Inspired by a vivid dream, the best-known work of the gifted violinist Giuseppe Tartini is a haunting solo piece, the “Devil’s Trill” (Trillo del Diavolo) done in several movements. Properly described as Violin Sonata in G Minor, the technically demanding 15-minute composition dates to the 18th century but is perennially popular in modern performances, featuring the master’s unique style of bowing, and namesake “trills” or “shakes,” distinctive musical ornaments consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes.
Tartini, a Roman Catholic, was appointed violinist and orchestra conductor at the Cathedral of Padua, Italy. Shortly before he died, he privately recounted the unholy origin of the understandably secret solo to French astronomer, writer and atheist, Jérôme Lalande, who included it in a travel memoir, but the mysterious sonata was only published three decades later in 1799. While translations differ slightly, it is a fascinating account.
“One night, in the year 1713, I dreamed I had made a pact with the Devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and I awoke.”
Mesmerized by what he had heard, Tartini attempted to recreate it. “I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the ‘Devil’s Trill,’ but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me”.
Guyanese are hoping for a prompt resolution, as well, in the ongoing state of uncertainty as they contemplate the axiom, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” The country is apparently bedevilled by the exhausting divisions between the main political parties and among ethnic groups, with the unexpected approval of the December 21, 2018 no confidence motion against the incumbent coalition caused by defecting Member of Parliament (MP), Charrandass Persaud, now safely across the deep blue sea. Following up on death threats issued in the House, he is still catching the devil and eternal damnation, in absentia, from certain quarters.
The public has witnessed a devilish flurry of lawsuits that attorneys and judges are likely to have a devil of a time with, scrutinising and interpreting the details as set out in the nation’s 1980-supreme governing body of principles, itself a continuing centre of controversy.
In other words, we face a looming constitutional crisis given the risible, if politically expedient premise of 34 rather than 33 suddenly being the minimum majority of 65, and the coalition’s rising reluctance to recognise the legality of the motion, proving “needs must when the Devil drives.” We have rapidly moved not from passage to prorogation, and trills to thrills, but from “What in the Devil?” to “Who in the Devil?” then “Why in the Devil?” and “Where in the Devil?” Finally, many are asking what appears doomed to be a rhetorical question, “When in the Devil?”
Since the Devil is far too busy, admitted thief, Richie Persaud surely answered at least a few of the critical questions when he was fined $15,000 for stealing cigarettes and rum at Macari Landing, Mazaruni River, declaring to a city magistrate, “I was drunk your honour; is the devil (who) used me.” His explanation brings to mind the infamous 2014 theft of the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin known as the “Lipinski Strad” worth over US$5M from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond, who was attacked with a taser.
Recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from an attic, the rare violin and two bows were found wrapped in a baby blanket inside an old suitcase. The instrument, originally owned by Tartini, was presented by him to his pupil, Signor Salvini. The first time Polish violinist Karol Lipinski performed for Salvini, the teacher asked to see the musician’s violin, which he then smashed to pieces against the corner of a table, handing the shocked Lipinski the Stradivarius “as a gift from me.” It was made by the world’s best luthier, Antonio Stradivari in Cremona, in 1715. A Milwaukee barber named Universal Knowledge Allah and his partner in crime Salah Salahaydn were charged and sentenced to prison for the audacious American robbery.
This week, another unexpected version of the Devil’s music sounded, sending some Guyanese tumbling from their beds and desperately reaching for their compulsory instruments of music and modern communication. Tartini’s sonata may have well rung loudly in every church, due to the fears there may be greater hell to pay, by those who dared answer the late-night summons from the cold Siberian reaches where the Devil finds easy work for idle hands and Bitcoin mining machines. Russia’s pair of most modern and nuclear-capable “Blackjack” bombers pirouetting over the warm Caribbean Sea and landing in neighbouring Venezuela, to boost the embattled, envious devil next door, was not enough provocation for us and a yellow-toupee Uncle Sam, so Iran promised to show off some of its finest warships following the outcry over the Devil’s picture book.
Auto-dialers became jealous,and are believed to be behind the short-duration calls to thousands of local mobile devices over the weekend, leaving return numbers, with country code “7,” which were charged premium rates. These probably promised “the Devil’s own luck” and rich lottery winnings, in the hope that the puzzled victims would call back, a practice known as “Wangiri” literally “one (ring) and cut,” from Japan where it originated.
It all became Smirnoff-clear with the latest warning from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, that people’s dependence on smartphones and modern technology could bring about the coming of the Antichrist. The BBC reported that the religious leader, who is close to President Vladimir Putin told Russian TV, smartphone users should be careful when using the “worldwide web of gadgets” because it represented “an opportunity (for the Devil) to gain global control over mankind.”
“The Antichrist is the person who will be at the head of the worldwide web, controlling all of humankind,” he predicted. “Every time you use your gadget, whether you like it or not, whether you turn on your location or not, somebody can find out exactly where you are, exactly what your interests are and exactly what you are scared of,” the Patriarch Kirill advised Rossiya 1.
“If not today, then tomorrow, methods and technology could appear that will not just provide access to all information but will also allow the use of this information” he said, asking, “Do you imagine what power will be concentrated in the hands of those who gain knowledge about what is going on in the world?”
“Such control from one place forebodes the coming of the Antichrist” Patriarch Kirill added, although he did allow selfies with admirers and church representatives. Guyanese can sympathise with the Patriarch, who is accused of lending government policy, a divine authority. However, he found immediate hell on social media, with a commentator remarking, “They ban international internet in Russia so that the Antichrist doesn’t come out of it.”
ID turned off features on her not so smartphone, because she is afraid of calls from countless devils in disguise, whether the Trini “blue” version or the battalion of Carnival “beasts” bearing the country code 666.