Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Louise Michel, "The Clavier of My Over-Dream" (1867)

The Clavier of My Over-Dream

A few days ago, I slept in a lovely dream.
I was free, in a boundless space, where I ascended as easily as one follows the paths of our valleys.

I found myself in a monument, so vast that its edges seemed like a distant horizon.
Silence filled the vaults, but I sensed their incredible resonance.

I sat down at an instrument whose keyboard included so many rising and so many descending notes, that it must include many sounds indistinguishable to the human ear.
When I put my hands on the keyboard, a soft, harmonious sigh escaped from it, as if a soul issued forth, and the vaults vibrated.

My spirit united with the spirit that sang in the instrument.
That prodigious organ had half-tones in place of tones and quarter-tones in place of half-tones.
Little bows adapted to each note were set in motion when one placed ones fingers on the keys: the string moaned like that of a violin, and all of that was carried away in the prodigious pipes.

It was beautiful enough to capture the heart, to ravish the intellect; what one played on that clavier was one’s own soul, Each musical phrase could be translated into a fervent stanza, and the stanza in its turn became living and soared off in a thousand forms unknown to our sphere.

Was that then the last word of harmony?
No, for from the place where I was, would be found another, where no instrument was necessary, where all was sung, or where all vibrated like a lyre.

What a dream! I forgot everything when everything faded.
Some big, hairy paws on my face woke me up. It was Minet, who was playing with my hair, nearly digging in his claws.
It was bright daylight, alas! our day is not the great illumination of the dream.
Opposite my bed was the piano, still open from the night before, on which I case an indignant glance. What could it say to me after that divine clavier?


Source: Le Progrès musical. Journal artistique et littéraire. November 1, 1867, p. 2.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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