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<<  -- 6 --  Jennifer I Paull    'SKY POETS PAINT THE SHELTERED CURVE TO FIND'


'What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self. Passion is all that is other from self ... the more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.' -- John Boorman (born 1933) British filmmaker 'Projections', entry for 16 May 1991, eds John Boorman and Walter Donohue (1992)

Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), Donald Justice (1925-2004) and Paul Bowles (1910-1999) all studied musical composition. All three were musicians who pivoted to brilliant writing. Burgess applied the rules of one study (musical composition) to another (literary composition), and reversed his study coding in some magical translation. Was he composing in words or writing in music? He did both separately, and together. Both of his Arts and passions were intertwined. The structure of his book The Napoleon Symphony is based upon Beethoven's Eroica.

Burgess was fascinated by language. A talented linguist (as was Cathy Berberian), he delighted in playing word games, and sought them out in many languages (as did she). It does not surprise me that these great artists were pen friends and shared each other's thoughts and ideas. Anthony Burgess composed a work entitled Pantoun for her.

Paul Bowles, after extensive travel, planted roots in Morocco. He was content in his adopted humus until death came cruelly to take him in Tangier. His best-known novel The Sheltered Sky (published 1949) was made into a film in 1990. It was recently listed as being amongst the greatest hundred novels of the XXth Century. A student of Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Bowles had originally enrolled at Art School! He composed scores for theatre, including the first William Saroyan and Tennessee Williams plays. His repertoire of serious compositions is returning to favour, recording, and concert programmes.

In Bowles' obituary, John Calder (Scottish/Canadian publisher/writer, born 1927) made the point that Bowles' very diversity may tend to negate his importance in the eyes of the general public. Indeed, Paul Bowles was an exception to the rule: a jack-of-all-trades and master of each one varyingly caressed. Why remain static if one has a quiver full of art-dipped arrows?

'I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain't music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodelling or something, not music.' -- Billie Holiday (1915-1959) US blues singer, 'Lady Sings the Blues', Ch 4 (1956, rev 1975).

Calder sees his world through the optic of words. The inspired scholar and publisher that he can be, favours the other Muses and their celestial dustfalls inasmuch as their proximity to language manifests itself upon a sliding scale. There are few people who can surpass his knowledge of opera, but again, that is his door handle to music: music with words. Unlike Paul Bowles, whose brilliant autobiography Without Stopping was written in his sixties, John Calder wrote his own, Pursuit, when he was ten years older. Time has a habit of telescoping reality. The more boring details drop away into a passacaglia's inevitable ground bass, whilst the exciting become magnified beneath a glass destructive of proportion and accuracy.

'Nothing worse could happen to one than to be completely understood' -- Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychoanalyst.

John Calder's last pivot was to become a caricaturist of his own masculinity. In his autobiography, he laid bare both his best achievements and his worst features beneath the deformation of its lens. In its Ring Cycle of pages (600), he illustrates an advanced skill for baroque ornamentation interwoven with wanton abandon of chivalry and taste.

'All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.' -- Sean O'Casey (1880-1964) Irish playwright.

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Copyright © 6 March 2005 Jennifer I Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


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