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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Thursday, 27 August 2015
The meaning of music
So, 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?