Stravinsky – Music as the 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 not the front of his body including the face – the face of the artist, the face of his inspiration? Well, 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, contains and radiates the very energy, inspiration’s energy. But what does the human back radiate? Physical stress?

But the physical strain, 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 that belongs 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 from his music. Let his face and chest – his code of inspiration be for the audience in the concert hall. But his music can be heared – alive, made, controlled, released, squeezed, blessed and joggled by the composer’s body – in this little sketch by Milein Cosman.

Rostropovich – Music-the Spirit, Cello-the Craft and the 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 something of 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 elbow in his right arm. The impression is that something (the logic of 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 jump over the expected connections between things, when anarchy of creative energy neglects the expected “proper” balance. In the situation we can observe, here – the right arm/hand of the artist-musician is trying to reach the proper sound, and it’s, as if, temporarily disjoining itself to reach the genuine tonality. Viva, Rostropovich! Viva, music! Music is spirit!

The artist’s gaze is suspended. It’s, as if, Rostropovich’s eyes have temporarily joined his ears and are guarding what the artist is hearing. His facial expression is that of torment, almost an unbearable over-concentration. It’s suffering of a victor, suffering as 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 alright – are my hands alright? Is the sound of music alright? Is my body in tune with the demands of the gods of music?

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

Milein Cosman, 1921-2017