week48: ralph vaughan williams; wordsworth;

Ralph Vaughan Williams -- Symphony No. 9; Everest: Sir Adrian Boult Conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra 

Ralph Vaughan Williams -- Symphony No. 9; Everest: Sir Adrian Boult Conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra 

it was with a sense of obligation that i included vaughan williams in this catalog: the obligation to have an english composer other than benjamin britten. there is in this ninth (and seemingly least popular) symphony, his characteristic natural setting, open air, simplicity, and the mise en scene described by wordsworth’s poetry…

Sincerity is what Wordsworth termed truth: ‘not individual and local, but general and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion.’ Simplicity was defined by a more permanent and a far more philosophical language, that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets … who indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression’. Serenity is tranquillity. Wordsworth sought these qualities consciously in protest against current habits in poetic style. Vaughan Williams similarly. “” Percy M. Young, Vaughan Williams

(sub specie aeternitatis—a contradiction)———

What is recognized in Vaughan Williams is the symphonic outlook: this puts him among the few visionaries of his generation—one who may see, sub specie aeternitatis, the world of yesterday, today and tomorrow as the same world. “” Percy M. Young, Vaughan Williams

one of my few isms is to, as little as possible, put myself in direct opposition to a value system or social mores: and yet, as of late, few things have drawn my ire, activated my instinct to recoil, than any mention of any kind of sub specie aeternitatis (from the perspective of eternity)...

from  Vaughan Williams  by Percy M Young 

from Vaughan Williams by Percy M Young 

the value system described by that perspective is one that in all matters, places greater value on the system, amongst competing value systems, that is consistent and most available to the longest arc of the perspective of eternity. for those who, like i’ve been, forgive the insufficiencies of the present on account of the speculative superabundance of the objective spiritus mundi—advise to take the sub specie aeternitatis is in the opposite direction of health, action, participation and the long etcetera of the present tense that has always defined human life and commanded the greatest impact on posterity.

and yet, yet: what is music without its sub specie aeternitatis? without its eternal depths, its casting of plumb bobs into the caves of eternity, its cerebral leaps into the future as a sort of precursor for the consciousness of posterity... i simply can’t listen to music made entirely for the here and now—or however else we are to define pop music.

(my first instinct in regards to new music)———

Avoid all cliques and give a welcome to all good work in whatever style or school. “” Vaughan Williams to the Committee for the Promotion of New Music

beware, too, of music that relies on its genre, style, or school.

(the influence of william wordsworth)——

i’m always hesitant to advertise my appreciation for wordsworth's poetry—i seldom read an analysis of his that is sympathetic with his tendency to moralize. yet his influence on the island’s artists, especially in regards to the aforementioned tendency and the pastoral scenery his poems describe—is undeniable.  


No one has ever surpassed him, in the power of giving tuterance to some of the most elementary, and, at the same time, obscure sensations of man confronted by the eternal spectacle of nature. These sensations, as old as man himself, come to us as new because Wordsworth was the first to find words for them. “” George Sampson, The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature 1941

this accusation of moralization—being as committed to non-artistic social mores as much as one is committed to one’s medium—is applicable to vaughan williams as well:

Vaughan Williams is, accordingly, a moralist with single-minded determination to ameliorate human discontent by drawing the mind of his audience to communion with what, in his view, are the verities. “” Percy M. Young, Vaughan Williams