As I am working on my recent project, a trombone quartet for the Guidonian Hand called Die Lärmtrompeten des Nichts I have become acutely aware of any references to “nothingness.” The text which I am using for the title of my piece comes from an entry in Kafka’s Tagebucher. I came across it when I was working on my dissertation over the past few years and stored it up for future investigation. And, learning of a project that involved trombones, I knew the text would serve as a great title and muse. I think Kafka would chuckle, or at least snicker, at the appropriation of his text for music that is so non trumpet-y.
Furthermore, in Constructive Destruction, Kafka’s Aphorisms: Literary Tradition and Literary Transformation, Richard T. Gray cogently observes ”what is especially curious about this remark is that it occurs as an isolated entry, devoid of any disernible impulse. It remains unclear whether the text was composed in response to some empirical stimulus; whether it is the conclusion of abstract deliberations; or if it is merely recorded out of pure pleasure in the paradoxicality of the conception itself.” (p.133)
My bet is the latter. There is something brilliantly poetic and emotive about noise trumpets heralding in nothing. Not just trumpets that are noisy, but actual noisetrumpets, as the German construction and transliteration gives us. And not just nothing, but, nothingness. Reaching so deeply into the symbolism of paradox it seems that the aphorism itself is the apotheosis of such. Heralding trumpets of disorganized sound followed by….?
Then, the other day, while reading Charlotte’s Web to my 4 y.o. son I came across this amazing soliloquy by Wilbur. He was responding to the lamb’s unkind and clumsily stated insult of “pigs mean less than nothing to me.”
“What do you mean, less than nothing?” replied Wilbur. “I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something––even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”