Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Books and Music

This month's prompt at November's Autumn is Music. Find a piece of music that expresses a book you've read. I've chosen Rachmaninov's Adagio from his 2nd Symphony.

The first part reminds me of Jane Eyre, when she is in the orchard listening to the nightingale singing. This leads to the famous proposal scene in the book.  There is something tender and melodious in the beginning, representing Jane's youth and impressionable feelings. Than it deepens into agony (Jane's anguished love) which bursts full in the middle of the song. The more ambivalent part later on could represent Jane's torn feelings between love and duty, and her loneliness away from Rochester while she is at Morton. Whatever it is, there is something very solitary about the music that captivates you. On the other hand, the melancholy running throughout is very akin to Villette.

Ironically Rachmaninov was known as the Last Romantic. While Romanticism in literature was in the late 18th to early 19th century, Romanticism in music was from the 1820's to the 1910's. Perhaps music emulates fiction years later, I don't know. But certainly classicism was the norm the years before Jane Eyre was written.

This excerpt from his Piano Concerto No. 2 is divine, forward to the last passage. I imagine a great waterfall, a traveller standing atop a mighty mountain, swayed by the winds. Not a bad accompaniment to the part when Jane rescues Rochester from the fire, but I suspect the strong melancholy in this work is more consistent with Villette. There is great pondering and introspection in between the waterfalls, almost feeble and yet not without depth - reminiscent of Lucy Snowe's impassioned helplessness. The mighty waterfall always meant to me a fall from heights - Lucy's descent into melancholy maybe? Her profound anguish? Even as the music softens it grows more melancholy. It is a resolution but not a happy one.  As you can hear it's highly individualistic, almost ethereal and yet full of power. The power critics praised Charlotte Brontë for.

I must pay tribute to a lesser-esteemed work I enjoyed at school. I read it while listening to the radio. The name of this cook is I Capture the Castle - a thoughtful book, though by no means realistic. It's intellectual, charming, and the heroine is full of feeling. The song that happened to be playing at the moment was Shakin' Stevens' Because I Love You, not exactly the sort of thing that I would now associate with the book but back then it stirred me. It seemed so suited especially when there was unrequited love in the book.

I didn't know the song and the singer then, but the tune stayed with me till I forgot it the next day and months later. It came in my dreams (the full instrumental version, no less! I think I'm more musical in my sleeping than waking state) and disappeared again.  I tried to remember to no avail till I heard it again last year and jotted down the lyrics. A google search yielded the results. I know my parents suffered that few days when I earnestly strove to recall the music - they know how obsessive I am over certain musical motifs.

A particularly haunting song you must hear is Schubert's Serenade. It's very Gothic. I always think of it when I see a Pre-Raphaelite painting of the Lady of Shalott in her boat. It would go well with Tennyson's poem of the same name, or his Mariana. Alternately, it would go well with the more eerie parts of Keats'  first deleted stanza of Ode to Melancholy, or a poem by a lesser-known poet, whose name has only come to me recently. I did him for A-Levels and forgot. Unfortunately I lent my A-Level text to a friend and have forgotten which friend it was. Garn.

Here is Where Lies the Land? by Arthur Hugh Clough

WHERE lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.
On sunny noons upon the deck’s smooth face        5
Linked arm in arm, how pleasant here to pace;
Or, o’er the stern reclining, watch below
The foaming wake far widening as we go.
On stormy nights when wild north-westers rave,
How proud a thing to fight with wind and wave!        10
The dripping sailor on the reeling mast
Exults to bear, and scorns to wish it past.
Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,        15
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

It's a very versatile piece - read Rime of the Ancient Mariner with it at night in bed. Come to think of it, Wilkie Collins' The Law and the Lady would go well with a Gothic piece.  Don't ask me why, the book isn't Gothic but it made me think of Gothic castles. It makes me think of some mysterious lady who might be a vampire or Lamia lowering herself into a boat and sailing into the night.

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