Wednesday, 1 April 2020

‘Noise’ in the Time of Coronavirus (Jaques Attali)

An early Broadwood grand stands 
In an empty bedroom of the same age, 
Silently, as it has of late,
Waiting for something to rupture
The extra depth of peace;
There is something disconcerting 
About stillness imposed by the state.
It is waiting for someone to rage
Over a lost penny, at least,
If not a lost economy or generation.
Its plum pudding mahogany is warm in the sun,
Which pours in from the south and east,
Highlighting the cobwebbed fenestration,
The thin glass between the thin glazing bars,
Which divide the view and the light,
Sky, garden, river, tall front gate,
Daffodils at the wood’s border
Into 12 equal parts,
Providing them with form,
Classical structure
Noise to music, order,
As they do the night,
The stars,
The rain, the storm.
Another empty day has begun.

Its identical twin, stands silently too,
In the Beethoven house in Bonn,
Same instrument, different lands,
One anonymous, one of great renown,
Untouched by human hands,
An object, displayed
To an empty room
Open, to keep the ivories white,
But shut down.
Now, not even gazed upon 
A mere object,  unplayed.  
If noise is power, ritual murder, violence,
What is this state imposed silence?
What is social isolation?
Are we so frightened of death,
So feeble, so oppressed
We accept this imprisonment, without question?
Aung San Suu Kyi had a piano 
Played Beethoven, during lockdown
But Beethoven only plays now, on Radio 3
Or from boxed set CD.
When so much music was learned, digested at an early date,
There seems little point in old age
Reading with dimming sight,
The music on the page
Attempting to amuse oneself
in solitary confinement
Under house arrest. 

The birds are not silent, 
In the garden and fields around
They’re marking their territory, during Lent,
Like rabble at a festival.
In endless repetition
But still at the sacrificial stage.
Their noise the articulation of a space,
“Keep your social distance”
But their singing 
Draws attention to the falseness, 
Of the lack of manmade sound.
And stacked up around the silent piano
Are hours of time, stockpiled,
The old man has devoted his life
To producing the means
To buy the recordings of other people’s time
Losing in the process not only the use of his own
But also the time required to use other people’s.
He has bought more records than he can listen to,
Than he could ever have heard.
Thousands of 78’s and LP’s and cassettes and cds
Among the dust 
And piles of printed music,
Some of it ordered, filed,
In ancient chests of drawers
Sagging under the weight.
The old man has stockpiled more time than he can hear,
As a way of buying time,
So that he does not disappear.

Yet death will come, regardless
Of the actions of the state,
Who will not let the old man
Hear the singing of his choir,
Or bring organ music to the funerals
Of those his neighbours, once held dear.
And empty, lonely silence, 
Seems to bring death near. 

No comments:

Post a Comment