Sunday, October 25, 2015


"Tartini's Dream" by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1824)

“A novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces
       the sound is the reader’s soul.”―Stendhal 

thy servant touched my ear
and stole my breath with skill

things I gave away, a violin
rapture in the heartbeat

that tongue speaks
I fall ill

anticipates my soul & plays
with such great art and still

thy servant moves my heart
at will

impossible to live without, I trill
& mime this instrument I can’t repeat

©2015 Sonata stephaniepope


The story behind "Devil's Trill" starts with a dream. Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. At the end of their lessons Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill—the devil immediately began to play with such virtuosity that Tartini felt his breath taken away. The complete story is told by Tartini himself in Lalande's Voyage d'un François en Italie (1765 - 66):
"One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and - I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me." 


1.  "The Devil's Trill" makes an analogy between the dream music heard by the dream ego and the power the sound has to overturn that state of ego soul; it is not unlike the one Stendhal makes about the violin's sound reflecting to the reader his own soul.  In considering the hard path of the inward way an individual is lead to overturn mass mindedness (dream ego) and evolve selfness out of selflessness consider the role art plays as you read the abstract and first paragraph of Francis e. Merrill's  Stendhal and the Self: a Study in Sociology and Literature. the dream is like a novelist. The novelist tries to communicate to the reader the way the dream does the dreamer an emotional and imaginative experience to which the reader and dreamer reacts respectively. The dream characters have no objective existence outside the dream pattern's display. This nothingness conveys a real something whose sound has a profound effect upon the dreamer's entire psyche-making. This may be something like what an encounter with wholeness in a selfless selving is like.  And then, the irrepeatable likeness of this like is what art tries to imitate.