Sunday, February 1, 2009

Quotations from Allan Pettersson

On himself:

"I am not a composer. I am a voice crying out … that threatens to drown in the noise of the times."

On the development of ‘modern’ music:

"Development does not occur as a result of the hallowed festivals of the ‘International Society for New Music’ but through the souls of simple people. The usual, anonymous human reaction to snobbism and overspecialisation is a healthy and justified one. Today’s radicalism is in fact not such, for it is derived from an impoverished, sterile situation. It is compromising and nothing more, and what it compromises is the despondent expression of a weary lover: a nasty grimace."

"Electronics serves as a substitute only for a normal development that has locked itself into a problem position. But this problem cannot be solved by having snobs and superspecialists declare the bankruptcy of the acquired means of expression. It is the snob who talks about the people and music of our times. Today’s humanity is a small child who is starving somewhere on this planet, right now, and today’s music is the crying of this child in a mass of carrion vultures. This is the world that an adult, deformed humanity of flesh and lard has made."

On ‘the snob’ and his music:

"The music forming my work is my own life, its blessings, its curses: in order to rediscover the song once sung my the soul. It originated among people of small means who lacked self-confidence, who were treated like dogs, blacks as well as whites, people for whom life was nothing more than the cursed obligation to die. Nonetheless they sympathised with others, the power of yearning filled them with a faith – and that is when the song broke out, fervently, pleadingly … until the world asked them to shut up."

"The song was stolen by a snob who went his own way, who has strayed off into banality, who exhausted himself in croaking, breakneck acrobatics, a shriek, a spear tip to the ear – and the present-day poker face stares at you in hate. When will the angel come who restores the song to the soul, so simply and clearly, that a child will cease its weeping."

"Someone once said that I compose out of self-pity. I have never pitied myself; I have never been able to cry. I know of pity for others but not of self-pity. I find it difficult to hate people but I do hate those who pity themselves. Self-pity is so damned unproductive. Do you think that I could have composed what I have composed, do you think that one can write a single note with life in it if one sits there and pities oneself? What I convey is not pity but pure information."

"Not that I think my music is so damned good … others can interpret this psychologically if they like … but it gives me a few poor minutes of piece."

"I wasn’t born under a piano, I didn’t spend my childhood with my father, the composer… no, I learned how to work white-hot iron with the smith’s hammer. My father was a smith who may have said no to God but not to alcohol. My mother was a pious woman who sang and played with her four children."

"Art is irrational. That cannot be denied. Something burst inside you, and you begin to sing. That what black people did under slavery and what soldiers do in times of war. It carries them along and gives them the courage to keep on going. When we overcome our personal horrors and make art of them, then our music has a message."

"I have been incurably ill ever since the 1960s. My creativity is a miracle. A miracle, like love has kept me alive – that I have experienced to the outermost extreme – life as a downtrodden human being – but in spite of it all people have continued to trample all over me – that is too far from the world present in my music: therefore I want to keep this music for and to myself."[Afterword to Pettersson’s reasons for barring the performance of his works by the Stockholm Philharmonic – which had earlier abruptly removed them from a concert programme]

"My music is for little people, the weak and outsiders as well as for myself, that I may endure my own destiny. An old coolie should be scrapped in intelligent fashion and not through intrigues. That is not the world I seek to convey in my music. Therefore I have withdrawn once and for all from the music scene. I must defend my inner values. They are essential to my creative activity."

"I am not a snob. I stand on the same level as the average citizen or a street cleaner who defends what is left to him. They meet with solidarity. I however, have been abandoned."

"My music is the only thing that allows me to bear my hellish fate. But if I can serve as an example for someone who shares the same fate, then that is very good."

"I see myself as a witness who has survived this time [editor’s note: the slums in Stockholm]. I life full of poverty, illness, alcoholism, and humiliation. We working class families were the white Negroes. We lived in Nyorget in a small cellar dump with bars on the windows. Rats and lice were the rightful tenants. We were the intruders."

"I want to be a spokesman for the weak, for those who have it the hardest. This applies to people in Sweden or in China and South Africa. That is my testament."

On death, darkness and God:

"When we stare out to the darkness or, more precisely, stare into the darkness, into the world of infinity, we see nothing – we grown-ups, we who are all-too grown up. But let us look into the darkness like the child we once were … yes perhaps that is it."

"Death is not my process, even if I belong to it. It belongs to the one who grants us life. In death, he melts me down as matter, in order perhaps, to gain something lasting from it."

"Fear the fear of death but not death. Fear life, fear man – his cruelty towards man."

"The angel of death is a false poetic image. Death has nothing to do with mercy, just because it happens to have the stronger attraction behind suffering and sickness, especially when the opposite, the life force, is weakened. Life was the intention, not death. When it comes, it comes like a state decree. I cannot accept it as my own; it does not go together with my will to live. Death is my constant shadow, is stranger than I am. Or is it HE himself, the God who experiments with himself as a man, in another life form?"

"When life shatters the pot into shards, the master can repair the artefact. When I die, I will be destroyed. But the master lives – the creator is there."

"One has to build his own church, in the heart; it is easier then, and innocence, good will, is the protecting mantle."

"Death is mine, mine alone, and you others keep your fear and fear of death, supported by church and society and other men without self-forgotten mercy. You who do not understand the meaning of the term ‘mental hygiene’. One can keep the soul clean, just like the body."

"The angel of death came about when man began to identify the cruelty of nature and humanity with the uncertain Unknown – full of terror, fear was chased into the darkness. Death was waiting as was equated with this terror. Cruelty, evil, confuses man, who was created as more helpless than other creatures."

On salvation:

"The identification with the small, unsightly, anonymous and the eternally immutable but ever new and fresh. It is in this way that one saves one’s own life."

"In the hospital world in which I live, I experience a unique energy within me. I sit on the bed and write music that has nothing to do with the world of that last station: music with a life of its own. The surroundings force me, as always, to force my way down within me, in order to reach the roots of my life. It is just that, the fact that something in me preserves its integrity, does not let itself be destroyed, that fills me with wonder, as before a miracle."

"The composer, the man, bars his own way: his melodic lines resemble fever charts. He behaves like a common culprit, burdened with the sin of the preceding generation, which killed itself. But deep inside, in the depths of his being, are the forces that will heal him."

"There are two ways out for the man who is at the end, suicide or madness. The first is his deliverance but strips him of his role as a medium. As far as the second solution is concerned … are we really sane in the course of the creative act? No, we ought to be seized by the holy delirium of creation, of the flight beyond cold consciousness; it is ecstacy that has the power to deliver the composer."

On his 2nd. Violin Concerto:

"A human being tries to find his inner reality; he flees from the outer reality, controlled by the image of man, the perfect robot, where the idea of the human being is erased for the sake of ideologies manifesting themselves in homicide, fratricide, Cain and Abel again and again. In this nocturnal landscape, in which actor and observer are one and the same person, as in the unreality of a dream in which words cannot be spoken, within this human reserve, a song is heard, played by a violin with a noble tone, bearing the fingerprints of a human being; a lonely being seeking deliverance from the threatening outer collective. The cynic calls this escapism, but then little the human being who does not at all believe in himself and does not understand the fine words, only knows that there are no words for this. But the idea of the human being is not his own idea - and therefore it is indestrucible."