Paul D. Natkin

Sad Clown and Memory Trace: a work in progress

When I was about four, I was given two clown masks. One had a color scheme of warm tones like orangish brown and red. It was full of exuberance and humor. The other had pure white skin, a pale blue ruffled bib with big white polka dots, and a wan expression. The clown with the pure white face was so sad, you can't imagine it. It makes me sad just thinking of it. I learned, in this way, what a great difference there can be between two things in one category.

The music of Transylvania has a strong bearing on all of this. It's the perfect expression of sadness--but also of happiness. In the music of Transylvania, the idioms of many cultures blend together, resulting in songs of the most beautiful and ecstatic sadness. "I climbed up the mountain..." goes one song, "...and looked down into the valley. There I saw a table... set with sadness." It's a highly ornamented song, difficult to learn. If not for the efforts of Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly and others, many such songs would have been lost. Now they're kept in archives...

Prisoner of Memory and the Archives of Joy and Sorrow is the title of a piece I began many years ago. I may work on it until I die. I plan to live to 150.