Tuesday, 6 November 2018


Erato, The Muse of Love Poetry, François Boucher
Here at Unraveling Musical Myths, art is synonymous with beauty.

Be it in the elegant prose of Dante or Goethe, or in the frescoes of Correggio, the Madonna of Filippo Lippi or the Virgine Degli Angeli of Giuseppe Verdi, I firmly believe that each medium is capable of revealing man's innermost desires, hopes, fears, triumphs and regrets, through a glorious tableaux of visual and acoustical masterpieces - exposing a universal collective conscience, a timeline of the past and of the future, and an autobiographical tome detailing both victory and fragile vulnerability.

Art and music have lived side by side for millennia: the ancient Greeks evoked the spirit of the gods through festive performances of both song and dance, inspired by the Bacchic god of festivity Dionysus. Theatrical Greek Tragedies incorporated music lessons into their plays, selecting from the general population amateur male musicians to both sing and perform on an instrument as a mandatory religious and civic duty. Oral tradition would be passed on from one generation to the next, and from city to countryside by reciters of poetry and by traveling musicians.

In 16th century Italy, a collective gathering of scientific and artistic intelligentsia calling themselves The Florentine Camerata would draw upon the practices of the early Greek theatre, influencing the progenitors of modern opera - composers who would eventually come to incorporate both spoken word and poetic prose with music, dance, song and theatrics (including both acting and elaborate stage design.)

An Allegory on the Four Seasons attr. Cornelis de Vos. Bacchus - or Dionysus - (seated, center) the noted mythological god of wine and debauchery, not only influenced the theatre of the ancient Greeks, but also past and present opera as well.
Tales of bacchic excess have been exploited by composers through the ages, from Claudio Monteverdi's L'Arianna, to Karol Szymanowski's more covert use of Bacchic influence in his Norman epic
Król Roger. He even makes an appearance in "To Anacreon in Heaven," the official drinking song for the Anacreaontic Society of London and source of the melody for the American National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. Bacchus is pictured here in triumphant pose alongside his immortal wife Ariadne, who exposes her naked breast to her beloved in a gesture of acceptance in taking him as her husband. Gathered around the couple are members of the Bacchic thiasos, or retinue.

Where early pioneers of modern opera held fast to the belief held by their Greek ancestors, that music should remain subservient to text and narrative – the classical era would usher in a new creed: 18th century Austrian composer Wolfgang "Amadé" Mozart famously wrote in a letter to his father, Leopold, that

“... in an opera the poetry must necessarily be the obedient daughter of the music,” [1]

thereby flipping the long-held Italian tradition on it's head.

By the romantic age, the total embodiment of art would be championed by the dominating force of German composer Richard Wagner. His "Gesamtkunstwerk," an all-encompassing, all-embracing art form that borrowed from all artistic mediums, looked to the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and the perceived limitations of the Grand Opera as a starting point toward fashioning a complete synthesis of the arts - a fantastical vision that would culminate in his epic four-part music drama tour de force Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1876.

Wagner's vision proved so successful, “Gesamtkunstwerk” entered the English aesthetic lexicon.

In the present age, we have collaborators of the ilk of Italian art director and visual artist Rino Stefano Tagliafierro and composer Enrico Ascoli embracing the spirit of the great masters, in Tagliafierro's breathtakingly stunning magnum opus “Beauty,” an award-winning short art film, accompanied by a classical-synth hybrid of exquisite musical grandeur.

Ascoli, whose claim to fame lay in dance and electronic music, eases seamlessly into the classical element in Beauty, perfectly capturing the artistic vision of Tagliafierro, who draws upon the masterpieces of pre-Raphaelite, classicist, symbolist and renaissance maestri to tell the animated story of man from cradle to grave - and toward whatever may lay beyond.

The over nine and a half minute film is accompanied by a poignant – if succinct – text:

A path of sighs through the emotions of life.
A tribute to the art and her disarming beauty.

B E A U T Y is a short story of the most important emotions of life, from birth to death, love and sexuality through pain and fear.
It is a tribute to art, to life and their disarming beauty.

I couldn't have worded it better myself.

Turn down the lights, turn up the volume, and lay back and relax to Tagliafierro's Beauty: (2016 version. First released in 2014.)

[1]extracted from Mozart's letter to his father, Leopold, dated 13 October, 1781, from Vienna: "...beÿ einer opera muß schlechterdings die Poesie der Musick gehorsame Tochter seÿn."
- Rose.

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