Oh, you song, [...] head for the bright sun
Katyusha is a Soviet Estrada song released in 1939. It became popular with the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Since its release, more than a thousand arrangements in multiple languages have been produced, including i.a. English, German, Japanese, Chinese and French. Comprising political battle songs by various leftist groups, an appropriation from the fascist right, depoliticized pop and Schlager hymns, jazz themes, its use as a football anthem, disco tracks, rock and techno etc. Katyusha’s interpretational history imprints its melody with a multiplicity of sometimes contradictory meanings.
A roar, a screech, a howl, a bang. Four additional sounds reverberate in the sounds of Katyusha as it also lent its name to the Katyusha multiple rocket launcher first used in 1941. The sounds of this weapon’s rocket motors were terrifying, adding a psychological warfare aspect to their use. German troops coined the nickname Stalin’s organ (Stalinorgel) comparing the visual resemblance of the launch array to a pipe organ and even named a German-built replica of it Himmler’s organ.
Despite its strong association with the catholic church today, the pipe organ was primarily an instrument of aristocratic representation, even used by the Romans to accompany gladiator fights, until it was officially allowed to be part of the Catholic liturgy at the council of Milan in 1287. The first 1000 years, Christians dismissed the organ due to its profanity. Only In the 14th century, the organ became a regular instrument in the catholic churches of Western Europe.
The patroness of church music is Saint Cecilia. She is frequently depicted playing a small organ evidently to express what was often attributed to her, namely that while the musicians played at her nuptials, she sang in her heart to God, though the organ has likely been misattributed to her, as the result of a mistranslation.
In the same century, the organ’s representational function became more and more prominent in religious contexts, the first firework in Europe was held. It was in 1379, shortly after the conclusion of peace between the Scaligeri and the Visconti when a sparking rocket in the shape of a colomba, a dove, glided down on a string from the tower of the episcopal palace into a festival building. One chronicler reported that the faithful, shocked by the miracle, threw themselves on their faces and spoke in strange tongues, just as the Bible tells of the first Pentecostal church after the action of the sanctus spiritus. Subsequently fireworks became a pompous means of aristocratic celebrations until the late 18th century. During festivities, up to 20000 rockets were used by e.g. Louis XV in Versailles when he welcomed his daughter-in-law Marie Antoinette. Both the sonic massiveness of the organ, being able to set a whole building into vibration and the sky-filling spectacles of fireworks mark a transcendentality that relies on an affect of sensually overwhelming. The small balls of gunpowder that make up traditional spherical firework shells are even called stars.
As an ornamental figuration of weaponry, the history of fireworks closely corresponds with the history of gunpowder. The first confirmed reference to what can be considered gunpowder occurred in Taoist texts in China in the 9th century AD during the Tang dynasty. Based on these, the invention of gunpowder by Chinese alchemists was likely an accidental byproduct from experiments seeking to create the elixir of life. A search for eternity, that tragically triggered a development of a war machinery that found one of its most extreme excrescences in the war-shattered 20th century. The earliest surviving chemical formula of gunpowder dates to 1044 in the form of the military manual Wujing Zongyao.
By 1240 AD, the Arabs had acquired knowledge of gunpowder and its uses from China. Arab writers referred to rockets, fireworks, and other incendiaries as Chinese flowers.
A type of flower that is found mostly in China, though has strong symbolic connotations within Christian symbolism are lilies. Saint Cecilia, after convincing her husband to convert to Christianity is seen by him, an angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies. The white lily has been associated with the Virgin Mary since at least the Medieval Era. Susanna in the bath (from Hebrew “Shushan” = “the lily”) was already represented before Mary with the symbol of the lily as a sign of her purity. The sign was adopted in the veneration of Mary and received its current meaning in the Christian formal language as the Madonna’s lily and symbol of virginity, purity and innocence. The archangel Gabriel has also carried a lily as an attribute since the 14th century - especially on depictions of the Annunciation; in his hand, it symbolizes the perpetual virginity of Mary. The fleur-de-lis, a stylized lily flower and common symbol in heraldry has been used by French royalty and throughout history to represent Catholic saints of France.
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