Franz Joseph Haydn — profound proto-Surrealist


1732 – 1809


Surrealism was the artistic and theatrical transformation of reality into audacious or equivocal substances. We get early Happenings — hi-jinks and pranks, the casting off of inhibitions. We get a razor blade across a horrified early movie eyeball. We get Dali’s melting clock, De Chirico’s perplexing shadows, Tanguy’s amoeba forms waiting on lost subconscious shores.

But as far as I’m concerned, Surrealism as we know it wasn’t a pure enough Surrealism. I have to go back to the late 18th century. I have to go back to the composer Haydn for an undiluted Surrealism fix.

Mozart got more attention. Beethoven conquered the universe. Chopin colorized melancholy. Stravinsky caused an uproar. There sure has been a lot of impressive and expressive music.

Haydn got sort of overlooked. He didn’t draw a lot of attention to himself. Some consider his music to be aural wallpaper. But I’m of the opinion that he did something no one else has managed to do: he artistically transformed reality into an egoless condition of rhythmical beauty. It gets strange when beauty happens so audaciously and nobly right on top of time, substance, and consciousness.

Like the pulse of Surrealism, Haydn’s music is an astonishing liberation of imaginative energy. Unlike the exemplars of Surrealism, he abstracted himself out of his works. Haydn’s music allows music to freely exist, to be its peculiar and marvelous swirling self. Absolute music. It just doesn’t get any more surreal (beyond real) than that.

Beauty is farther-fetched than any radical manifesto, sagging timepiece, or fantastical self.




Posted by Tim Buck



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