Chapter Five




- chapter 5 index -
pg. 1 - Lizard | pg. 2 - Prince Rupert Awakes | pg. 3 - Tears of Glass | pg. 4 - Go Polonius or Kneel
pg. 5 - Rainbows' Ends and Gold | pg. 6 - Prophets Chained for Burning Masks
pg. 7 - Frederick II & The Cathars | pg. 8 - Bolero - The Peacock's Tale
pg. 9 - The Battle of Glass Tears | pg. 10 - Big Top



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Bolero - The Peacock's Tale


Again, the title is an alchemical pun on the phrase "peacock's tail," which represents the rainbow and heralds the completion of the Magnum Opus.

"With the Peacock stage, the alchemist has entered into the inner experience of the astral world, which initially appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This experience is often symbolised in alchemy by the appropriate image of the peacock's tail with its splendid iridescence of colour. In terms of this series of five stages, the turning point is reached with the Peacock."

- The Birds in Alchemy by Adam McLean

This interplay of color is represented by the interplay of the various brass instruments and the piano in Bolero – The Peacock's Tale .

But what is a jazz band doing in the court of Frederick II?

"He selected negro boys between the ages of sixteen and twenty to form a musical corps ; they were magnificently clad and taught to blow large and small silver trumpets. We may assume that the duty of this imperial band was to play at meal times, since the courts of Anjou and Aragon, whom Frederick copied in every way, indulged this custom." (p. 312)

- Frederick II
by Ernst Kantorowicz

On the earthly level, as Europe has been immeasurably influenced by the Islamic world in the areas of science, architecture, art, religion, philosophy and music, the musical call and response of The Peacock's Tale represents the dialogue, or exchange of ideas, between East and West. The alchemical turning point is reached with the peacock's tail. Europe reached the turning point and began its intellectual ascent when knowledge from the Islamic world began to be meaningfully disseminated. This meaningful dissemination of Arabic knowledge began under the direction of Emperor Frederick II, who was himself the turning point.

"Indeed, a remark of his which signals a turning-point from Western man's subservience to tradition and his approach to the methods of modern science appears in the preface of his book on falconry" 'We discovered by hard-won experience that the deductions of Aristotle, which we followed when they appealed to our reason, were not entirely to be relied upon.'

Bolero - The Peacock's Tale begins and ends with the sound of "a voice crying in the wilderness".

"With this remark Frederick stood, intellectually in opposition to his age, invited the condemnation of the tradition-minded theocracy of the thirteenth century, made himself liable to the relentless hostile propaganda of the Roman Church. While not alone in his century in the search for truth, Frederick was conspicuous in that he alone among the sovereigns of the era dared to support these concepts against the obstinate resistance of the prevailing dogmatism.

He alone among the sovereigns of the first half of the thirteenth century perceived the dangers inherent in the temporal ambitions of the papacy. He saw this not merely as an encroachment on the prerogatives of the temporal princes, but as a destructive force to the spiritual office itself. Like Joachim of Floris and St. Francis of Assisi, Frederick was deeply aware of this weakness and sought vigorously to check it. In this effort, however, he was far in advance of his age. ...he was powerless against the weight of tradition to make his warning heard.

Frederick II has no counterpart or near counterpart in history. He was a man of pronounced individuality in an age that insisted upon conformity. It was his unwillingness to accept this, his insistent opposition to it, that made possible his astonishing achievements."

- The Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen Immutator Mundi
by Thomas Curtis Van Cleve
p. 533 & 535-6, 539

The spread of ideas, under the reign of Frederick II can also be traced geographically in a pattern paralleling the unfolding musical arrangement of Bolero - The Peacock's Tale .


Arab-Norman Peacock Window
"Sicily and Spain were the principal gateways of propagation of Arab (Islamic) civilization to Europe. The two "baptized Sultans" of Sicily, Roger II and Frederick II, Hohenstaufen, were the patrons of Arab culture and learning. (Muslim presence in Sicily began in 827 C.E., and they ruled it for more than 250 years, ending in 1091 C.E.). From Sicily the fruits of Islamic sciences and culture spread through Italy across the Alps, Lotharingia (Lorraine), Liege, Gorze and Cologne. The other gateway was Spain through which it penetrated slowly beyond the Pyrenees into western and south-western France."

- Translators of Scientific Knowledge in the Middle Ages by Dr. A. Zahoor

The Bolero, like the process of alchemical transformation, consists of five parts: paseo, traversia, diferencia, traversia and finale. It could be said that the components of the Bolero mirror each other in the traversia.

"The Peacock's Tail is the central experience to this process…We note also that the other stages mirror each other. Thus the Black Crow and the Phoenix are related as beginning and end of the process, but in a deeper sense they are both connected with death-processes."

- The Birds in Alchemy by Adam McLean

As noted above, the Peacock's tail represents the alchemical turning point while, for Europe, the introduction of Arab learning represents the intellectual turning point. In the Bolero itself, the diferencia represents the turning point of the composition.




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