Miserere my maker

My profession is to be aware of whatever is going on at the cutting edge of culture and media. Many of my contemporaries have blogs where they extol on the thrills and challenges of capitalizing on the latest movements in culture and society. Their blogs are cartes de visite on the exquisitness of their strategic thought. All I want to do is creep into a corner and lose myself in my utterly passé enthusiasms, obsessions that even in an age where everything has its rabid fanbase, have few followers.

Like Alfred Deller. Once revered for having brought back single-handedly the countertenor voice, he’s now considered a tad saccharine, too precious, too traditional, too England-in-the-1950s. A trifle, in so many ways.

And to be honest, much of his work is too precious even for me, though I do have a sweet tooth (as demonstrated by my love for the equally out-of-fashion Kathleen Ferrier). But there a some songs that bring me to tears:


This is the song I sing, badly, whenever I feel broken or guilty. I love the idea of offering up my sins to a higher power even though I don’t believe in a higher power. And yet. Someone commented “It radiates a langorous beauty totally out of keeping with the words”. It’s way more sensual than it needs to be.

Somebody else posted under it “I was a teenager livind in a prison-communist-country in the ’80. One evening, don’t no how, this wonder was put on a radio broadcast. More than 20 y. after I still am under the shock. This is Heaven opening to us and the conscience of our nothingness.”

While never living in a communist country I did encounter Deller in strange circumstances. Driving through the lonely country below Salton Sea, near the Mexican border, on a crackly radio station they played a long block of some of Deller’s loveliest work. It was a Mexican classical music station. A hallucinatory experience.

Songs that I love that have a similar kind of death-besotted eroticism are O quam tu pulchra es by Alessandro Grandi and Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod (Bach). I know that I am not the only one who loves this kind of music, but I want to think that I am.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quTu0i-uFA8 (around minute 4)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlkptptY4SU (I prefer the Hunt Lieberson version, but not available on YouTube)

On the thought of eros and Thanatos, here a picture of Paul Thek by Peter Hujar.


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