Bill Hensley, mountain fiddler, Asheville, North Carolina, 1937, from here

One-way, as if a New Year’s greeting, has posted some beautiful old pictures on violin players, thus giving me an excuse to publish some long-preserved fiddler photos as well as the most beautiful song I have ever heard on a fiddler.

American mountain fiddler, 1920, from here

Christmas fiddler, Belgrad, 1919, from here

Cretan fiddler Papadakis and lauto player Koutzourelis

Indian classical fiddler Kala Ramnath, twenty years ago

Visiting card of promising young violinist Jiří Jelen, Prague, ca. 1884

Visiting card of a string quartet, Prague, ca. 1905, photo by V. Donát

Visiting card of Czech violinist and composer Jan Kubelík (1880-1940) at a young age. The
inscription, written in Vienna in September 1919 is in Hungarian: “Forgive me for
my laziness. Tomorrow I take an examination. Thanks! Bye, Aurel.” This
was therefore not written by Kubelík, although he also spoke well
in Hungarian, and his wife, Countess Marianne Csáky-Széll
was also Hungarian. All their eight children became
musicians, the five daughters violinists.

Austro-Hungarian military orchestra, ca. 1900

Girl playing on violin, visiting card. New Jersey, ca. 1870

Photo montage by Ruth Zachary on her great-grandfather, fiddler and violin maker Alfred
Bowers, hero of the American Civil War, from here

John Flynn, “the Bard of Erin”, Wisconsin (*1840), visiting card, from here

Bulat Okudzhava: The Musician

Булат Окуджава: Музыкант

Музыкант играл на скрипке, я в глаза ему глядел,

Я не то чтоб любопытствовал – я по небу летел.

Я не то чтобы от скуки, я надеялся понять,

Как умеют эти руки эти звуки извлекать

Из какой-то деревяшки, из каких-то грубых жил,

Из какой-то там фантазии, которой он служил.

А еще ведь надо в душу к нам проникнуть и поджечь.

А чего с ней церемониться, чего ее беречь.

Счастлив дом, где пенье скрипки наставляет нас на путь.

И вселяет в нас надежду; остальное - как-нибудь.

Счастлив инструмент, прижатый к угловатому плечу,

По чьему благословению я по небу лечу.

Счастлив тот, чей путь недолог, пальцы злы, смычок остер

Музыкант, соорудивший из души моей костер.

А душа, уж это точно, ежели обожжена,

Справедливей, милосерднее и праведней она.
Bulat Okudzhava:

A musician played on violin
I looked into his eyes.
Not that I was curious –
I was flying to the skies.
Not that I was bored –
I just hoped to understand:
how are able these hands
to call forth these sounds

from some kind of wood
from some kind of rough bowels
from some kind of fantasy
which he served –
because there must be
still something else
that penetrates into our soul
that celebrates there with her
and that saves her.

Happy is the house where
the violin’s song teaches us
the way and gives us hope –
the rest will go somehow.
Happy is the instrument,
pressed to the bony shoulder
whose blessing makes it that
I am flying to the skies.

Happy is he, who directly, with
nervous fingers and a sharp
bow, as a musician, is able
to make a bonfire in my soul.
And the soul, that is for sure,
once burned in this fire,
will be forever cleaner
more righteous and merciful.

André Kertész: The blind musician. Abony, Hungary, 1921. “The blind musician. Look at
the expression of his face. It was absolutely fantastic. If he had been born in Berlin,
London or Paris, he might have become a first-rate musician.”
(André Kertész: Kertész on Kertész)

Among the pictures of one-way there is only one of which she has not disclosed the title, author and year. This is a photo by André Kertész, made exactly ninety years ago, only a few miles from where I live. This is the picture about which Andrzej Stasiuk writes in his Jadąc do Babadag (On the way to Babadag, 2004, my translation):

Probably everything I wrote in my life can be traced back to this photo. 1921, a Hungarian little town, Abony, seven kilometers west of Szolnok. A blind violinist is crossing the street and playing. A teenage boy is leading him, with a peaked cap on his head. The musician wears a trampled shoe. With his right foot he is just stepping over the trail of an iron-wheeled cart. The street has no pavement. There is drought. The boy’s feet are not muddy, the narrow wheel track is flat, it hardly penetrates into the ground. It slightly turns to the right and gets lost in the blurred background of the picture. Along the street, a wooden fence and a part of a house: the sky is reflected in the window. Slightly further away, a white chapel. Some trees are standing behind the fence. The musician closes his eyes. He is just going and playing to himself and to the invisible space around him. Apart from the two wanderers, there is only a two-three years old child on the street. He turns toward them, but looks somewhere farther, beyond the edge of the picture, as if behind the tramps there was something more interesting happening than on the picture. The weather is gloomy: neither the objects nor the people do not raise a shadow. On the right arm of the violinist (yes, he is left-handed!) * a rod is hanging, while on that of his companion some kind of a small horse-blanket. They are only a few steps away from the edge of the picture. Soon they will disappear and the music will stop. Only the little boy, the street and the track will be left in the picture.

This photo has been haunting me for four years. Wherever I travel, I am looking for the three-dimensional and color version of it, and sometimes I feel as if finding it. So it was in Podolin, in the alleys of Lőcse/Levoča, in the white-hot Gönc, where I was looking for the railway station which, as it turned out, was an empty, dilapidated building and no train was to leave until evening. So it was in the empty platform of Vilmány, in the middle of endless fields, on the market place of Deljatin, where old women were selling tobacco, and in Tiszaborkút/Kvásy when the train left and there was no living creature around, although there were houses lined up side by side. So it was in Aknaszlatina/Solotvina in the middle of the motionless mine shafts covered with salty dust, and in Dukla, while a never ending, biting wind was blowing from the mountain pass. Everywhere André Kertész’s photo of 1921 was projected onto the transparent screen of the space as if time stopped once and forever in that moment, and so the present would be an error, a joke or a betrayal, as if my presence on these places were an anachronism and a scandal, for I came from the future, but not for this I am wiser, only more terrified. I am hypnotized by the space of this picture, and the purpose of all my travels is to find the secret passage leading into the interior of this image.

6 comentarios:

Araz dijo...

I have listened to Bulat Okujava - what a wonderful song. As a person who completed seven years education in violin class, unfortunately I forgot the distinctive feeling of playing music, which came to me very late - only to the end of my education.

I was also intrigued with Jadąc do Babadag, since two of the highest peaks in Azerbaijan are Shahdag and Babadag. Is there any conncetion?

Studiolum dijo...

Probably there is. Although the Babadag of Stasiuk, the obsessive tramp of Central-Eastern Europe, lays in Romania, nevertheless it must be a former Dobrudjan Turkish / Gagauz settlement (perhaps still it is), hence the name. This place at the shore of the Black Sea, the last settlement before the Ukrainian border symbolizes for Stasiuk the end of his homely Central European world, the ultima Thule, over which there are only lions. A visit to this place ends his above quoted book written about his pointless travels from Poland through Hungary to the Balkans.

It is never too late to return to playing music! You should pick up the violin again, so when I go to Baku, we could play a duet (me on saz or oud or whatever lute-like instrument will be around).

And yes, Okudzhava’s song is marvelous, one of my favorites of him.

catherine willis dijo...

merci studiolum for this post ,the haunting photos and song.

Studiolum dijo...

Merci beaucoup, Catherine, à vous, pour votre visite, vos bons mots, et vos recommandations de Río Wang sur d'autres sites. Je suis vraiment heureux de vous voir ici. A très bientôt!

Araz dijo...

Thanks for explanations, Studiolum, what an interesting coincidence. Inspired by your proposition I have looked at my violins, stored at my father's house under a sick layer of dust and neglect, yesterday... after 17 years, to find out that the full one needs to be repaired, but the 3/4 one is alright, still without a bow. Maybe I will start to play again, but I am afraid I will not be a worthy duet partner in two months, what a shame.

MOCKBA dijo...

Thanks for a repost in Spanish, Studiolum! It prompted me to revisit this wonderful old entry. BTW the following lines
А еще ведь надо в душу к нам проникнуть и поджечь.
А чего с ней церемониться, чего ее беречь

I'd have translated as something like

And besides, one has to sneak into our soul, and to set it ablaze,
There is no reason for being too careful with the soul, anyway!

It's this sort of a flying away into the air, recklessly and blissfully, as opposed to церемониться (not "церемония") (being too punctual and careful rather than following a rite)