Tsintskaro is a Georgian folk song that was used to great effect in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of the 1922 German Expressionist classic “Nosferatu,” one of my favorite films of all time and the best vampire movie ever made (I spent several years taking film classes in college, so I am allowed to say this). In this particular rendition, the solo is sung by Hamlet Gonashvili, who was known as “the voice of Georgia” and died by falling out of an apple tree in 1985.
These days, music is often a product to be marketed to young people (and this is stumbling towards a separate point about how our culture worships youth despite the fact that young people tend to be ignorant, capricious, and uninformed, but that is another entry entirely). This is necessary, to some extent: without a mainstream to rail against, alternative (a loose, catchall term that of course ends up being vague, perhaps to the point of being meaningless, but bear with me) music loses some of its power. What purpose would John Cage’s 4’33” serve if there were no conventions to challenge? It is precisely because of the expectations we have of a piece of music that makes 4’33” a conceptual, aleatoric masterpiece.
Before all of this, before the business and the money and Spotify and Billboard, people used music as a means of expression. This is why I love pieces like Tsintskaro: it is a piece of music that was made because it had to be made. It’s the story of meeting a woman by a well, performed with nothing beyond the human voice. No industry, no pop charts, nothing beyond pure expression of some ineffable utterance of what it is to be a human being. Imagine being present when this was first sung, or when “music” was first invented. It puts Katy Perry in a new perspective. Maybe us too. We’re going to keep trying anyways.