “delusion” with a sweet, major chord. Are we to come away thinking of peace and harmony as a delusion? Is this resignation in the face of the struggles Celan evokes? Not sure.

[I commented to Dave’s post:] Hi Dave,

Good question, and thanks for the kind words. Here’s how I see all the Celan texts in the piece. There’s you and me, and then there’s something else. You and I are delusion. The else is real. There’s comfort in that; struggling’s over; major chord.

But it is a deceptive cadence. I set up the final section to sound like it’s in C major, although it’s really C lydian (with the F#). But on “real” I take out the lydian and accentuate C major even more by going to its subdominant of F major. When they settle on the last syllable, “sion” of delusion, the bass even drops to that glorious low C. Sounds like the last chord. Did it sound like that to you? I was hoping so, anyway. But then it jumps up a ninth and the other voices settle to D F# A, and that’s the last chord. So it is major, but odd.

Peace and harmony are not the delusion. In the face of what’s real, we’re the delusion. And that’s fine. That’s my take on the text, and what I tried to convey, anyway. Many thanks again for all your observations,