Tuesday, May 23, 2006

impossibility of authentic connection, part 3

Here’s what’s left…dead/living and human/divine in “Engel” (I think I have covered enough already in “Heirate mich”), self/family in “Spieluhr,” and disconnect-as-affirmation as seen in “Bestrafe mich,” “Bück Dich,” and “Feuerrader.”

As is the case in other songs, “Spieluhr” works with inversions, beginning with the first line, where the child only pretends to die and fools those around him, through the return to life at the end—a return that is not a resurrection. To me, the really interesting aspects of “Spieluhr”are the nuances that point to the myth of Orpheus, a figure who went into Hades to bring forth his beloved with the power of his music. Orpheus’s journey was for naught because he turned to see Eurydice before she came fully into the sunlight. Similarly, one could argue that the child in “Spieluhr” is not permitted to exist authentically and play his music box, but instead is forced back into a world not of his making. If to play music is to create a world, then the child is denied the power of creation, which is the ultimate act of power that we the living have. Life for the child becomes death. The rescuers—we may assume that it’s the child’s family, but there is no evidence in the song that points to it—have brought the child from the life it preferred into the death it was trying to escape.

"Engel" also plays with inversions. The angelic figures in this song are nothing like the saccharine caricatures commonly found in American culture, nor are they like the more delicately nuanced representations seen in some European art. They are a far cry from Paradise Lost as well, where angels are immensely powerful, made from matter that is neither human nor properly divine but yet is overwhelmingly and innately good. The angels in “Engel” exist without a god; the voice of the angel says, “wir haben Angst und sind allein.” Of what use is an angel without a divine force to guide it? Being an angel would bring one into direct apprehension not of the divine, but of the ultimate meaninglessness of existence. No wonder the narrator of the song insists, “Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein.”

I am going to save the last three songs in this topic for a separate post. See, not everything I write is as long as the average 19th-century Russian novel. Some of it's longer.

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