Playing Shostakovich’s 8th Symphony is surely something special, a rite of the mind and the heart, a sort of baptizing to the human condition. It is a condition to be alive, and as much as it is a choice to be happy, merry, it is a choice to feel. Yesterday (or today) marks the anniversary of one of the strongest, most terrifying insurrections in modern history; the Spanish Civil War. Dumbed down by a war in which they didn’t take part, the Spanish nonetheless felt the need, the necessity of a change, a divorce against everyone’s idea of good and evil. These men and women didn’t need a God to command their actions, and thus they believed they were him when erasing cities from the surface. I won’t go into the political reasons and changes the Civil War brought, as it is a human tragedy, not a strategic one. Goya’s paintings were the flag of the Spanish spirit for over a century, the people stared into this Saturn eating his children, these moments captured among ash and the sun, and they realized they hadn’t been born to the world, they remained in the pre-revolutionary ideal world. Surrealism may seem a stranger to the world and normality, but in the face of death, the chance of destruction, illness, and a war in which every field can serve for battle, every human be taken for cattle, well it is obvious that you start seeing things. You hear planes before seeing them, you see a bullet, yet it is mute with guilt. But let’s cut short those poetic images, rounding awfulness with inspiration.
Shostakovich’s 8th is very much our Guernica. There is in these two bleakest works, however,a glimmer of hope: the fact that they are. Despite their realism, their tragic sense of life, the two authors believed that humanity could embrace and understand the horrible. The images I am posting should shock you: it seemed to be the only medicine. The world was sick then; the cure is time and Memory.
Pic : Kati Horna, Subida a la catedral