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Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

“Clair de Lune” (1869) by Paul Verlaine

I could say a whole lot of things. I could start by saying that it’s interesting how objects and poems and music accrue different meanings and symbols and interpretations over time in different situations. I could go on to say that the context of a thing changes the perception of that thing so that it is not quite the same being played at a small child’s piano recital or even at college or for every wedding in town, as it is being played by a humble, seasoned pianist in his 80th year as an encore piece. Meaning is transformed along with experience — not just one’s personal experience, but also the collective enterprise of all the other pianists performing that piece. Not that that’s a bad thing — that way art is always being made. However, some things that once were great, extremely moving, and new become emblems of sentimentality and kitsch.

I could say all that in great detail. But in the end, all I can say is that I had ever experienced that piece quite the same way before, and that there was a lifetime behind every note.

I was moved. That’s really all I can say.


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