The Years of Wandering

Episodes from 'The Years of Wandering', a series of Tone Poems

The "Episodes"are a kind of musical "bildungsroman" a romantic novel of experiences and travels, presented in the form of Lisztian symphonic poems. They do not necessarily describe specific events but evoke the mood and ideas of the various incidents.

The pieces may be heard as pure music, of course
1- A Chapter of Flowers - The Aeolian Harp

 Youthful fancies...From one garden to another - paths that lead upwards while seeming to lead downward. The gardens embraced both Arcadia and Tartarus - Statues in the moonlight - Fountains -Night-flowering blooms.

...then turning to him she said: "I will be frank. I hear at this moment music within me..."*

 2 -The Attempted Symphony and the Journey to the South

 From this point there were only fragmentary sketches, abortive gestures that could never produce the epic development he desired....It was the Professor's daughter singing somewhere below "Kennst du das Land"....the startling contrast of the idea of the south, light, life with the black pages of tortured counterpoint...

..."We all need our 'Journeyman Years' " the professor explained, having welcomed him into his study in the wooden attics of the house. "We seek the true, be it also, to our critics, the simple and apparently naive. And the true, my friend, is not our truth but the truth we see. All my life I have struggled to compose just one small piece that I could feel, truly, was NOT my own."

"... and it was always necessary to experience the storms and dangers of the mountains before hearing the shepherd's simple tunes and seeing those first meadows of southern light...."

3- The Venetian Chapter - Hoffmannesque

 "Regardless of your music, " the maestro insisted, "which is so-so, the opera will be a success."

...but so difficult to recall even his own melodies above the echoing vulgar songs of vile gondoliers...

.....with greatest publicity, of course, to the great Giuletta, who had not been heard in Venice for several years, having spent that time, as they told him, in 'another country'...

Alceste's climactic aria....yet no adored diva at the stage door...Some talk that Doctor D- had hurried her away under guard through the sottoporto and into a dark maze of alleys... every turning that ended dead at the canal was another hideous gondolier singing to a monstrous parody Giuletta, distorting his aria...

....and of course, having been brought back from "another country" it was necessary that what remained of the real Giuletta should be taken to the funerary isle of San Michele...

4- The Wanderer on the Moor

In his own country, travelling as far as he could from voices, false music, from the memories of torn up pages that he has scattered on the waves as he sailed home...

....but even the dark tarn denied him silence. Black depths opened into black depths with a music which came from a night which lay hidden in the depth of the mountain itself...

5 - Travellers in the Woods - A Nocturnal Education

" not enquire, sir, into the tale of that goose....."

...the thought that, perhaps, there were travellers of many kinds, dispossessed exiles, or those who found a mysterious vocation in carrying their particular knowledge on these old roads, as if through the veins of memory...

"In the glow of the fire...bringing to the dance something of their secret language..."

6-By the Falls

"Listening? Singing?"

The inn by the Falls took in a few paying guests....

The elegant lady traveller with her easel - delineating the picturesque with a light touch. "You travel? Do we need an object to our quest? Should we just be travellers, isn't that enough? Shouldn't we simply travel to see clearly, to feel clearly?"

Her companion seemed to hear a lighter music than the roar of the waterfall, breaking into dances on what appeared to be treacherous paths.

"The "organ of eternity" may play the lightest of tunes. Or is that not so?"

7- A Winter Adventure

Following certain tracks - a wild goose chase, perhaps -"You never know. The woods in the snow-time have strange inhabitants. Are they the same woods?"

"There's nothing so mystic, I sometimes think, as a - - frolic."

8- On The Drove Road - Considering the City

These green roads are not as they used to be...Travellers that have gone into the mists of time, and all that kind of thing....

"From the hill - the city (Those old dreaming spires?) seems both far away - and yet close - almost to the touch....But such cities, all mirage, all delusions. Perhaps."

"And yet what comforting suppers one might have in those halls - or, if one prefers solitariness, with a toasting fork in the study."

"Is this temptation? I suspect that if I took the downhill road I would find quite another city. You may tempt me, but the ghosts of these old country people go another way and I follow them....for the moment."

But there is powerful temptation in toast...

9 -The Sentimental Obsequies of a Poet

From the great house to the village church, a slow procession - the slow step of the crepe caparisoned horses, the weeping ladies, the handkerchiefs...

"Who was this?"

"Ah, a Poet, an artist lamented by so many, by a world, a universe..."

"His name...?"

"Is eternal....set amongst the stars..."

"And his works?"

"Priceless, my good sir. Lines, verses, beyond all price. Words strung like black pearls on the music of the soul..."

Such a throng, following the hearse with no words, only lamenting with gently rhythmic groans.

"If I could hear just an example....a sonnet?"

"Ah, sonnets beyond all value...Beyond all memory..."

10- The House of Repose

Though the house was silent and empty he became aware of three presences in the form of portraits - silent presences one would suppose them to in the conservatory amongst the flowers...the melancholy figure in the study...a startling glance from the staircase...Had he known them? If so long ago...or were they simply reminiscent of half imagined faces? Not so much faces as half imagined voices....They may have been, perhaps, a poet's muses...but his own?


Fragments of two further Episodes exist, though it is impossible to know whether they should follow this or be inserted earlier. No 10 has an air of renunciation - though whether it renounces the muses or the journey is uncertain. Perhaps it is an essential aspect of such a romantic work that it should be unfinished, suggesting further journeys.....

*Jean-Paul Richter "Titan", Cycle 66

Episodes from The Years of Wandering