Stravinsky – music as a soul of the body

Milein Cosman, Igor Stravinsky, 1959

Why to make a drawing of the composer’s back? Especially when the composer is conducting? Why is it not the front of his body including the face – the face of the artist, the face of inspiration? Yes, the back is what keeps the front, and front means inspiration! You can proudly say that the chest of a musician is the heart of his inspiration. If the face is the carrier of the code of the artist’s inspiration, the chest keeps and radiates the inspiration’s energy. But what can the human behind radiate? Physical stress?

But physical stress (which is especially intense if the conducting composer happens to be Stravinsky and if he is conducting his own music, which is most likely the case here) is not only physical. There is the emotional and a purely technical (performative) stress which adds to the physical and audial intensity. Stravinsky’s is not just a music belonging to the human soul, it is a metaphoric imitation of the pagan reality of nature and life of the universe. Physical exhaustion for Stravinsky conducting his own music is his ability and readiness to simultaneously accept several channels of energy’s waving/spending which is necessitated/imposed by the situation.

Stravinsky’s arms are that of a physical worker. And his shirt is full of creases, lines, vectors, folds, wrinkles and waves and vibrations of his music. Let’s his face and chest – his code of inspiration be for the audience in the concert halls. But his music – alive, made, controlled, released, squeezed, blessed and joggled by the body of the composer, we can hear in this mini-sketch by Milein Cosman.

Rostropovich – music-the Spirit, cello-the craft and human soul-the artist

Milein Cosman, Mstislav Rostropovich, 1960

What do we see-hear here? Music, musical instrument and the musician? The big baby/wunderkind-cello, its scrupulous and simultaneously tender and demanding nurturing nature and its tireless nurturer?

We notice a mistake – too obvious for it to be a mistake, of course, it’s the paradox of creativity, more – its miracle. We notice that the right shoulder of the cellist (Rostropovich himself) doesn’t correspond to the position of his right arm’s elbow. The impression is that something (the logic of the musical phrase?), as if has “disjointed” the elbow of the performer. In art this kind of disproportions happen very often when the impulsive idea spins the inspiration of the creator – as if, making it jumping over the expected connections between things, when anarchy of creative energy neglects the expected “proper” balance. In the situation we observe here – the right arm/hand of the artist-musician is trying to achieve proper sound, as if temporarily disjoining itself to reach genuine tonality. Viva, Rostropovich! Viva, music! Music is spirit!

The artist’s gaze is suspended. It’s, as if, Rostropovich’s eyes temporarily join his ears and rather just guard what the artist is hearing. His facial expression is that of torment, of almost unbearable overconcentration. But it’s the suffering of a victor, suffering as a part of triumph. When an artist is suffering it can be a sign that he may really be on the right path. Is my cello right – are my hands right? Is the sound of music right? Is my body in tune with the demands of gods of music?

To temporarily lend your sight to your hearing, to let borrow the muscles of the body to the caprices of musical demons is a dangerous obsession. For the musician to control the cello means to command his body as if it is an army’s private, for the sake of being at the disposal of the spirits of the music and still sometimes allow himself to twist their power and bend their excitement by his own risky and irresistible creative elaborations Rostropovich is known for.

Milein Cosman, 1921-2017