The Frog’s Glance


October, already, and I am having trouble writing the ubiquitous September newsletter - those which nearly invariably start with « It’s the end of summer vacation! » and list the fantastic activities and proposals of a group, or an enterprise, or a store, or a theater which will make you turn out in numbers…

Autumn is magnificent however, seen from the window of my little office, through which gardens are glimpsed, bathed in golden light, humming with the songs of birds. Faenza is getting along rather well: several concerts a month, programmers who respond to a phone call a little more often than usual, tours which are getting arranged, the preparation of our next CD which is advancing well, the presence of institutional fairy godmothers who have not abandoned us (yet), the projects and the desires which we kick around in our minds…

 So why is this September newsletter so difficult to write?

Well, let's be frank: it’s because your favorite artistic director’s morale is low, notwithstanding the little singing birds and the programmers who respond. And why is his morale low, despite a pleasant summer mixing vacation and concerts, and a promising autumn?

Because the news of the world isn’t good, dear reader, not good at all. It isn’t necessary to be, like me, adept at social networking, to understand at what point the ecological situation has become grave, to what point the destruction is irreversible and how the countdown is accelerating before all action becomes useless.

I know perfectly well that this isn’t the place to examinate it, but is there an appropriate place to call for help? The planet is dying, dear friends, and it has no voices other than our own to shout it from the rooftops.

Is there no one in charge? No government, no responsible leader to weigh what is happening and put the necessary measures in place? Aren’t we governed by serious people, competent and concerned about our children’s futures?

The truth of it is, the « serious » people seem to be changing sides. Those who start to appear now as irresponsible dreamers, sorcerers’ apprentices, and selfish children obsessed with their toys are numerous among industrialists, financiers, bankers; innumerable among the insurers, the traders, the speculators; most of them among the politicians, the lobbyists, the elected officials, the « responsibles » of all sides, while those, their feet on the ground, who really worry about our children’s futures and that of the Earth which should be able to provide for them, are for the most part simple citizens, researchers, artists, farmers, teachers, shopkeepers…

Happily, there are some defectors: awakening consciences and voices which make themselves heard among the politicians, parliamentarians, and influential people in general. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, followed by an ever-growing number of whistleblowers, has joined the camp of serious people and tells us, in a call to action which dates already from May 30, 2017: he will work with UN member states to "mobilize national and international resources for adaptation, resilience and implementation of national climate action plans, and called for new and strengthened partnerships, including with the private sector... "

As an ensemble of early music, Faenza is part of the private sector mentioned by Guterres. I am part of it and feel the duty within myself to respond to the injunction of my Secretary-General of the United Nations. I don’t have - beyond my social network posts, beyond the conversations that I can have with my friends who are sensitive about the issue, beyond my voting ballot - another voice but this newsletter, of which the purpose isn’t, a priori, this one.

It is out of scruples for you my readers, who didn’t subscribe to this newsletter to hear alarming news, but for information on Faenza’s activities, that I was tardy for so long in deciding to write this text.

I don’t much like to « fool the client about the goods » and I never liked mixing art with politics. But it isn’t a question here about politics and the time has come to stop pussyfooting. It is time to open our eyes, time to speak of it, time to act. I still believe that; if not, I would not demand your time and your patience to impose these unpleasant words on you.

To conclude – and to try to legitimize this appeal in the eyes of those to whom it will seem out of place – I would like to make it heard that what is at play in the desperate attempts to save the planet, which happily flourish here and there, is also our culture.

We may be involved in the oft-heard « sixth mass extinction. » This concept doesn’t worry certain people too much, more philosophical than others or less concerned about their children. They tell themseves that life on Earth – as precious, rare and fragile as it is – has always triumphed over cataclysms and finished by developing itself into another form.

Naturally that’s true, and it’s in some way reassuring, just as it is true that the human being, having arrived at the limits of his growth, could just as well cede his place now to other forms of life.

Linden trees in Derbyshire (UK), photo by Frank Horvat, 1977, all rights reserved.

That said, I remain among those who think that the level of complexity that life on our planet has reached – and of which we are a part, with all our creations, our inventions, our findings – constitutes an inestimable treasure, precious even in the immeasurable immensity of this universe, of which we know nearly nothing.

As Nicolas Gousseff, Papa of our Polichinelle (whose wisdom isn’t to be scorned) said: maybe the Universe, through us, looks at itself. And that look, if it isn’t strictly speaking indispensable, isn’t it precious however?

In bringing about the sixth extinction of the species of animals, we destroy not only our society’s future, but also, quite probably, the future of our race. In destroying our race, we will destroy our culture and all the marvels that were created: the grottoes of Lascaux, the music of Monteverdi, computers, the iPhone…

All of man’s creations – marvelous or frightening, ingenious or destructive, essential or futile – are as much a part of Nature as termite mounds, nests, beehives, and the V-formations of wild geese. It is all that too that is a question of saving.

When I contemplate the frog that lives in the back of my garden, when it looks at me as much as I look at it, when perhaps dozens of insects and birds observe us too, when nature thus contemplates itself in a vertigo of mirrors, I am just as deeply moved, attentive and reflective as when our lutes and our voices give life again to a lost piece of music, coming from the distant past.

« Man does not live by bread alone. » I am not one of those who think that surviving is a end in itself: if we must win the fight, it’s also to save our culture and the marvels that it has bequeathed to us. Much was lost, much remains to lose, but much is still there to preserve and to construct. However, we have to get moving and quickly. Come on, everyone, take heart: « It’s the end of summer vacation! »


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Translations by Sally Gordon Mark

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