Humor Magazine

Looking and Listening to Comedy and Tragedy

By Davidduff

Yes, sorry, this is going to be one of my 'arty' meanderings!  I am provoked to it by a tiny incident earlier this week in which I got into my car at 6.30am (prior to driving to my usual early morning swim!!!) and switching on Classicfm the first thing I heard was Waltz #2 from The Jazz Suite by Shostakovich (click on the link to listen).  It's a very jolly tune, don't you think?  Almost makes you think of a German beer garden in summer, and yet . . .  and yet . . . do you not feel a very slight sense of unease?  A frisson in it of what I can only call - menace.  If there is a Germanic flavor to it then it made me think of 'vee haf vays of making you laugh'!  Well, that's what I hear but perhaps you do not.  Perhaps I am just listening too hard.  Even so, better critics than me have suggested that Shostakovich was a very subtle man and that the triumphant music he wrote in 'praise' of the glories of the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin actually contain within them a sardonic raspberry or two!

Anyway, mulling over that on the way to the pool got me to thinking of a painting (poster, of course, not an original!) hanging opposite my armchair in my sitting-room - one of Bernard Buffet's Clowns.

Looking and listening to comedy and tragedy

I love that picture and I look at it every day of my life!  He did several clown paintings but that is the best, in my opinion.  Of course, 'the sad clown' is now an artistic cliché but even so it contains a truth, that life is a mixture of comedy and tragedy as theater has demonstrated since the days of ancient Greece and the design of the famous theatrical masque motif showing Comedy and Tragedy.


Looking and listening to comedy and tragedy


And I suppose you could say that the motto for all theater is "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry!"  I think that is what Shostakovich and Buffet are doing in their different ways.

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