Listening to a mazurka by Chopin

Here is a tremendous instance of the birth of the lyrical subject in the 19th century.

Listening to this early mazurka, you feel you are listening to something coming forth tentatively from your deepest self, not from an outside source.  It sounds like music that you have unknowingly carried inside you and is now trying to find its way out; you are not receiving it from the composer, you are only hearing it from within you for the first time.  Chopin seems to be giving you the means to express your inner self, to articulate your interiority.  That is why it feels totally yours and you can take this piece with you after the very first hearing.  It is a halting expression, however, unsure of its pace.  Since it is generating a rhythm from indeterminable inner depths, it lacks confidence and emerges with hesitation.  With this piece, you are calculating your first dance steps.  The trills and tremolos indicate that this is not yet your actual first mazurka, only the lyricism of your longing for it.  In three fragile minutes, the piece vocalizes and moves your interiority in a delicate desire for dance.  It makes you realize that you now have a self to choreograph.

Michael Klein applies Lacanian readings to three dances in mazurka op. 30, No. 4, which come from different Polish regions, and identifies symptoms of “coming to life,” the uncanny etc. (Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject, 2015, p. 118).

Private selves first learned how to dance through a particular kind of listening – by interiorizing Chopin’s repertoire of mazurkas, polonaises, waltzes, and many other dances.

January 15, 2019

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