To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
Consider the life of Winston Churchill. He was born in 1874. Men still lived who had fought Napoleon. Ulysses S. Grant was in his second term as the American president and Karl Marx was just then in the British Library writing the Communist Manifesto. Mark Twain had written none of the books for which he had become famous. Electricity, radio, television, and telephones were still unknown and only the year before Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgets universities had met to draw up the first rules for a new game. It was called “football.”
When Churchill died ninety years later in 1965, men had orbited the earth, walked in space, and sent a probe to the surface of Venus. An automobile had already driven over six hundred miles per hour and sex-change operations had been successfully performed. Nuclear power had already come of age. Lyndon Johnson was the American president at that time and though he was considered an elderly man, he had been born when Churchill was already thirty-four. The year Churchill died, the Queen of England gave the Order of British Empire to the Beatles. It was an honor Churchill had also received, yet for a far different contribution in a far different age.
How does one life absorb such change? What must it do to one’s moorings, to that sense of connection to the flow of time and how a man experiences the rhythms of the world? Clearly, this was an ever-present challenge in Churchill’s life and it frequently filled his thoughts: “I wonder often whether any other generation has seen such astounding revolutions of data and values as those through which we have lived. Scarcely anything material or established which I was brought up to believe was permanent and vital, has lasted. Everything I was sure or taught to be sure was impossible, has happened.”
Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all…music expresses itself.
My profound emotion on reading the news of war [World War I], which aroused patriotic feelings and a sense of sadness at being so distant from my country, found some alleviation in the delight with which I steeped myself in Russian folk poems.
What fascinated me in this verse was not so much the stories, which were often crude, or the pictures and metaphors, always so deliciously unexpected, as the sequence of the words and syllables, and the cadence they create, which produces an effect on one’s sensibilities very closely akin to that of music. For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc….Expression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its existence. If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality. It is simply an additional attribute which, byt tacit and inveterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a label, a convention – in short, an aspect unconsciously or by force of habit, we have come to confuse with its essential being.
Music is the sole domain in which man realizes the present. By the imperfection of his nature, man is doomed to submit to the passage of time – to its categories of past and future – without ever being able to give substance, and therefore stability, to the category of the present.
The phenomenon of music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the coordination between man and time. To be put into practice, its indispensable and single requirement is construction. Construction once completed, this order has been attained, and there is nothing more to be said. It would be futile to look for, or expect anything else from it. It is precisely this construction, this achieved order, which produces in us a unique emotion having nothing in common with out ordinary sensations and our responses to the impressions of daily life. One could not better define the senation produced by music than by saying that it is identical with that evoked by contemplation of the interplay of architectural forms. Goethe thoroughly understood that when he called architecture petrified music.