You might be wondering what does the name of this blog mean. The phrase “dust of hue” comes from a quote from Jean Sibelius. It goes:
If someone writes about my music and finds, let us say, a feeling of nature in it, all well and good. Let him say that, as long as we have it clear within ourselves, we do not become a part of the music’s innermost sound and sense through analysis … Compositions are like butterflies. Touch them even once and the dust of hue is gone. They can, of course, still fly, but are nowhere as beautiful …
A work of art is often dissected and deconstructed to better understand it. For example in music, a work in sonata form can be divided and described in its classic parts, introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation and coda.
While this is meaningful for study, and can also help appreciation, for Sibelius, it is perhaps potentially damaging to the appreciation of his music. The reason is Sibelius’ unique brand of form in music – organicism, organic development. Whereas a classical sonata form is like Lego blocks which can be easily taken apart and displayed as different parts of the whole, in Sibelius’ most mature work, his music is so organically unified that to dissect it is like peeling apart a flower or a butterfly – petals, stem, wings, antennae… laying them out in pieces, labeling them… and then saying, “I have studied this and I understand it.” But the flower or butterfly has been destroyed in the process.
Is it necessary to dissect a piece of music in order to appreciate it? In some cases, it is true, or does enhance appreciation. But in other cases, if you “touch” it that way, you disturb a layer of art, of aesthetic meaning, that will never be restored to you. In the same way that the beauty of a rainbow becomes a little less divine once you start describing it in scientific/meteorological terms.
Compositions are like butterflies. Touch them even once and the dust of hue is gone. They can, of course, still fly, but are nowhere as beautiful …