Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The meaning of music

I have never understood music. By that statement I mean that I have never felt engaged or moved by music in the way some other people seem to be. I have often heard people say how important music is in their lives, that they could not "live" without it, and it seems to be very hard in the modern world to get away from music. I just find it annoying, and cannot remember the last time I purposely listened to a piece of music of any sort. There are some songs (usually 1960s/70s pop songs) which carry me back in time, but it seems to me that it is the association that is significant, not the music itself. I have tried to embrace various types of music over the years and have occasionally almost convinced my self that I enjoyed them, but it never lasted.

Image result for orfeo powersSo, all the more strange that a novel I have just finished makes me feel that I have been missing out on something special. The novel being Richard Powers' "Orfeo". It has as its central character an avant-garde modern composer; not simply a composer though, but a man who is musically literate to a degree I had not conceived. I can only guess that Powers himself is similarly gifted which makes me feel doubly envious - surely it is unfair that the man can write so well and understand music! The book traces the life of the composer Peter Els from childhood to age 70, detailing his relationships, (small) successes, frequent failures, uncertainties, mistakes and personal losses. Above all though it is an account of his immersion in music. Woven into Els' story, in the compass of a conventionally sized novel, are ideas about obsession, the recent history of America, mental illness, ageing, art ....... And sometimes Powers' imaginative use of language leaves this reader at least breathless with wonder. Perhaps words and music for Powers are inter-related? What can it be like to be Richard Powers?

No comments:

Post a Comment