Saturday, 25 July 2009

Luonnotar

As everybody knows in his heart of hearts, the universe was created when a duck made its nest on the knee of the Nature Goddess, and laid an egg in it. The lady got excited at the potential for um... potential, and in her excitement, she trembled and the nest fell off her knee. The white part of the broken egg became the moon, and the speckled bits became the stars. Scientists arrogantly refuse to believe and peddle their propaganda about the Big Bang. Christians think God is a bloke, thus wilfully rejecting their Inner Duck. They will all pay for this in due course.

Here is Sibelius's tone poem Luonnotar, composed in 1913. Luonnotar is the Nature Goddess of Finnish mythology, the words are from the Finnish epic Kalevala, and this is the story of the Creation. The first time I heard Luonnotar, around 1984, it amazed me with its evocation in the opening notes of form emerging from emptiness, then of violent storms, and finally the rapt, holy moment of the creation of the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars. I found the Finnish words fascinating when I first heard the piece, so I learned them by heart from the record sleeve (Paavo Berglund with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Taru Valjakka soprano) so as to be able to sing along, though I only know in vague outline how they map onto the translation. Fortunately you will never have to endure listening to me singing along. It is fiendishly demanding to perform, which explains why it is so rarely heard. The soprano has to span leaps and drops of an octave in a single word, and her voice must be powerful enough to carry over the tsunami of the orchestra. I like the video here. It reflects the violence and desolation of of the music beautifully.



Olipa impi, ilman tyttö
There was a handsome maiden in the air,
Kave Luonnotar korea.
Luonnotar, the daughter of nature.
Ouostui elämätään,
She grew tired of her life,
Aina, yksin ollessansa avaroilla autioilla.
Of always being alone in the vast plains of the sky.
Laskeusi lainehille,
She descended into the sea,
Aalto impeä ajeli.
where the waves impregnated her.
Vuotta seitsemän sataa
For seven hundred years
Vieri impi veen emona
she drifted about as the water mother,
Uipi luotehet, etelät
swimming north-west, swimming south,
Uipi kaikki ilman rannat.
to all the shores of the skies.
Tuli suuri tuulen puuska
Then a tremendous gust of wind
Meren kouhuille kohotti.
threw her up on the foamy waves.
‘Voi, poloinen, päiviäni!
‘Oh, poor me, and my life!
Parempi olisi ollut ilman impenä elää.
It would have been better to remain the Virgin of the Air.
Oi, Ukko, ylijumala, käy tänne
O, mighty Ukko, supreme god, pass here by the one
kutsuttaissa!’
who implores you!’
Tuli sotka, suora lintu,
A gull appeared, an agile bird.
Lenti kaikki ilman rannat
It flew to all the shores of the skies,
Lenti luotehet, etelät
it flew north-west, it flew south,
Ei löyä pesänsioa.
unable to find a place for nesting.
‘Ei! Ei! Ei!
‘No! No! No!
Teenkö tuulehem tupani, alloillen
Do I build my house in the wind, my living quarters on
asuinsiani?
the waves?
Tuuli kaatavi, tuuli kaatavi,
The wind would knock down my house,
Aalto viepi asuinsiani.’
the waves would carry away my nest.’
Niin silloin veen emonen
At that moment the water mother
Nosti polvea lainehesta.
lifted her knee out of the waves.
Siihen sorsa laativi pesänsä
There the gull made its nest,
Alkoi hautoa.
and started hatching.
Impi tuntevi tulistuvaksi
The maiden felt an ardent fire
Järkytti jäsenehensä.
shaking her limbs.
Pesä vierähti vetehen
the nest fell into the water
Katkieli kappaleiksi
and broke into pieces.
Muuttuivat munat kaunoisiksi
But the eggs changed into things of beauty:
Munasen yläinen puoli
the top of the shell
Yläiseksi taivahaksi,
became the firmament;
Yläpuoli valkeaista
the upper part of the egg white
Kuuksi kummottamahan;
the shining moon;
Mi kirjavaista tähiksi taivaalle,
and the speckles turned into stars in the sky,
Ne tähiksi taivaalle.
stars in the sky.

Text from the Kalevala
Translation © The Decca Record Company

4 comments:

Angus said...

Thank you so much for posting this!!! You might like hearing Phyllis Bryn-Julson singing this with Alexander Gibson conducting - you can probably find it on Amazon. She eases up on the vibrato and lets the natural drama of the whole thing flow...

vilges suola said...

Thanks, will give it a try!

Focalist said...

I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories, but why is the Decca Record Company, in this translation, trying to gull us into believing that the bird who laid our starry sky was not a duck? I think we should be told... (Great link, nevertheless. Paljon kiitoksia!)

Vilges Suola said...

Ei kestä! A duck???? You are duped by false prophets.

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