SOLITUDE  DANS  LE BOIS
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                                                Peter  Ceniti


It's a fact, at least in my experience, that, in this life, deep sorrow is never far from great
joy, and that felicitous surprises are accompanied by devastating ironies.  Without sweet
music to imbue our fleeting happiness with form, and to render our grief tolerable in noble
tones, I think we'd be lost.  

So it came as not great surprise to me, recently, to receive these twin jolts:  first, a
parcel from France containing the manuscript for an unknown symphonic poem by Ernest
Chausson, and second, the news, immediately afterward, that the sender, Prof. Pelle
Bono (who disappeared long ago under disturbing circumstances) is dead.

The score, entitled
Solitude dans le Bois, was presumed destroyed by the composer.  
And, while I cannot go so far as to say  the musical contents bear an unequivocal or
direct message (as the composer often and strenuously rejected the notion of descriptive
music) I do find that, by an indirect method of translation, I am able to reconstruct from
these tones and rhythms a fairly complete and reliable sketch of what befell my dear, late
colleague.

A glance at the Introduction to
Music Out of Time in Publications will remind our readers
of the troubled state of mind into which my friend had sunk prior to his disappearance.  
Some believed that, due to his excessive longing for a golden age, he had melted into the
past or sidestepped into some alternate, utopian universe.  The less imaginative sought
him among the vast steppes of central Asia, while a few or us suspected him of hiding all
the while in the basement of his uncle's pizzeria in Brooklyn.  

In fact he was headed for St. Petersburg, but stopped off in southern France along the
way, and never finished the journey, falling in love with a Provencal maid and finding his
cure among the sun-bleached, immemorial hills of the Luberon.  He married the girl, and
would serenade her in a resolutely diatonic manner (his first wife having perished from an
overdose of chromaticism).  

I imagine my friend at that time, happy at last, falling into a pleasant, pastoral routine,
rising early to toast with marmalade and octopus larvae, taking long bike rides along the
winding roads, ruminating on the mysterious solitude of the woods, and gradually
conceiving the idea for an orchestral poem.  

He became, in a word,
Franco-filed, steeping himself in Verlaine, Baudelaire, even
Proust, and studying the scores of Frank and Faure (while his attitude toward Debussy
was, I suspect, precisely that of Rimsky-Kosakov who, in his old age, invited to a concert
of the New Impressionism, declined, stating that he was afraid he might actually start to
like it).

(Of course, for those who insist our entire Gesellschaft is a fraud, this new work, in
turning from German Romanticism toward a lighter French style, provides evidence that I,
Peter Ceniti, am changing, evolving, working through various historical and ethnic
phases at an accelerated pace, so that eventually I must catch up and come face to face
with myself, these self-appointed psychotherapists cherishing the hope that I'll wake up
then, and begin to move forward.  To this I would respond  - with infinite calm and
exquisite politeness - that I am not terribly concerned as to whether my fat colleagues are
whom they claim to be but were  I to hazard a guess, based solely on olfactory
sensations, I might consider they are renegade beasts  from a travelling carnival.)

As for Pelle Bono, he stumbled one day, in the midst of his Gallic studies, upon a letter
written by Chausson, and he was immediately struck by the uncanny similarity existing
between himself and the author.  Here he found expressed that same reverence and
peace in the face of nature, and the same inchoate desire to express, not its outer forms,
but its inner meaning, in music.  Here he found a kindred artist, deeply enamoured of his
wife who, for her part, worried only that he should become distracted in his musings as
he cycled about the countryside.  

(Indeed, the impression we receive of Mme Chausson is of a devoted, patient,
adoring spouse, but, as we all know, in reality nothing is ever quite that simple.  I'm sure
both she and Mme Bono could grow weary of all that absent minded musing,  and I am
reminded of a story about the wife of William Blake - he of the prophetic poems and
mystical engravings - who, being informed that her spouse had received, for his labors,
some mere pittance, cheerfully presented him for dinner with a single green pea
(reasoning, no doubt, that for one who could see "the universe in a grain of sand" this
should be sufficient).  Meanwhile Chausson's teacher, his dear Pere Franck, seems to
have been more interested in breakfast in his student's kitchen than his own, and could
frequently be found there with the hand of the pretty young Mme Chausson in his: having
put up with all he could, the younger man is said to have replaced his wife's hand with
the sugar bowl: to sum up, relationships aren't easy.)

It is from this period, when my colleague began to feel the shadow of another man
anticipating and echoing his thoughts and actions, that we find the following curious
scribbling:

Just as space is not the pure nothingness that preceded creation, but is, as it were, an
openness of heart inseparable from the birth of the universe, so time, and
especially the blessed hush of the deep forest, is the silent dream of the unicorn, the
symphony of all possible musics, mingling in confused and tremulous slumber, awaiting
its discovery and awakening at the kiss of the creative mind.

I am persuaded that these ruminations are contemporaneous with the commencement of
work upon
Solitude dans le Bois,  though to what degree my friend would have classified
his labor as
invention, and to what degree discovery I cannot say.

What I do  know is that, at a slightly later date, Bono's (or Chausson's) diary becomes
more explicit:

Each of us, as he listens in to that silence, is like one who, at home in his
bath, distinguishes amidst the din of the thousand frequencies  his shower water is
mingling, the particular, shrill ring of his telephone, since the memory of that sound
stands ready: each of us hears that music (associated with a fairy princess, a magical  
fountain, a prophetic bird) that his individual nature and his experience incline him
toward.  And so it is that the forest of solitude will not be found in this world, but is
potentially infinite and inexhaustible, being unique to each of its visitors.

Such peregrinations, increasingly elaborate, would  have drawn my comrade more and
more deeply "in that inner direction at the end of which," Proust says he could "see
{objects} inside myself."  And that would have been perilous for one engaged in cycling
o'er hills and dales...

At the last moment he saw the wall, too late to stop.  With death imminent, time seemed
to expand as in a final, gracious gesture: he noticed the ivy that dappled the crumbling
bricks, the ladybugs sunning themselves on the starched plaster filling.  

He sensed as well, in that last moment, the whole song he'd been searching for, and
other pieces as well, undreamt-of, appearing as if from mysterious, alternate worlds that
magically came into focus, and, behind it all, the quivering, silent Whole.  The faces of his
loved ones appeared  to him then,  beneath whose sorrowful lines he could anticipate a
happiness it would require them years to achieve.  He heard, whispered sweetly in his
ear, the great secret each of us learns as he dies.  

Distracted one last time, he hit the wall at full force and was killed instantly.