Pub in the Glade. On the Operatic works of Jára Cimrman Artistic Larceny Cimrman s Method of Musical Notation ON THE OPERATIC WORKS OF JARA CIMRMAN - PDF

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Pub in the Glade Before viewing Cimrman s operatic chef-d oeuvre performed by the Jára Cimrman Theater the viewer will be introduced to the problematics of the work with the following lectures On the Operatic

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Pub in the Glade Before viewing Cimrman s operatic chef-d oeuvre performed by the Jára Cimrman Theater the viewer will be introduced to the problematics of the work with the following lectures On the Operatic works of Jára Cimrman Artistic Larceny Cimrman s Method of Musical Notation ON THE OPERATIC WORKS OF JARA CIMRMAN Professor Pavel Vondruška: Dear friends, good evening. The content of today s seminar may be expressed by the words, On the operatic works of Jára Cimrman. We consider it necessary to introduce you to the problematics of this genre of Cimrman s before presenting the work itself, Pub in the Glade. Years ago when I acquainted myself with the content of the trunk in which the legacy of Jára Cimrman had been stored, and when a circle of enthusiasts and I decided to devote our lives to the Master s genius, neither I nor my colleagues suspected that within the framework of our scholarly profession, it would be necessary to sing publicly. However, I undertook this task gladly despite the protests of my family. I said to myself, after all, it s not a matter of the singing, but rather a matter of creating a genuine picture of Cimrman s work, a substantial portion of which is operatic. And so, my friends, whenever you hear one of us singing this evening, keep in mind: it s not a matter of the singing. Cimrman s road to the genre of the operetta was not an easy one. As with everything else he did, here too he sought absolute perfection. For instance, the problem of rhyme bothered Cimrman the librettist most of all. Rhymes such as beauty-duty, carry-fairy, luck-duck, which seem perfect to us, Cimrman considered mere half rhymes. In his opinion, the listener was entitled to absolute consonance. This theoretical consideration led Cimrman to propose his theory of absolute rhyme, the basis of which is the theory that perfect rhyme can be created only by the repetition of one and the same word. Let us look at an example from his operetta, The Coal Burner of Janovice, specifically, the aria by the coal burner Jan: I once loved a maiden so fair, Her eyes were extremely fair. Her hair was as yellow as flax, In the field she sat spinning flax. Our lovely old clock Strikes four o clock. Scarce had I begun to speak When she bade me speak And ask her parents for her hand, As I sat holding her hand. Our lovely old clock Strikes four o clock. And thus we decided to wed And soon we wed. Now we live on a farm, 2 And her parents live on a farm. And of course the refrain: Our lovely old clock Strikes four o clock. As you can tell, the verses sound quite melodious. But the discriminating listener cannot help but sense that this absolute rhyme was achieved at the expense of the verse s content. Cimrman, therefore, sought a way to preserve the absolute rhyme without limiting the ideational construct of the verse. He achieved this by introducing the socalled acoustic constant. The principle consisted in concluding each line of verse with an identical and extremely melodious group of syllables, which, however, made no semantic sense in the given language. Cimrman s absolute constants were warmly received in his day, which is born out by the fact that Cimrman s ballad of the procuress from Frýdland is still popular in northern Bohemia. The procuress traveled throughout the surrounding villages purchasing poor, young girls for her disreputable enterprise. I m sure you all know this ballad, so I ll recite only part of it: Here comes the madam from Frýdland, deeya, deeja, da What does the madam from Frýdland wish, deeya, deeja, da? It is a daughter that I wish, deeya, deeja, da Which one shall it be, deeya, deeja, da It shall be Růžena, deeya, deeja, da But we will not give her to you, deeya, deeja, da Then we ll take her from you, deeya, deeja, da Of the other constants, we will mention only the most successful. For example, of the domestic absolute constants we have: bach bach jukharay, which is still popular in 3 Klatovsko, and from the area of Říp we have kaabrt. From abroad we must mention at least yoy, from Košice, the alpine hoy-dala-ridy, and the constant that has penetrated all the way across the ocean, ya, ya, yupy yupy ya. Finally, in far away Iraq, we find an acoustic constant that has become the rallying cry for children abandoned by their fathers, who are searching for their deadbeat dads: Bag-dad, Bag-dad. ARTISTIC LARCENY Dr. Jan Hraběta: Ladies and gentlemen, Cimrman s operetta Millet arose from an extraordinarily powerful experience. One September day in 1895, Jára Cimrman was invited by his friend Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin to join him for a sightseeing flight in his new interceptor dirigible, Karel. The two aeronauts started out from Stuttgart bound for Brussels. Due to a strong headwind, however, they soon left Stuttgart far ahead of them, and after a seven-hour flight landed near Warsaw. In a skilful landing maneuver, Count von Zeppelin avoided a forest and set the airship down on a freshly mown field, which perforated the casing of the dirigible in several places. Fortunately for us I stress the word fortunately Cimrman sprained his ankle while disembarking and therefore could not assist his friend in repairing the airship, which upon deflation covered the entire area of a two-hectare square thistle patch. Cimrman took advantage of this unavoidable respite to compose his seven-hour operatic monument, Millet. When Count von Zeppelin had completed repairs to the airship, he filled it with gas, and the two aeronauts sailed back upon a favorable tailwind. They touched down in Vienna where Cimrman entered his new work in an international competition to honor the inauguration of the giant Ferris wheel in Prater. Soon thereafter, he set out for a 4 philosophical congress in Basel. Cimrman forgot about the whole thing and never laid another hand upon his pivotal work. Others, however, did. The following gentlemen sat on the jury of the Vienna opera competition: Frantisek Lehár, Johann Strauss, Oskar Nedbal, Adolf Piskáček the older brother of the celebrated Rudolf Piskáček and the Hungarian estate owner and music philanthropist Béla Kálmán, father of the composer Imre Kálmán. These gentlemen undoubtedly assumed the competition would be a cakewalk for them in which they would all praise each other s works and divide the prizes among themselves, as usually happens in such cases. The package that appeared on the table in front of them one rainy morning had the effect of a stick of dynamite. An eyewitness, the singing coach Josef Tesárek from České Velenice, described the scene: Johann Strauss, then seventy-one years of age, paced nervously about the room. The farmer Kálmán was chewing on his nails and every few moments repeated darkly in Hungarian, Erömü. We looked in a dictionary and found that the word means power station. It is unclear why he said precisely that. All of a sudden Mr. Lehár opened the window and cried out quickly twice in succession: That devil! That devil! Nedbal wanted to tear up the unfinished overture to his own opera The Grape Harvest, but his hands were shaking so badly he couldn t do it. The Czech Adolf Piskáček suddenly jumped from his chair, picked up the paper the parcel had been wrapped in, carefully inspected both sides, and then victoriously tossed it onto the table. A moment of uncomprehending silence. Only then did everyone breathe a sigh of relief: the parcel had not been sent by certified mail! 5 Thus ends the account of singing coach Josef Tesárek from České Velenice. Before I acquaint you with the fateful consequences of this seeming triviality, allow me to digress for a moment and discuss a certain character flaw of Jára Cimrman s, which pertains to this matter. The shortcomings of important figures are generally concealed from us by historians. I don t know about you, but I, for example, never learned in school among other things that the historian František Palacký, an otherwise valiant man, was afraid of dentists. Or that all Alois Jirásek s work written while he was a teacher in Litomyšl were written using office and thus stolen ink. And what a lot of ink it was! We Cimrmanologists do not wish to conceal anything. For example, not long ago we revealed that Jára Cimrman had a rather weak memory. His memory quotient amounted to Which isn t very much! That s just one hundredth of a percent higher than that of a dolphin! Likewise we do not wish to conceal and now I return to our subject that Cimrman possessed one small character flaw. He was an extreme tightwad. Unbelievably so! On the one hand, he would spend 120 zlotys plus 17 of his own railroad ties on the construction of a railroad from Wroclav to Poznaň. On the other hand, when he had to send a letter to his mother from abroad, he stayed up entire nights inventing ways to deceive the postal service. He went so far as to fill his envelopes with hydrogen so he wouldn t have to pay the full weight. He ceased this activity when he discovered his mother wasn t receiving his letters. Probably because they went up in flames when they were vigorously stamped at the post office. Well, anyone familiar with this characteristic of Cimrman s will not be surprised to learn that he was capable of mailing a parcel as important as his operetta Millet unregistered. We experts are amazed the parcel was stamped at all. So when the gentlemen on the jury discovered they could deny ever having received the package, they lost their last remnants of shame. The room erupted in chaos. Who is the oldest here? Who is the oldest here? shouted the seventy-one-year-old Strauss, as he thumped his passport on the table. The singing coach Josef Tesárek from 6 České Velenice understood at once that he had become witness to a historical event and, hidden behind the wing of a grand piano, recorded the entire scene word for word. Here is a brief passage from his transcript: Nedbal: Gentlemen, let s be reasonable! There s enough here for everybody. Give me Gentle Blondes, I Know You re a Cavalier, and My Sweet Lass. Do what you like with the rest. Lehár: I can t imagine what use that farmer Kálmán and his cows would have for Princess of the Czardasz. Give it to me! Kálmán: You animal! Meaning Lehár. I have a son Imrich. His health is poor. The land won t sustain him. And what s more, Erömü! Here we leave the transcript of Josef Tesárek. I don t think you will find a better example of artistic larceny in history. A FRUSTRATING COMPOSITIONAL METHOD Dr. Jan Hraběta Finally friends, a few words about the musical aspect of Cimrman s operatic works. Until today, the significance of Cimrman s method of overture composition has been unappreciated. Unlike other composers of his time, Cimrman, as a rule, worked with neither secondary nor, especially, primary melodic motifs. In the prelude you are about to hear, for example, you will not find a single musical idea. Here, Cimrman is working only with musical transitions, bridges, and passagework. Thus he creates an atmosphere full of tension, which is intensified by the constant alternation of two elements: the element of expectation and the element of disappointment. This is an 7 example of his famous frustrating compositional method. According to Cimrman, the unsatisfied viewer will welcome all the more eagerly the completely elaborated singing numbers of the operetta. As for the reconstruction of the Singspiel itself, we have decided upon an expressly reverential version. We have practically not tampered at all with the musical score itself. Wherever the work calls for only a piano, you will hear only a piano. Wherever we have an orchestral score, you will hear an orchestra. It is true that in a few places, precisely in those seams between the piano and the orchestra, there are certain tonal leaps that will irritate specialists, but you won t even notice them. Now, friends, allow me to interrupt my lecture. As perhaps you know from the daily press, an evening school of Cimrmanology has finally been opened here at the Prague Conservatory. An enormous number of extremely talented students have registered for classes. One of them is first-year student Petr Brukner from Brandýs nad Labem who has prepared his first scholarly lecture for you. Mr. Brukner, welcome. (Brukner gets entangled behind the curtain in the center of the stage. From the movement of the curtain, it is apparent that the fumbling student is moving from the center to the wings. Hraběta finally decides to give Brukner some help. He goes off to the side, fumbles with the curtain, and leads Brukner to the opening of the curtain in the center.) Hraběta: So, what have you prepared for us, Mr. Brukner? Bruner (softly): I was supposed to prepare... Hraběta: Not me, don t tell it to me. It s those in the audience who are interested. And nice and loud, so everyone can hear you. Brukner: My lecture is on the graphic aspect of Cimrman s musical notation. (Looks at Hraběta.) Hraběta: Please don t pay any attention to me. You have the floor now. I m here only to observe. 8 Brukner: Outline: a) musical staff, b) musical stems, c) conclusion (looks at Hraběta, and when he doesn t say anything continues with his report). A. Musical Staff. I have discovered that unlike other composers, Cimrman did not write his music on musical notation paper. He wrote his music on blank tracing paper without lines. He had the lines on an underlay, upon which he placed the tracing paper. Hraběta: And do you know why he did that? Bruckner: Notation paper was expensive. Hraběta: Well, yes. What wasn t expensive in those days? But that isn t the reason. Bruckner: Cimrman did not have a lot of money. Hraběta: But you ve just said the same thing using different words. He had another reason. Don t you have it there somewhere further on? Brukner: Further, I have only Musical Stems and Conclusion. Hraběta: It was because of transposition. Cimrman could then transpose the composition higher or lower merely by sliding the underlay up or down. That was very clever, don t you think? And it made his work easier. Of course, it makes our work difficult when we try do read his compositions. We often don t know how to place the musical notation onto the underlay. And for this reason, some of his compositions are completely incomprehensible. Especially because Cimrman consistently wrote all his musical stems facing downward, whereas we write them how? Brukner: From B upwards, stems facing downwards, and from B down, stems upwards. No, down. No, up. Hraběta: So, which way is it? Brukner: Up. Hraběta: There, you see. Cimrman often used to say: No one s going to make me write my notes upside-down. Sorry, I interrupted you. What else do you have? Brukner: Musical stems. Hraběta: Good. Continue. Brukner: But you ve already said it... 9 Hraběta: Said what? Brukner: That Cimrman wrote all his stems downwards. Hraběta: Oh. Don t you elaborate on it at all? Brukner: Elaborate? No. Hraběta: Okay, skip to the next point. Brukner: C. Conclusion. Cimrman s method of musical notation was unusual for his time and differed from the notational method of such eminent composers as: Bach... Hraběta: Go on, everything! Brukner: Offenbach, Maria Weber, Glinka, Mussorgsky, Rimsky and Korsakov. Hraběta: Well, that s enough. Thank you very much, Mr. Brukner. It wasn t bad for the first time. 10 CIMRMAN SMOLJAK / SVĚRÁK PUB IN THE GLADE / AN OPERETTA / Cast: Innkeeper Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin Kulhánek (escapted prisoner) Trachta (private investigator) (Operetta prelude: portions from Strauss s Die Fledermaus and Nedbal s The Grape Harvest. The curtain opens. A pub in a forest, a table and chair in front of the pub. At the table sits a figurine named Ludvík and the innkeeper.) Innkeeper: Would you care to know, dear Ludvík my old, and you might even say, yes, in fact my only good friend how I came to find myself in this isolated wilderness in the middle of a deep forest, where nobody lives for miles around and where not a single path leads, where you don t see a single person all day long except for those damned dirigibles? For fifteen years now, I ve been telling you the story of my life, day after day, and, indeed, I have nary a reason not to tell it to you again. (He looks up in the sky whence comes music from Die Fledermaus.) There goes the Vienneser, Ludvík, right on time. Ech, those moneybags. This year on Saint Anne s Day, it will be thirty years since I, a poor journeyman with a bun in my satchel, set out from my beloved home. I had nothing, dear Ludvík my old, and you might even say, yes, in fact my only good friend but my own two hands. So where was I to turn? Of course, at first I 11 wanted to make it on my own as a basket-weaver. But I d never woven a basket before and didn t even know how it was done. And then, at my most desperate hour, a letter came bearing joyous news: Your grandfather has died. You are now the owner of the pub In the Glade. So I headed straight to my lawyer. The lawyer grabbed an axe, food for three days, and we set out. And when, dear Ludvík my old, and you might even say, yes, in fact my only good friend we d hacked our way through to this place, only then did I realize that my grandfather was, God rest his soul, an idiot. The lawyer explained that my grandfather had been a notorious loner. He steered clear of everyone and couldn t stand being near people. But as far back as anyone could remember he d always longed to have his own pub. At first he opened a pub by the road to Písek. But people showed up. Then he rented a place on the square in Opočna, but they showed up there, too. And so he built this place. I don t know about when Granddad was here, Ludvík, but during the fifteen years I ve been here, you have been, to be sure, a constant, but, in fact, the only customer. And such a customer I hope you won t be offended, Ludvík, there s really no other way to say it: such a customer isn t much of a customer. And without customers, you can t support a pub. And even if you do, you won t have any fun. And even if you do, you ll only make yourself cry. (Sings the tramp s aria from R. Piskáček s operetta The Tramp) Just like that bird flying across the sky, I wander here and there, I don t know why. I cross mountains, valleys, dells and trees. But where my path might lead me, I hardly know. Thus I ve wandered for quite some time. Today I m poor, and tomorrow the same. It s true my pockets are so bare 12 that soon there won t even be enough for a noose. But sometimes it seems to me that I m the richest man in the world. When the first redolent flower of spring begins to blossom outside, everyone s face begins to shine with happiness. And the scent of the lilacs can even entice a poor wanderer. As if this May flower were blossoming for him as well. Are you crying, Ludvík? You re crying. Look at me. Look at me, Ludvík! (Goes to Ludvík and follows the direction of his eyes into the sky whence comes the aria Women I ve loved to Kiss you from an operetta by František Léhar Paganini.) Ah! You re looking at a Zeppelin. A single-seater, but a fast one. It s flying to Poland. How many times have I said to myself (picks up a rifle): I ll get a gun, you bastard, (aims) and BOOM! Down you ll fall. You ll come here, sit down, and have a drink! But you d never shoot at a zeppelin. And if you did, you d never reach it. And if you did reach it, you d never hit it. (He resignedly places the butt of his gun on the ground. A shot rings out along with the sound of escaping gas.) Ludvík!! Customers!! (Hastens off into the pub with his halfliter.) Count (dashes in wearing a leather helmet, long gloves with buttons, and a white scarf around his neck): Gadzooks!! Such misfortune!! It s a wonder I escaped in one piece. Excuse me, am I still in Bohemia or in Poland already? (No response from Ludvík.) Prosze pana, mluvi pan po polsku? O
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