Articles and other literature

Tog paa Vejen (Passing Train)

In front of Rud Langgaard's harmonium.
Hver 8. Dag, 31 January 1919.

Rud Langgaard sits beneath the crucifix, at the feet of which the massive harmonium fills the whole of one wall. Out of his ashen, bird-like face his eyes, brown like those of a partridge, take in his guest, who for his part is now able to take a closer look a this strange musical phenomenon, R u d L a n g g a a r d, who began composing at the age of 6-7 years, and has since developed in leaps and bounds. In this singularly pointed skull perched on a long, thin neck, works of music have been born which have surprised all by their boundless tonal range and by the richness of their melodies, which seems inexhaustible. However, although year after year Rud Langgaard, like the musical phenomenon he is, has stood in front of an orchestra to receive the applause of a full house, he has never been able to influence his colleagues who are also music critics in such a way that they would feel called to raise him on their shields - indeed, their slings and arrows have made it clear that they would rather put him to the sword.

So here is - under the crucifix - so thin, so aesthetic - just a few days after he has put on a concert that amazed everyone, not least his admirers, with a programme featuring works called Tog paa Vejen (Passing Train), Landskab med Spillemænd (Landscape with Fiddlers) and a number of Salonpjeser (Salon Pieces) about the various moods of a young lady, about her toilet and her mooning about Friedmann . . .

- Was this meant as a joke . . . these Passing Trains?

Rud Langgaard shakes his head:
- Not a joke, no. I wanted to bring out a mood . . . sometimes you hear trains passing in the distance . . . the wind carries the sound towards us and away . . . one's thoughts turn to departing on a journey.

- But the theme constitutes . . . what one could call a d e p a r t u r e from the sort of music your supporters expect you to produce, does it not?

- One-sidedness - replies Langgaard, his eyes focused on something far away - one-sidedness is a limitation. In art it becomes monotony, because the nature of art is diversity. This is also true of music. Any music that always moves in the higher spheres with its gaze "turned to heaven" without any relation to the lighter side of life - which generally avoids the star-gazing fantasies of inexperienced youth - such music is false and irrelevant. Most people do not think about this, because for them music is mere entertainment. And when these same people begin to criticise music, then the creator of it is in a real fix! Of course, there are pros and cons with any piece of music, no matter how perfect it may be. But alas - if only the judgements of critics were tempered by an understanding of the inner nature of music! But pays any attention to this these days, and how irrelevant it is whether this or that piece is "beautiful", or whether this or that "interesting" phrase is to be found here or there, if music has not opened up for the world that is its Nature, and which is just as "real" as the world we live in!

- What is your view of music?

- I do not believe in the continued advance of extreme modernism - music does not seek to express the extraordinary, the abstract, but the ordinary, which is never extraordinary.
I think that to present this is a personal - even extraordinary - and generally comprehensible way is the task of the future. When "cubistic music" has run its course, hopefully there will be a new dawn of art, though only for those who have experienced that the hidden riddle of music is that we must open ourselves to it - heady with the thought that Music means more than our critical views about it. I say this of course with reference to the true work of art. And in this connection one so easily forgets that real music is a gift from on high, that it is more than the work of man - for who knows the depths for which it is born? We ought to feel small when confronted with it! We could learn a lot from the story of the musician who left his monastery and heard a heavenly bird sing, and when it was quiet he felt a deep feeling of loss, and then when he returned to the monastery no one knew him, and they thought he had been dead for many years - a witness to the fact that the song of this wondrous bird had carried him a long way forwards in time.

- Have you ever felt so much at home in the world of music that you forgot everything, and time stood still?

- Maybe - replies Rud Langgaard - a youth full of enthusiasm might well think so, would he not? Coming home from a Wagner concert full of music he might well think that no one was more filled with music than he. The older man is of course right when he comments with a smile that we felt the same at his age, and regards it as a phase that is past. And he is of course completely right when he exclaims on his own behalf that life is more than enthusiasm, for enthusiasm makes us blind, and we can only see the latest experience! No, only as long as we direct our gaze outwards towards people - the years, the time that passes - can true enthusiasm grow in our hearts, and this is Music, when the gates of music are opened to us.

- Many people have surely felt the same as you?

- Perhaps, but where are the many? Where are those who fire people with the desire for artistic collaboration, with true enthusiasm? In Germany, someone once invented a sort of magnetic psychometer, which could measure spiritual abilities. This would be a useful thing for critics - who with the aid of it could discover whether our "Musikgärtnerei" in this country possessed the professional and spiritual qualities required to nurture "that heavenly growth" which is music? It may well be that there can be found a "shepherd", who like in Hans Christian Andersen's story gathers it up in his sheaf and burns it - or perhaps, after the burning, a golden fence is raised around the place where it grew. But who can live off fences? A rich harvest is what is needed.

Rud Langgaard falls silent, smiling a strangely young, unproven, trusting smile.
Quiet descends on the room, sparsely furnished with beautiful pieces of mahogany furniture, which, one feels, have been placed with great exactitude in the place assigned to them.

All is still.

There are no passing trains.

[Signed] B-to.