Friday, March 07, 2008

Ruins: More on Nyiregyházi

But the wrong notes, the ragged runs, the stumbling chords--they remain, and complicate our appreciation. A correction must be entered: Nyiregyházi in his seventies was not a great pianist but a ruin of a great pianist--a ruin in the prosaic sense, something that time and fortune have left damaged and incomplete, but a ruin in the elevated sense, too. A ruin is not the same thing as a pile of rubble, after all; it can be magnificent and affecting, in its own ways. Ruin fanciers speak of feelings that ruins evoke more intensely than intact structures: mystery, romance, nostalgia, wistfulness, melancholy, regret. Ruins, moreover, evoke the distinction--crucial to Romantic aesthetics--between the beautiful and the sublime. That which is sublime is not pretty or delicate or orderly, but powerful, massive, and monumental, suprahuman, and emotionally overwhelming, provoking astonishment, awe, even terror. Kant, in his Critique of Judgement defines the sublime as "that which makes everything else seem small in comparison with it." A butterfly is beautiful; a mountain is sublime. The elder Nyireghyázi was a sublime ruin--grand, lofty, noble, solemn, strange, ecstatic, in some ways repellent, in other ways marvelous, something plus beau que la beauté
.From Lost Genius by Kevin Bazzana

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

Ruin is a wonderful metaphor. I think of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra near the ends of their lives and voices, or Lester Young, too worn out to stand with the other saxes, rising to play his solo on "Fine and Mellow" (CBS, The Sound of Jazz, 1957).