Marianne Schroeder

My mentor Scelsi was a wonderful person – a genius. He was a very kind and generous man, a genuine count. After every meal he would sit with glowing, round-cheeked complexion. His features were shaped by his readiness to smile and his sense of joy at life itself. He was a man of rituals and inspiration, who enjoyed lying in the sun only to be overwhelmed by new ideas. His ideas came to him so unexpectedly that at times, it almost bordered on the unreal. In this respect, he reminded me of Mozart – as did his joye de vivre and high spirits, which were never morbid or worrying, even in the hour of his death. “Comme une bougie”. Even as he was dying, he was positively glowing with music, and this glow permeated his frailty and weakness like transparency. It gave the impression of the afterglow of an existence which unified both extremes with inner presence; a presence which can only belong to a great master.

His advice was to improvise every day.

And then, one evening, something entirely unexpected occurred. Four of us were having a meal, and Bruna arranged a selection of food on my plate. This sent Scelsi into a fit of rage: How dare you just put food on my guest’s pate like that! Man is autonomous and should never be patronised or indeed hurt. Take the food back at once and let her make her own selection. Bruna was flabbergasted; nothing like this had ever happened to her before. The otherwise perpetually gentle and amiable Scelsi had the ability to suddenly reveal an aspect of his character which shook everyone to the core. His maturity connected him with everything and he managed to maintain his confidence even in the most difficult of situations.

Whenever I played his music, I never felt alone. He was with me wherever I went. His “Bougie”, his demise, was like a chord that encompasses all eternity. A bit like Ttai, the 9th Suite – “Play it whenever you are sad. Also, whenever you are in high spirits.” It is the only piece, his tape recording of which I wasn’t allowed to listen to. He just handed it over to me.

I learned from his light heartedness which, to me, was fascinating and commanded my attention completely.

May his life become my hope and fulfilment, so that I too may keep making music to the very end like a “bougie”, and leave this life in the act of music making.

I learned that joy and pain are a deep, natural purification process, a process of attaining maturity, which shines like a light and may be a light to us all throughout the hardships that life throws at us.