Who is Alexander Scriabin?

DSC_0421 I enjoy writing about things I know nothing about.  Take wine and classical music for example.  They couple nicely.  And if you read wine tasting notes or reviews of classical music, it all sounds like bullshit meant to be exclusive and alienating.  It’s the language of snobbery, not unlike the language of academia.  It’s not meant to be read by anyone without club membership and in case you happen to slip in without your membership card, you will be outed the moment you open your mouth.  Best to stay quiet and simply look the part. To be fair, I have come to love both wine and classical music.  And if I wanted, I could become a first class snob of a journalist writing erudite wine notes and haughty classical music reviews worthy of an entry in the Wine Spectator or the Penguin Guide to Classical Music. I have even posted several tongue in cheek concert and wine reviews on this blog in years past exposing myself as the real plebe that I am.  Which brings me to my point.

Scriabin.  No, it’s not a new cholesterol drug.  Hint: Russia.  If you guessed person, you’d be right.  If you guessed Vladimir Putin’s Chief of Staff, you would be wrong, very wrong.  I don’t know what music Putin listens to, but likely not the works of Alexander Scriabin, the most famous Russian composer you have probably never heard of or if you have, only because you graduated from a music conservatory or are a classical music nut.  Scriabin died in 1915 and was free to compose as he pleased unlike Shostakovitch who came later who along with Prokofiev was subject to Soviet censors. Scriabin was in the same class as Rachmaninoff at the Moscow Conservatory and was said to be a prodigy both as a composer and pianist.  Initially, his work was influenced by the Romantics, most notably Chopin, but as he matured, his compositions became less conventional and more esoteric, even delusional.  According to his own writings documented in Schonberg’s terrific book, Lives of the Great Composers, Scriabin identified as God and tried to unify all art and philosophy into a symphonic masterpiece to be performed over the course of several days at the foot of the Himalayas with incense burning and a contraption that would convert musical notes into colors. Scriabin, it was thought, was a synesthete – he literally saw music in technicolor.  He never finished this masterpiece, but someone did for him and it can be sampled here:

Long live Scriabin!

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