NEW! A comment from Ms. Okashiro, "Scriabin, Theosophy and Crazy" is below on this page. She talks about the issues she wanted to but couldn't mention to in her liner note (due to a limited space), please scroll down to read!

 


 

 

 

"Prometheus, Glenn Gould and Scriabin"

 

A Comment from Chitose Okashiro  

 

As you could hear from Prometheus CD, sound is created three-dimensionally. Recording and mixing engineer of this project is Mr. Carl Talbot whom I have worked with for a long time since Pro Piano Records, and mastering engineer is Mr. Andreas Meyer who is famous for his remastering work of Glenn Gould. They are truly stupendous, worked with me upon their deep understandings of my musicality and what I have been particularly seeking for on Scriabin's sound. Without them this Prometheus project could never have been achieved in terms of both technical and musical creation of 49-track overdubbing recording technology. I appreciate them from the bottom of my heart. I would like to avoid mentioning the very details of it since I don't want to put all my cards on the table (laugh), but I received a very pleasant comment from Andreas, who has such a detailed knowledge about Glenn Gould and his recording technique as to write a liner note of Glenn Gould CD. That is, what I achieved in Prometheus CD and the way I did it, is the same as the way Glenn Gould did mixing in his Scriabin CD and  his concept of his sound creation, actually what I did is much more complicated what Glenn Gould did, because in Gould's age technology couldn't keep up with what Gould wanted to do. He told me that my Prometheus is just like "Glenn Gould in Steroid"! (laugh)  Glenn Gould is my idol, however, I had no knowledge about how he actually worked on mixing and mastering, so his comment made me surprised and extremely happy at the same time. I would like to show you the video Andreas told me about, where you could catch a glimpse of how Gould did mixing. Around 7:52, it starts the scene that Gould was actually working with his engineers in the studio on mixing. When I saw this, I immediately thought "oh yes, I certainly did this with Carl!" Moreover, this project made me realized that what I am seeking in Scriabin's sound is totally opposite to what people normally look for in sound, which I hadn't realized before. Musicians and listeners in classical music field are usually fond of sound with a lot of reverb in a concert hall by distantly located microphones since musicians are normally taught by their teachers to play neatly with beautiful sound and we normally look for beautiful sound. However, I want much much "dirtier" and more direct sound in Scriabin, for sound like Monet's pastels is not suitable for Scriabin at all and I wanted to have much more different sound.


Sample video from Prometheus CD!


 

 

CD liner note contains Ms. Okashiro's own theory and analysis of the work with score for 27 pages (a picture on the left is a proofread before printing).

 

 The following is Ms. Okashiro's writing, "Scriabin, Theosophy and Crazy."  More update will follow!

 


"Scriabin, Theosophy and Crazy"                     by Chitose Okashiro

 

I would like to write about several issues here, which I could touch upon only lightly due to space limitation of liner note. Scriabin started his compositional style from his early works which were heavily influenced by Chopin. However, his style was drastically changed toward his late period, and it looks like the fixed, unshakable and excessive image of Scriabin = Theosophy = Prometheus = occult = crazy, always pertains to him. I wonder where it came from? It seems to me that the original source of it is, books written by Sabaneyev, especially the most famous one "Reminiscences of Scriabin." While it's undeniable fact that Sabaneyev's writing is invaluable source of information, on the other hand it's said that, it's prevailing view in Russian musicology that Sabaneyev's also contains full of the information that credibility is very questionable. Alina Ivanova-Scriabina, Scriabin's great grand niece, writes on this issue at the following site;

http://www.scriabin-association.com/critique-of-subjectivity-an-examination-of-vospominaniya-o-scriabine-reminiscences-of-scriabin-by-leonid-sabaneyev-by-alina-ivanova-scriabina-moscow/

She mentions about the Russian term 'sabaneyevschina' as well.  According to her, "adding the suffix ‘shchin’ to the surname of the critic characterizes the phenomenon of similar works with a hint of disapproval, the ending -shchina being pejorative. E.g. Zhdanovshchina – ‘the Zhdanov business’, Khovanshchina – ‘The Khovansky affair’, etc."

 

Speaking of questionable credibility, one of the most notorious examples probably comes from the works of Faubion Bowers (1917-1999). He wrote several biography books of Scriabin, unfortunately and incomprehensibly, there is rarely no mention of citation nor source. It shouldn't be that he wrote about Scriabin from the standpoint of a scholar, but it should be called that he sensationally told and wrote stories in an amusing manner of nonexistent gossip of Scriabin being "gay and madness," using the fact that public image of Scriabin was still in the dark and  had not been yet established at the time Bowers lived. In those days, the true value of Scriabin's works was about to get re-evaluated, before that Scriabin's existence was forgotten after his death. Bowers also wrote prefatory notes to the Eulenburg and Dover edition scores of Prometheus, however, except a few footnotes in Dover, there is no mention of citation nor source at all about his thematic analysis in here as well. As I touched on it slightly in my liner note, the famous chart with circle of 5th of prefaces in the Eulenburg and Dover scores, "Scriabin's Key-Colour Scheme," (in Dover edition there is a note that it's by Galeev)was not written by Scriabin himself, but by Irina Vanechkina and Bulat Galeev in 1975. What Scriabin wrote himself in 1913 in the margin of a copy of the first published score (published in 1911), is archived in National Library of France, which is the only one exists. In terms of relationship of color and sound, what Scriabin wrote in his published score, is almost identical with what Sabaneyev wrote in his articles and "Scriabin's Key-Colour Scheme" circle of 5th chart of prefaces in the Eulenbug and Dover editions. (I haven't seen Scriabin's handwritten notes on the first published score archived in National Library of France, so the following is my own opinion after I read the various literature by many scholars on this subject.) However, things like the chart of circle of 5th (※), and Theosophical perspective such as "Will (Human)," were added just by Irina Vanechkina and Belat Galeev. When we read this preparatory note, we misunderstand as if Scriabin composed Prometheus with this circle of 5th chart in his mind, which could lead to a great deal of misinterpretation. In addition, of "thematic analysis" Bowers wrote, he says "Prometheus is the most densely Theosophical piece of music ever written", then he wrote about Theosophical thematic analysis of the piece, and he often wrote "Scriabin said this". However, there is no description, therefore it is totally unclear that, which part his own analysis starts and ends, and which part the citation starts and ends, if it's citation, where the source is. This thematic analysis seems widely in circulation, it seems to me that there is a misunderstanding here as well, as if Scriabin himself wrote this thematic analysis. I mentioned about this issue in my liner note, please refer to it for more details.

 

My understanding of Scriabin's personality is, he was a kind of person who never talked about, nor wrote of his own compositional technique and his most important harmonic language used in his works, with exception of giving a few hints to Sabaneyev. Then, where did Theosophical thematic analysis such as what Bowers wrote, come from? If you could allow me to write my speculation here, probably, it originally came from a detailed thematic analysis on the program note which was given out for the premiere performance of Prometheus in 1911. I presume that this is one of the source of current thematic analysis of the work now widely in circulation. It seems that this was not written by Scriabin himself, but I suppose it was by Sabaneyev, and Scriabin consented to have it printed. Furthermore, based on Sabaneyev's writing, the Theosophical thematic analysis of Rosa Newmarch (poet and music writer, knew Scriabin personally) was published in The Musical Times after she added her own version of interpretation and analysis of the piece, furthermore, Arthur Eaglefield Hull wrote books on the Theosophical thematic analysis after he added his own version of interpretation and analysis, and so on. It seems that, various people wrote on Theosophical thematic analysis of the piece one after another, after they added their own interpretations, and I presume that those are misrepresented as analysis which Scriabin himself wrote.

 

While it is an indisputable fact that Theosophy had significant effect on Scriabin, there is a possibility that it was exaggerated by the people around him. Also, as for public image of Scriabin's personality, there is a possibility that unreliable description was in circulation, incorrect description has been widely believed, as a result it may have been misunderstood even now. For me, Scriabin is a composer of the isolated soul, who pursued his harmony eminently, then opened the new possibility of modernism comparable to Schoenberg, yet kept seeking his inner sound and harmony of ecstasy he believed in to the utmost, without being infatuated with practical system of his musical language. Scriabin the composer and pioneer of modern music and Scriabin's fixed image as a mad person obsessed with Theosophy contradict each other, that remains a controversial subject even now. It might be necessary for us to reexamine all now once more.

 

 ※ I would like to write in more detail of circle of 5th chart just to clarify. The following is the wording of both what Sabaneyev wrote in his books, and "table of lights" (Parisian Score) that is what Scriabin wrote himself in 1913 in the margin of a copy of the first published score, archived in National Library of France. 

"C, G, D, A, E, H, Fis=Ges, Des, As, Es, B, F"

The above notes are written in the order of cirlce of 5th, and colors such as "red" are attached to them. On the top of that, in the version of circle of 5th chart, "Scriabin's Key-Colour Scheme" which Irina Vanechkina and Belat Galeev created, "key signatures" of " major keys" of tonality are added on a staff, and made as visible chart, even though Prometheus has no tonality any more.  How did it happen? Scriabin believed that he himself had sound-to-color synesthesia, and it seems, his sensation was that he felt visualization of color toward tonality of the piece. So, the lists of colors and notes were written by Sabaneyev and Myers in order to put together all the info of which colors Scriabin felt on which keys. Therefore, because of tonality and key signature, the above list is written in the order of circle of 5th. Then, when Scriabin created his color organ part of Prometheus, he applied the color he felt on tonality, to the keyboard of color organ, for example, C Major (C Dur) = red, so red light is shed when keyboard of C is pushed, etc., and that's how Scriabin created color organ part. I feel, the problem here is, the color he felt toward tonality, is applied as it is directly to the root of the chord, which is the foundation of color organ. There is no tonality in Prometheus any more. If the root of the chord in Prometheus plays a role of conventional tonality, the theory could be established, however, that isn't a case according to harmonic analysis. In Prometheus, there is a function equivalent to a "role" (not tonality itself) of conventional tonality, although it's not a root itself.  Moreover, even if a color is applied to a function equivalent to a role of conventional tonality, aren't a color we feel in a piece with tonality and a color we feel in a piece without tonality different? There is the reason around here why I cannot help feeling that color organ was added afterwards subsequently to his completion of the work, Prometheus. For further details of how actual color organ part is composed and structured, please refer to my liner note. 

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I would like to quote the words by Heinrich Gustavovich Neuhaus(z), which Alina Ivanova-Scriabina quotes on the above site. (I apologize for quotation within a quotation) "Mystics and obscurantists like Sabaneyev and Schloezer were extremely harmful for Scriabin; they created an unhealthy atmosphere of [the] unrestrained worship around him, attaining the level of a cult" (Heinrich Neuhaus, Notes on Scriabin, on the 40th anniversary of his death, Sovetskaya muzyka, 1955, N0.4)  Given that it is no doubt that articles and books Sabaneyev wrote are very valuable source of information,  I think we'd better refer to them keeping in mind that his information is mixture of the good and the bad.