Heinrich von Kleist - On the Marionette Theatre
I recently had a conversation with a viola professor ( no jokes please) which ranged over many topics but one of them was about a short philosophical text called" On the Marionette Theatre" by the German writer Heinrich Von Kleist. It is the first time I have had a conversation with a fellow musician where after it, I felt able to translate philosophy into a practical, physical use at a musical instrument. It was very inspiring and a world away from those dull technique manuals, where you spend hours watching and listening to bow changes being mesmerised by the boredom of the dull text in front of you.
You can access the text on the link above, and you can interpret it in many, many different ways. But if I try and translate it in a way that gives meaning to me as a musician, it seems to be saying that as we become self aware and reflect more, we also become self conscious and clumsy. Our movements become less integrated. Von Kleist admires the way puppets and animals move in an unselfconscious, confident way with grace and ease. Von Kleist talks about each of us having a centre of gravity, which we must find and "when the centre is moved the limbs follow....after all the limbs are pendula echoing automatically the movement of the centre" It is an incredible description of not losing your sense of balance through over thinking. How he suggests reaching this state of being is open to interpretation, and actually I think each individual would reach this point by many and varied routes. But I am really glad that my colleague instead of sending me a dull technical manual about string playing, sent me in the direction of this wonderful text. It opens a door inside your mind, and uplifts rather than restricts you.