– Film by an unknown photographer
– Music by Telemann
performed by Ben Heaney
- Rhinegold MusicPages “Artist of the Month” (October 2015)
A few weeks ago an anonymously shot, silent video appeared on Facebook showing a war devastated scene. Watching it, I wondered if there was any music that could accompany images of such a destroyed place. Trying to create something “especially” seemed rather ill placed and I gravitated to music from the past. Where Have All The Flowers Gone, War Pigs, Masters Of War and Lets Not Chat About Despair came to mind before searching deeper in the past, eventually recording music written nearly 300 years ago.
War is not new, artists have tried so often to comment on the horrors, misery, destruction and everything else awful about War. Still, somehow the messages of Love and Peace towards fellow human-beings and respect for the animals, wild-life and ecological systems sustaining us are all urgently needed. How is it, within living memory so many people lived through the anti-War Protests of the 1960s and today such a great number feel the need to take to the streets to demonstrate against War? The youth during the ‘Summer of Love’ are nearing the end of their working lives, retiring and entering old-age. And Wars continued throughout their lives. Their thoughts and opinions on what possibly went wrong, why they ‘failed’ are welcomed. It is as if anti-War songs with their cries to imagine perfect peaceful co-existence are well known for their catchy tunes and memorable words, but actually in daily practice they mean nothing at all.
I hope this very short film raises in you the question of whether or not Music can really convey a message so strong that it actually does change opinions, thoughts and attitudes towards each other for the better. My belief despite seeming evidence to the contrary, is that music has, is and will change society for the better. There is however another less discussed question I hope to stimulate and it rises from the choice of instrumentation for the recording of the soundtrack in this work. To some minds the introduction and certain establishing of electric, electronic or electrified musical instruments was an unwelcome invasion on musically hallowed ground. I chose the electric violin for this soundtrack for the very reason that the violin seems to be one of the last bastions of old school instruments really to embrace, even cherish electricity by many in a profession that took root half a millennia ago!
The score used for War Flower was written by a largely self-taught and brilliant musician, Georg Frederick Telemann. Credited as being one of the most prolific composers in history Telemann also forms an important bridge between the Baroque and Classical Periods. His Fantasia #7 in Eb Major was written as one of 12 pieces “For Solo Violin Without Bass”. At the time of writing in 1735, the Violin as a musical instrument was firmly entrenched in music making and the greatest makers, e.g. Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri were making violins as their life’s occupation. These instruments surviving today command prices at auction in the region of £millions. It does not appear to matter that none of them are in the condition they left Antonio’s workbench. Generations came, took these massively valuable instruments apart; they changed angles and thicknesses to get a better more desired result. The oldest surviving examples of the Perfected form found from the Golden Era of Italian Violin making are now Museum pieces for posterity only, never to be heard in concert again. During his life-time Telemann was actually writing for a very exciting and brand-new instrument. We can only imagine the impact of the violin on the then contemporary ears of more than 300 years ago.
The electric violin heard in this film was made by arguably one of the most successful and brilliant musical instrument makers ever. Clarence Leonidas Fender, or Leo Fender as he is better known set up his Fender Musical Instrument Corporation some 70 years ago. He invented and developed the guitar and the bass as electrified musical instruments and such is his success that his name has become synonymous with these instruments. Fender also established new standards in amplification and speaker systems. Somehow though his effort to bring the violin up to speed with the rapidly changing musical landscape failed. However, upon inspection of the scant information available and despite a near total absence of existing instruments to judge, significant questions can be raised and have begun to be answered.
Did Fender actually fail to make a good violin, or did it just get missed for whatever reasons?