March 26th – A Concert for the Memory of Harrald Lucin

Born on this day in 1725, Harrald Lucin was a masterful classical composer, amateur philosopher and animal rights campaigner. His works, which include the famous song ‘A Sophist Finally Finds Friends’ and ‘Sounds and Smells Float Through The Warm Summer Air’, are still some of the best-regarded classical compositions in the Buentoilliçan canon, the first choice for many an orchestra.

Many of these works were reflections of the natural world; Lucin would regularly make long excursions into the countryside, getting lost several times in Luck’s End forest, a large expanse of ancient woodland to the south west of the City. He was particularly interested in the shapes of nature, in the way different types of valley or woodland would transmit sound faster or slower, in the way the sound of a deer snapping a twig under-hoof reverberated strangely in dense fog. For Lucin, the world was a series of orchestral stages, all designed for him.

Lucin also sought out animals and observed them at length, then tried to replicate these experiences through his music, giving extremely complicated sets of instructions to the orchestra alongside the equally complicated sheet music; a prime example of this finesse and attention to detail is apparent in the first draft of ‘Seeing Chicks Fly for the First Time’, where spidery letters dance around the notes, ‘make sure the reed of the first clarinet is slightly too dry, for maximum raspiness here,’ ‘don’t let the timpani get carried away, this section should be played sotto voice.’ Lucin’s music ranged in setting all across the Buentoilliçan region and beyond, but one place that centred him, that he unfailingly came back to, was Heartthrob Cave.

Heartthrob cave is some way down the coast of the Inner Sea, beyond the Bay of Buentoille, yet still within a morning’s walk. Many of the festival-goers who travel there for the concert there today will set out on foot as Lucin would have, although special buses will be organised for those less able to walk that far. The cave is set into the tall sea cliffs that fringe the sea in that area, and can only be accessed by boat (Goriwald, the ferryman who lives in a hut nearby, charges a modest fee for those without their own means of entering the cave) at low tide. At high tide the sea enters the lower sections of this honeycombed cave, sloshing around rhythmically with the ebb and flow of the waves. This action of the waves, like the beating of a heart, is what gives the cave its name. Small holes in the cave let air in from outside, but they aren’t big enough for a person or any significant lighting to travel through.

The orchestra will wait until high tide before the concert begins. Due to the twisting nature of the cave, most of the audience will not be able to see the musicians, just hear the strange and beautiful music that flows around the odd angles of that singular place. The composition they will play, simply entitled ‘Heartthrob Cave’, is widely considered to be Lucin’s most accomplished work, one which he spent most of his life trying to create. On every visit to the cave, Lucin would attempt to do justice to the space, but never felt satisfied with his attempts. Towards the end of his life he became immensely frustrated with this lack of success, and vowed not to write any more music until ‘Heartthrob Cave’ was completed. It took twenty years, in which Lucin wrote various philosophical treatises on the subjects of inspiration and the ethics of human-animal relations, none of which were particularly insightful or successful. These years may, however, have performed the essential function of condensing Lucin’s thoughts, giving him pause to truly understand what he was trying to convey through ‘Heartthrob Cave’.

Most of the audience will lie down on the sandy floor of the cave, all in their own favourite nook or cranny where they feel the acoustics are best. All of the candles which once lit the cave, flickering as the encroaching sea changed the air pressure, are snuffed out, except for those in the central chamber which allow the orchestra to see. Lying in the darkness, the music flowing around the space, harmonising with the heartbeat of the cave, many audience members report experiencing a euphoric sensation of oneness with the world and their fellow humans. Many find themselves holding hands with complete strangers. ‘Heartthrob Cave’ has a strong choral element, the only of Lucin’s work to feature the human voice, but there are no words; the choir hum deeply, with affecting high notes mixed in. The work is often described as the most ‘religious’ of Lucin’s compositions, yet the man was an avowed atheist. Perhaps in this final work, Lucin tapped the core what we call faith or religion, allowing the non-religious to experience that feeling of vast wonder and togetherness too.

By the time he finished ‘Heartthob Cave’, Lucin was ninety two, and increasingly frail. On the boat ride to the first performance of the work the ferryman of the time, a young man called Hestus, reportedly carried Lucin’s old body onto the boat, cradling his head like a baby. Many say that he died there, in the cave as the music ended. This is a fanciful notion, but untrue; he actually died three weeks later, surrounded by his family, a happy man.

Lucin left the cave in tears and was carried back into the boat by the ferryman, who looked down at him lovingly. ‘Where do you want to go?’ he said.

‘Home,’ said Lucin. ‘It is done, I know what it was all for.’

The boat rocked softly as the sun set.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Museum of Traditional Antiquities’ Donation Drive
  • Cast the Kettle in the Ocean for Us
  • Her Breath; Softly – An Exhibition