Monday, April 12, 2010

Music to read Perec by

I was relieved to find that Life A User's Manual is about 100 pages shorter than I thought, if you think it's OK, and I do, to subtract all the varied backmatter: index, chronology, checklist, translator's notes. Also, I found a very useful map on page 569, which, while included in the table of contents, could've been more clearly labelled, like, as a map.

I was early trepidatious of reading reviews or explanations or theories, of encountering spoilers. But quite by accident in an early Saturday morning pre-coffee haze I became better acquainted with my paperback, and I'm glad I did. Nothing to be afraid of! And a map! From chapter 3 I'd been toying with the urge to map out the apartment block for myself, but now I wouldn't have to. I've looked deep inside myself and can admit that I could never hope to decipher all of Perec's tricks, that figuring it all out for myself is unrealistic, and there's only a richer experience to be gained by being open to background information from varied sources. So, bring it on!

Now, I'm struggling with background music. Some books scream out for a soundtrack. I think this is one of them.

This is tough. French. Experimental. I thought Satie. But it's a little early, and not all that adventurous. But nothing too dada, too obvious. I thought 60s-70s, and so yé-yé, like Serge Gainsbourg, but maybe that's a little too pop and also a little too sexy, but then, I haven't read the book yet, so how can I know?

The experiment with form begs for jazz, but by 1975 jazz is a little vast — where to start?

The puzzle of it, its mathematics, suggest Philip Glass.

I find that Perec worked at one point with musician Philippe Drogoz. I can't find much information about Philippe Drogoz, and my sight-reading is a little weak to get a feel for the scores available online. I find a reference to a piece of his being based on Beethoven's Violin concerto, op. 61. So that's what I listened to for a while. Classical, and classic.

Then I remembered. Madame de Beaumont's concert grand has something on the stand (page 7). "Gertrude of Wyoming" by Arthur Stanley Jefferson. Well, it turns out this isn't easily listenable. Arthur Stanley Jefferson was the real name of Stan Laurel — funny guy, but not exactly a song writer. "Gertrude of Wyoming" does exist as an epic poem by Thomas Campbell, about the massacre in 1778 of American revolutionaries at the hands of Loyalists and Iroquois. But to my knowledge (and Google's), it was never set to music.

In a still life (page 15) is The Unfinished Symphony: A Novel, of which the author cannot be deciphered. That's not much to go on. The world has seen countless unfinished symphonies...

Vera Orlova makes her appearance with Schoenberg and Sprechgesang.
Lieder by Schumann and Hugo Wolf. Songs by Mussorgsky (which sound dark and melodramatic). I'm sampling all of these.

She sang the role of Angelica in Arconati's Orlando, with the famous last line: "Innamorata, mio cuore tremante voglio morire." There are some operas telling the stroy of Orlando (notably by Handel and Vivaldi), but Julio Arconati (1828-1905) appears to be a fictional invention inspired from Jules Vernes' Le Château des Carpathes. The imaginary opera is clearly based on the poem "Orlando Furioso" by Ludovico Ariosto, which was never set to music outside of these fictions.

Perec is creating an imaginary aural sculpture.

There used to be an opera singer in #3. When the building's first occupants moved in, us among them, she sent everyone a notice that she rehearsed regularly between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, apologizing in advance for any disruption it might cause and willing to accommodate anyone who might feel put out. I worked from home in those days; I know she toured often, but not once did I hear her; #3 spanned the front of the building, and my workspace was in the back. I sometimes felt sorry for this, for the fact that I never passed her on the stairs, that, since we live in #1, just inside the building's entrance, I never had opportunity to walk past her door and possibly overhear the strains of heaven.

What music do you recommend for reading Perec?
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