This is gonna sound weird, but when I have trouble figuring out what to do with some of the Winterreise songs I meditate and just "ask Schubert" directly. What can it hurt? I just breathe deeply three times, picture a circle of white light open up, and BAM, I'm in heaven chatting up a genius. I'm just goofing off after all, right? Well, it turns out to be extremely helpful. The meditations are supremely vivid, poetic, and it turns out Franz is incredibly wise and full of love and passion. He will usually turn these horrifying songs into a teaching moment to help me with whatever troubles I'm dealing with or have dealt with that are relevant. I want to write a book that includes all of them, but for now I have a puppet show to create. It's amazing what happens when we give ourselves the freedom to be strange, and I'm finding my subconscious to be a far more stunning place than I had ever imagined. Next time you wonder what was going through a great dead artist's head maybe you should just "ask them." Unfortunately I only started trying this technique when I got to song 7, but I may go back and meditate on the first few later...at least for the book.
I had some questions about Auf dem Flusse and Rückblick. Franz took me to a wintery landscape and we stood under a linden tree in full bloom, but in the snow. We were surrounded by snowy mountains and wearing heavy fur lined clothes. There was a frozen river winding through the valley as far as the eye could see and we walked up to it.
I had given some thought earlier to the image of the broken ring in Auf dem Flusse as being a broken path that also provides the opportunity to forge a new path.
“I like your idea of what the ring represents,” Franz said. “The wanderer in Winterreise has his path proscribed for him in his expectations of marriage, and when that path is broken he doesn’t know what his path looks like anymore. He’s afraid, confused, and maybe a little excited, but he wouldn’t admit that to himself yet. Most people see the path of the ring as safety. They know they will be taken care of and they don’t have to think too hard about their life path anymore. They don’t have to forge it as actively. They know what to expect today, tomorrow, ten years from now. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is appealing, but you and I are a bit different. We need to forge our own path and have the liberty to change it as we feel fit. What path diverges from that broken ring?” I had an image come into my head of winding paths growing like antlers out of the cracked ends and sighed, “Oooooh!”
“How do you see Rückblick, Franz?”
“That song is all about hyperbole. He remembers his leaving the town as being much worse than it was and he remembers arriving there as being much better than it was. If you remember the first song when he does actually leave it’s very calm. Sad, but calm. There are no crows throwing snowballs at him. There’s wind and some snow falls on him, sure, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he is remembering in Rückblick. This song is about extreme contrasts and about how our memories are easily distorted.”
“Can you give me some ideas for the puppets with that?”
“Ha! That’s your job. I’m not getting in the way of your creativity, just guiding your inspiration. You’ll come up with something great.”
I thought it was odd that there would be a graveyard in heaven, but Franz said they have all things there, this was for inspiration because I have had many a worry about what the heck I’m going to do with the song Das Wirtshaus. He simply reminded me of all the time I’ve spent in Austrian graveyards. Truly, I’m a genuine connoisseur of them. He showed me the contrasts between the simple graves and the large gothic noble graves, the grotesque and the touching. They were practically parading before me. I was thinking how I need to find a way to have things pass before the screen like a crankie but without having to put in the crazy amount of time that crankies require, that and they can be blurry when they’re behind a screen. A parade of graves seems like a good idea. This may be the only time you ever hear me say that.