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Sunday Soul – Le Modelé

Year 11 – Playlist 39/52 – Art, Essay and music for the week of January 11th 2015

Growing up my parents had a replica of Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ in our sunken, white, shag-carpeted living room. It sat there in the room we weren’t allowed to play in on top of a low, glass table between the white couch we weren’t allowed to sit on, and two deep red chairs which I never sat on. I will never forget how smooth the gold satin strips between the red fabric felt on my seven year old hand. The statue is magnificent even in miniature. A well appointed man is grasping the lower hips of a beautifully curved woman. The woman is lightly reaching up to the man’s face, and they are in the middle of a completely unselfconscious kiss.

I remember walking into the Musée D’Orsay in Paris and being completely dumbfounded by Rodin’s ‘The Gates of Hell’ which is housed there. Then I wept openly in the second room of the Rodin Museum. Hands held in prayer larger than I am, winged angels spreading magnificent wings across an enormous wall, and faces more beautiful than on 19th century American silver coins, with delicate hands extended out into the huge open room, beckoning, inviting, and I could not resist. I fell to my knees, all alone in Paris, and all alone in the world. I cried my eyes out. I felt in some strange way that I was actually home. I stayed at the museum until they threw me out. I left Paris for Barcelona that night and promised never to return. Of course I did return, lots of times, but I meant what I said at the time – sitting in a smoking car, biting my thumbnail, embarrassed by how the sight of Rodin’s perfection had kicked my guts out in front of all those disconnected and disaffected French people. I felt I’d never live it down.

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, known professionally as Rainer Maria, wrote at a time of great tedium in the written word. Prose and Poesy hadn’t gained the footing it eventually would, and books had to cover pages and pages of hand pressing, and tight neck lines to discuss ideas of sex, and authors and poets alike were forced to tell parables and use double and triple entendre in order to describe their true feelings, or political intentions. You couldn’t just write “Capitalism really fucking sucks.” Instead you’d have to embark on a tale of adventure for a young butcher’s son who caused his mother to die in childbirth, and thus his father and brothers hated him and didn’t give him very much to eat. As the result of poor nourishment he grew thin and pale and no one expected him to live. When he inevitably reached the age of consent – which back then was 14 – the boy’s father sold him to a priest. The priest was a creep, and even though he taught the boy to write and read, eventually the priest sold him to a count. The count groomed him to become a secretary, but when the boy was caught pressing his sweaty hand with his only daughter – which of course left her pregnant – the count banished the boy, but not until he’d explained in detail that he’d cost him money, time, and reputation. Then the count sends his daughter to tell the boy that he can redeem himself if he accepts a military commission. The boy jumps at the chance and goes to war for a profit and dies.

As you can see it’s the long way around, and a lot can be misunderstood or lost along the way. Well Rainer Maria Rilke wrote some of our world’s finest poems back when we were taking the long way around with language, and he said things which sang in human hearts for more than a hundred years. Things like:

“Put out my eyes, and I can see you still,
Slam my ears too, and I can hear you yet;
And without any feet can go to you;
And tongueless, I can conjure you at will.
Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you
And grasp you with my heart as with a hand;
Arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;
And if you set this brain of mine afire,
Then on my blood-stream I yet will carry you.”

That’s from Rilke’s Book of Hours and without this sort of clarity of literary thought there would never have been modern vernacular. Can you imagine what life was like before we could say things like “What the fuck?” or “LOL”? We would have to say it something like this: “My dearest friend, I find myself confused by your words. Pray show me your reasoning and illustrate your intentions more plainly. I fear by the simple fact that I am filled with mirth and laughter within my body that I have most certainly failed to comprehend your meaning.” Personally I like the idea of having to actually talk with you. But I also love the ability to choose which voice to use, and very often to juxtapose more than one. We have Rilke in part to thank for modern language.

So what the fuck, right? Why am I telling you about these two men and the sculpture on my parent’s doomed white shag carpeting? I thought you’d be getting a little restless right about here, especially after all that wack poetry. See, Rilke fell totally in love with Rodin’s sculpture. He loved it so much he actually married one of Rodin’s students. Then, after thriving as a poet, Rilke went to Paris and became the great sculptor’s secretary. The two men had a strange relationship: Rilke watched Rodin carefully, and wrote about his methods and ideas. In a letter home to his wife he described Rodin as having completely transcended the world of colors and curves, sentiment and emotion. By Rilke’s accounts Rodin had arrived at a place where all line represented something he called “le modelé.” When you translate that it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s just French for model, or example. But what Rodin meant by this was more Aristotelian than that. Rodin felt that every pure curve was the same thing as looking at perfect Greek classical art. He felt that each destroyed frame was looking into the Gothic Renaissance. He seemed to look past things, and past the things that these things signified into what Rodin felt they truly were.

Rilke and Rodin discussed often that the price for this type of vision was very high. Both personally – no friends – and professionally – you must work very hard to arrive in this place, and once you find yourself there you must work very hard to continue to be there. Rilke’s awe in Rodin’s ability to work at a piece until it was le modelé – fully realized and complete in and of itself that he couldn’t help but adopt this concept and while he did not undertake it, the idea of perfect form, and complete and truthful content became almost the sole subject of his work thereafter. In a way we lost a great poet as the result of the two men’s relationship – Rodin continued his work, while Rilke seemed to study the ideas of work, and was lost from the present tense, and the emotions of the moment which made him wonderful and successful. But when one finds one’s teacher, I suppose it would be an absolute pleasure to be their secretary wouldn’t it?

The ideas we find within ourselves deserve a voice. The words we choose to use betray our self hatred, self centeredness, and fears. We play stupid and try not to say anything and end up looking like Mongolian diplomats at a dinner for kittens. If this serves your intentions, and makes your heart sing then I am not writing this essay for you. I forgive you for looking for breasts in my collage, and for skipping the slow songs and only listening to either the two pumpy tracks, or only the songs that you know. You are happy here on earth, and don’t see anything heartbreaking about a world that won’t look each other in the eye, doesn’t read, and has forgotten how to listen and love. I love you so much that I bring these ideas out from the back of my mind, and into the world for free for you every week. I want to. I love to. I must.

What must you do? What goes into stuffing your heart and its fires back into that canvas bag of yours every day? Aren’t you exhausted? Isn’t it time to stopped fighting? While Rodin and Rilke are easy targets to make examples of – their work stands the test of time, and is far larger than life – isn’t this really a story of two men who were not only committed to their crafts, but also to themselves, and to each other? They are men of their own time, who took the time to study, to labor, and to look each other in the eye with the same sense of love and devotion that they extended to ink and paper. I challenge you to wake, and to put pen to paper, brush to canvas, chisel to stone, to open up your mouth and begin here and now to sing. Never stop singing. No matter how hard it becomes, you must not stop. We need you now, here and now, more than we have ever needed you before. I ache in my heart and soul to become your biggest fan. To devote myself to your masterpieces, and hope one day to become your secretary.

Thank you for listening. See you next week.

Here is the track listing for Sunday Soul: Le Modelé

1. Gluck-Sgambati- Melodie – Sergey Rachmaninov
2. Song For Kezia – DJ Enne
3. Set Me Free – Chrissy Edits
4. I’m Going To Go – Frankie Knuckles Remix – Jago
5. Love Supreme – Alexander Robitnick
6. Need U – Martin Davies Remix – Tubec
7. Elbow Room – L.I.N.D.A.
8. Subway – Dipo Remix – Leach & Lezizmo
9. Always – Lakosta
10. Blue Grass, Green Sky – Trulz & Robin
11. Fate – Todd Terje Edit – Chaka Kahn
12. Ménilmontant – Charles Trenent
13. Sunday Soul – Program ID
14. Hold Tight – Sunshine Jones’ Re Edit – Change
15. Sunday Soul – Program ID

Year 11 – Playlist 39|52
11 January 2015
Total Running Time: 01 Hours 26 Minutes

Buy this music if you love it. Buy it on vinyl. Play it loud. I am curating something personal for the people I love who take the time to listen. If you have feelings and would like to be stricken from the record here, please let me know and I’d be glad to never play your music here again. I’ve been mad about love before, and I totally understand.

May the stars above you shimmer and shine, guiding your heart always, all of the time. May they guide you sweetly, all the way home. And may all your sundays have soul.