Sunday, June 22, 2008

Music, Composing and Ian McEwan's Amsterdam

The most poetic novel Iran McEwan wrote. Also, it's the first light read for me this year. After all the readings on Alain Badiou, Greek tragedy, literary symbolism, modernism and politics, I really need this, a quadruple love, a triple revenge, and a double murder.

I love this book particularly because of its illustration of one of the central characters: Clive, a maestro, middle-aged composer determined to make his final symphony the era's echo of Beethoven's Ode to Joy but dismally finding his inspiration interrupted by betrayal. Read this passage, one of my favorite in the book:

... but in his heart he was untouched by the pressure, for this was how he needed to be working, lost to the mighty effort of bringing his work to its awesome finale. The ancient stone steps had been climbed, the wisps of sound had melted away like mist, his new melody, darkly scored in its first lonely manifestation for a muted trombone, had gathered around itself rich orchestral textures of sinuous harmony, then dissonance and whirling variations that spun away into space, never to reappear, and had now drawn itself up in a process of consolidation, like an explosion seen in stillness; then the muted trombone again, and then, with a hushed crescendo, like a giant drawing breath, the final and colossal restatement of the melody (with one intriguing and as yet unsolved difference), which gathered pace and erupted into a wave, a racing tsunami of sound reaching an impossible velocity, then rearing up, higher, and when it seemed beyond human capability, higher yet, and at last toppling, breaking and crashing vertiginously down to shatter on the hard safe ground of the home key of C minor. What remained were the pedal notes promising resolution and peace in infinite space. Then a diminuendo spanning forty-five seconds, dissolving into four bars of scored silence. The end.


My thoughts slip to a composer-pianist friend at Juilliard. How he must feel when he is composing; how he, as a young inspired composer, feel when he's penning down the notes, tempering with the sound on his Mac and feeling the music on his piano! May this blog be my belated birthday wish to him. Happy Birthday! You are the music while the music lasts.




Falling From Grace - The Gentle Waves (I just love this song)





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