The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

In Retrospect: The DSO and their Symphonism, Pt. 1

Updated: Feb 14

Welcome to the inaugural post of In Retrospect, an opportunity to go head-first into the sonic world of music and discover what makes it goes 'boom' and what that 'boom' means. Each post will correlate to a different performance that was simply too marvelous to not allocate more time towards, and thus The Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Feb.12th Digital Concert was the perfect beginning! Their concert program was Magnus Lindberg’s three-movement, 'Chamber Symphony' Souvenir which was then followed by Prokofiev's Op.25 First Symphony, a fitting pair which would make even B. Asafiev proud.


Interesting fact: Prokofiev's Op.25 was dedicated to none other than the famed Soviet Musicologist Boris Asafiev himself who, with just cause, considered Prokofiev a true, pre-revolutionary Russian composer!


[This is Pt.1 of a two-part post, be sure to check the next post for Pt.2]


[For $12 dollars, you can follow along and hear the concert by clicking here]

Personifying ‘life in sounding,’ as described by B. Asafiev, is a process by which the psycho-spiritual conduit, the composer, attempts to channel their experientially-conditioned psychologisms into the intonational world of decomposing sound, and as Asafiev himself has notated, their attempts are not always successful, ‘Not all symphonies are symphonic.’ Composers like Dargomyzhsky, the musician-playwright’ and yet ‘anti-musician,’ Glazunov, the polemical shadow of Rimsky-Korsakov who never managed to escape the inertial entrapment of ‘separate moments,’ and Borodin, Asafiev’s ignored member of the Balakirev circle due to his flat-out, Western mimetic failings, all exemplified the less-effective side of what Asafiev had understood as ‘symphonism,’ namely the manifested ‘experience of being human’ through an intonational ‘stream of consciousness,’ ushering in the ‘evolution of the human eye.’ On the complete other side of the life/soul spectrum are composers like Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven, arbiters of a divine truth whose chosen medium was the sonic arts, whose very being fully epitomized the role of an authentic ‘symphonist,’ the creator of living [symphonic] music, described by Asafiev as, “when the creative process contains a volitional impulse...a pure becoming beyond time and space.” Last night, amidst the hecticness of political impeachments, [as of yet] unsolved health crises, and American socio-political discontentments of various natures, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the versatile direction of Finnish born John Storgårds, performed Magnus Lindberg’s ‘Souvenir’ and Prokofiev’s Op.25 ‘Classical Symphony.’ These two palpably thrilling works, despite the first being unclassified, unarguably deserve the title of ‘symphonic,’ i.e., a pervasive dynamism unrelenting in its natural evolution, a consistent marriage to horizontalist linearity, a replenishing inceptionalism infusing every moment with connective meaning and a reason to occur, but most importantly, in Asafiev’s own words, ‘a tension that pulls onward’ stopping only when the last note is played and its reverberations linger in the pervading atmosphere.


[PC: © Saara Vuorjoki, Fimic]

The first piece by Lindberg, an evocative testament to the power of chamber voracity and small-ensemble versatility, ventures through three distinct vignettes which I considered to highlight a Dantean circumambulation of the migrating consciousness when presented with the ills of their former manifestation and offered the choice to renounce fully or be consumed by previous faults completed while alive. Considered by one as