MUSIC OUT OF TIME
Trans-dimensional Studies in Musicology
Pelle Bono Caridad
Introduced by Pablo Cookie of the Ofterdingen Gesellschaft
Contents:The Poem of Farewell
The Growing Conviction of Otherliness
The Idea of Retrospection
The Importance of Being Funny
The Practical Value of the Exercise
Arriaga y los Pajaros
A Tangerine Concerto from St. Petersburg
At the Church of the Heavenly Architect
The Ober-Fim Variations
Oh fallen world, oh wasted life,
Oh crippled Muse with broken lyre,
In vain I’ve searched the whole world through
For beauty, grace, elan;
In vain I’ve scoured the shelves for books
Unborn and undreamt songs.
There is another Place or Time I’ve been
Or I will be,
And Music there, or something else,
And Love to set me free.
- The Farewell Poem left by Pelle Bono Caridad
prior to his disappearance.
1. The Growing Conviction of Otherliness.
Suddenly, Bono is gone, and for the second time in less than a year, the ranks of the
Ofterdingen Gesellschaft are thinned. But whereas, with the disappearance of Peter Ceniti
some months ago, clouds of gathering scandal led some to suspect an elaborate hoax, in
the present case there exists unanimous agreement on the unimpeachable character of the
man in question. Thus our deep sense of loss.
I say “suddenly” Bono is gone, but in truth signs were not wanting, had I been more
observant. It is painfully clear to me now that a gradual change in the scholar’s demeanor
had been occurring over the past several years. The once gregarious, ex-soccer star had
grown laconic; the daring young man who enjoyed defying the musical odds had become
equivocal, morose, pot-bellied, middle-aged.
Sometimes he could be seen, restlessly scanning the library shelves, perusing all manner of
literature with intense agitation. Then abruptly, he would toss the books away, to the
chagrin of the librarians, whom he would cow with a look of disgust.
“Bono, my friend,” I asked on one such an occasion, “what are you looking for?” Taking my
elbow and ushering me aside, he whispered with a conspiratorial air, ”I’m not sure,
Professor, but the longer I look the more clear it becomes that the books, the music, that I
sense, that I need, are not here!”
“Well,” I smiled, “the problem is easily solved: Just fill out an inter-library loan request.”
“You don’t understand, “ my companion hissed. The stuff hasn’t been written - not here,
anyway…” (this accompanied by a vague sweeping gesture of the arm). He trailed off, and
I could get no more out of him.
But it was enough, coupled with the text of his Farewell Poem, to give me some sense of
the man’s predicament. What Bono was experiencing, I believe, was a growing conviction
of otherliness - a deepening sense that everything here was somehow wrong. The books
were leaden with words, the music, mechanical or egotistic - and why not, since all art
expressed a “fallen world”? The scholar seemed to have some intuition of “another place
or time” - he was fond of dreaming of parallel universes, similar to ours but happier, through
the more felicitous choices of their inhabitants. And presumably such blessed folk as would
live there would make music more lovely than ours, for however inspired an artist might be,
the conditions of his existence afford him a world-view difficult to transcend: his art, like his
very being, is trapped in the prison of his reality.
The more poignantly my friend felt his alienation, the more vivid became his recognition of
“alternative worlds.” It is likely that a turning point for Bono, propelling him from speculation
to action, was the advent of the “Ofterdingen Phenomenon,” instigated by the former editor
of our Gesellschaft, Peter Ceniti. The Heinrich von Ofterdingen of The Blue Flower and the
Mystery Tapes (not to mention the fragmentary and controversial Secret Notebook) has
meant many things to many people. To Bono I suspect the discovery served to confirm his
existing inclinations, and became the catalytic agent that led to his disappearance.
But the story does not end there. In whatever universe he now resides, Bono remains a
musicologist. And he has sent us, thanks to a rift in the time - space continuum (this
assertion will require cross-disciplinary corroboration) a collection of articles chronicling his
musical travels. In these remarkable pages the reader will come face to face with
Ofterdingen - more than once! - though he must make what he can of Bono’s identification
of that quasi - mythical figure with our erstwhile and missing editor, the flesh and blood
But the real surprise about these travels is the fact that they take us to the past, specifically
to the Age of Romanticism.
2. The Idea of Retrospection
Life is a sketch, as someone in Czeckoslovakia once said, a sloppy first try, a stab in the
dark, a hasty draft - but no one gets the opportunity to revise it, improve it, alter it. And so it
is with the life of the world, that is, with history. The Age of Romanticism came and went,
with the fervent optimism of youth, its reckless excesses, its brief efflorescence tainted with
bigotry, its ripening years perverted to pessimism and vulgarity - and then it was over.
Professor Pele Bono (like other members of our little Gesellschaft) could never come to
terms with his aesthetic isolation in the movement’s modernist wake, any more than he
could embrace the flaws that marred the century of his choice. And so for Bono the “way
out” led naturally backward: he sought not merely refuge there, but a chance to do things
over, to make amends, to “re-make Romanticism, with the benefit of 150 years’ perspective,
better, kinder, lovelier.” (The words are from Ceniti - or Ofterdingen - I get confused.)
What, then, of the professor’s maddening intuitions of unwritten books, uncomposed music,
in this light? Yes what, oh reader, can we make of the actual words and tones he has
contrived to “send back” (or rather, “forward”) to us? Some will call them the creations of a
delusional fanatic, others, a reuse by some regressive musician seeking attention.
Personally I must decline to make a definitive judgment, owing mostly to my lack of expertise
in the field of trans-dimensional travel. But of this much I am certain: the writer of the
following articles is Pelle Bono, and the musical fragments he gives us are like nothing of
3. The Importance of Being Funny
It is with joy that I find anew in these essays that spirit of playfulness that once had been the
signature of my dear colleague. Whatever, wherever, whenever the source, the ripples of
Bono’s mirth are felt - of this I am sure.
And this is no small thing. I confess that for many years I failed to appreciate the importance
of humor, especially as it related to the lofty subjects that occupied my idealistic young
mind. Bono’s example has taught me otherwise. From him I have learned to think of
humanity as a work in progress, thus incomplete. At our finest moments, as individuals and
as a race, there remains a gap between what we aspire to and what merely is, between
what we glimpse fleetingly (The Blue Flower) and what we achieve (some pale, epigonic
plant). In order not to cry then we must laugh, for we can do no better. And this laughter,
this tolerant, self-deprecating smile, helps us avoid both pernicious extremes, that of
pompous self-satisfaction and that of despair. It is a sign, if not of fulfillment, at least of
4. The Practical Value of the Exercise.
For a moment (and only this moment) let us entertain the most negative interpretation
conceivable regarding the text before us. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that there are no
universes parallel to ours, or a least no means of access to them. If all that follows is but an
exercise of fancy, I would maintain it is an exercise well worth the effort, both for the writer
and the reader. The practical value of these essays for the here and now lies in the model
they afford, inspiring us to “think outside the box.” He who sees the circumstances of his
existence as inevitable succumbs to fatalism, while to imagine alternatives is the first step to
freedom. He who dreams, who envisions, who delights in the play of “what might have
been” is to be accused neither of sentimentalism nor escapism. For in this present life there
are patterns, types of situations that recur, perhaps not identically, but with strong
similarities. To develop the ability to reflect on our past, to prepare for “the next time this
happens,” and then to break a destructive cycle, this is freedom indeed, and this is
progress. And so, paradoxically, spurred by our discontent with the present, we turn to the
past, but lightly, with a smile, in order to improve a world that is yet to come into being.