In case you hadn't already figured this out, I am just a wee bit addicted to twitter. I'm not going to try too hard to convince folks that it really is a whole new world and one worth exploring because twitter is one of those things you have to experience and live with for a while to really get what it's all about.
So what does twitter have to do with Schubert's "Winterreise?" Twitter gave me an idea. What if I came up with a twitter-length summary (140 characters or less) of each of the songs in the song-cycle? I could have them printed up and available, along with or instead of the typical packet of translations that are handed out at a voice recital. Would this help some people to experience the song-cycle in a different way?
I guess I'm about to find out.
Over the past few days I have been working through the cycle, coming up with tweetable summaries of each song. It's been pretty fun, actually, and it was a good exercise for me to be able to distill the essence of each song into a short sentence or two. It also helped me to get an overview of the whole cycle since I decided to create a bit of a narrative to go along with the music. Now I realize that there may be people out there that oppose my approach. They may say that the songs are out of order from how the poems were first presented (true), that Schubert and Müller never intended there to be a storyline (possibly true)...I'm sure there are other problems with my interpretation. But my aim is not to be historically accurate. My aim is to simply make this incredible song-cycle more accessible and easier to follow for people that have never experienced this piece before.
I would also like to say that the last summary, the one for "The Organ-Grinder," was actually submitted by a twitter friend, @proxli. Another friend, @gaspsiagore, suggested that I open up the floor to other tweeps (people who tweet) for the final song. We had several entries but @proxli's came closest to my style. (See what fun we twitterers have?)
- Goodnight - A traveling horn player bids farewell to the village where he has been living and to his beloved, who has since dumped him for another.
- The Weathervane - Looking back, he scolds himself for not seeing the symbolism of the weathervane on his beloved's house - both love and wind can change direction.
- Frozen Tears - As he walks he is confused by the tears falling down his cheeks. How can tears burning so hot from his heart turn into frozen tears?
- Numbness - Realizing that his love affair is over, he desperately searches for a memento but finds only her image etched in the ice and in his heart.
- The Linden Tree - He remembers a significant tree where once he carved their names but that now haunts his journey, calling him back to find peace once again.
- Flood - Tired of watching his tears fall into the snow, he asks the snow to take his tears and flow past his beloved's house when it melts in the spring.
- On the River - At a frozen river he sees a reflection of his own life in the ice - what once flowed freely is now forced to live in an icy prison.
- Backwards Glance - Boiling over in anger and despair, he compares his arrival at his beloved's village to his wretched departure yet he still wishes to return.
- Will-O'-the-Wisp - Lured down a rocky chasm by a real or imagined illusion, he fights the urge to panic, calmly choosing another way, one that will end his sorrow.
- Rest - After finding a place to stay for the night, he struggles to fall asleep as his utter exhaustion battles with his tempestuous heart.
- Dream of Spring - Finally asleep he dreams of spring and his beloved only to be rudely awakened by roosters and ravens. Is nature mocking him?
- Loneliness - Despair and loneliness are now second nature to this wanderer. What once was lovely is now wretched.
- The Post - With the sound of a mailman's posthorn his heart takes a sudden leap, hoping to find a letter from his beloved. No luck.
- The Grey Head - Seeing his frost-covered hair he rejoices. When the frost melts, he laments. How can he still be so young after such a journey?
- The Crow - After being followed by a crow throughout his journey, he addresses it, asking if he will be the faithful one to accompany him to the grave.
- Last Hope - Resting beneath a tree he spots a single leaf still attached. When it trembles, he trembles. If it falls, his hope falls with it.
- In the Village - Fighting off sleep, he laughs at man and his petty dreams. Although he asks the dogs to keep him from dreams that end in tears, sleep wins.
- Stormy Morning - Surrounded by a fierce morning storm, the wanderer revels in the violence and drama of the skies that reflect his own emotions.
- Illusion - Faced with a taunting illusion, he gives in and follows its lead, knowing that only in this illusion will he experience what he truly longs for.
- The Signpost - After taking unmarked paths throughout his lonely journey, he faces one last signpost that points toward death. He follows.
- The Inn - Arriving at a graveyard, he earnestly hopes he has found a place to rest but he is turned away before he can collapse - no vacancy here.
- Courage - Forced back on the road again, he embraces a final surge of defiance - if there is no god on earth, then man is god instead!
- The Three Suns - This journey began with three suns in the sky: one faded with his beloved, one faded in defiance of God. If only the last would set...
- The Hurdy-Gurdy Man - He meets a strange hurdy-gurdy player that no one else wants to see or hear. Will he lay his songs to rest with him?