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Dec 05

Winterreise

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It’s been dark at 4 in the afternoon here, and I have been doing mostly admin work at home lately. I just came back from the hospital, I’ve been feeling sad,cold, ambiguous, lonely…Intensely lonely.

I don’t think its possible to write about how bad near arctic winters are. Edmonton is one of the most northerly cities in the world, and even with the lack of snow, and the relative mild weather, it’s isolating.

50 years ago, people close to hear would travel for card games and never come back (there is a Sinclair Ross story about this). infastructure came with industry and the military, but it still feels wild. It’s dangerous in a way that is more elemental then anything else–and its danger is in the stillness, the darkness.

There is no drama to the death from exposure.

Thinking about all of this, a month before Christmas, I put on Mathias Goene’s volume of Schubert’s Winterreise. Going through what seems proper for the cold—a sort of Winter Death Mix, you could have Dylan’s Visions of Johanna or Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire or The Huron Carol or certain versions of certain hymns (the strange melancholy of Silent Night, the literalness of In The Bleak Midwinter) But nothing matches the melancholy of being alone in the cold like Schubert.

Goene is new, German, and his role has some controversy, because he’s much more somber then his predecessors, and much darker. He adds timber and complexity to an artist who is mostly known for basically sweet candy. I know this is supposed to be a pop music blog, and this is not pop (and I am not going to insult you by saying Lieder was the pop of the 19th century.) but its important, vital even, to have gravity when gravity is called for.

This is as dark as the grave, and cold as the ground (in the words of Blind Willie McTell)

(The text of the Lieder written by William Mueller is here , with translations)

Hyperion is selling Winterreise as part of their Schubert collection, for about 13 pounds.

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