When Olivier Messiaen was imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II, he found among his number three other musicians. Olivier had at hand a clarinet, violin, and cello, along with himself at the piano. With this awkward quatuor, he wrote what may not be his most beautiful piece, but arguably his most significant. The piece was titled, “Quatuor pour le fin du temps.”
The Quartet for the End of Time
Thinking that he may not survive this internment, he chose to write this piece with a purpose. Within the measures of the music are the compositional devices that he developed in his lifetime; all the tricks of his trade. Another composer could pick up this score, analyze it, and learn everything that Messiaen had to offer as a composer and teacher.
As it turned out, Messiaen did survive that camp and went on to compose several other works. I cannot listen to this piece without thinking of the desperation in the pages. Or is it hope? His preface quoted the book of Revelation and looked to the vindication of the people of God. Imagine the focus, the longing, the desire to pass on the brilliance of living to the next practitioner. It is not arrogance. It is a sober inventory of your existence that produces a result: you have something that the world needs.
And that is why we write.
And that is why we teach.
Have you written your quartet?
Could someone look at your life’s work-to-date and discover why and how and what you do and believe? What are you waiting for? These thoughts and approaches are not your own. There are two ways to view arrogance, both of which center on the self. One is explained in overt assertion of one’s abilities an strengths, the other is explained in an unwillingness to give of oneself due to personal reasons. In both cases, it is the individual who is passing judgment and making decisions that benefit the self instead of others.
We need to get past that. Make mistakes. Stop protecting yourself.
If you learned anything in 4th grade band,
you surely learned “strong and wrong.”
We can fix the mistakes that we hear.