June Trouble was released last Friday. If you didn't see it, get onto our Facebook page and like us to receive notification the moment it's uploaded.
This month we look at art in gaming. Emmi Scherlies interviews Flight Control-er Rob Murray, while Lisa Bowen takes a walk in The Garden of Forking Paths with curator Neil Jenkins. Elsewhere Ivan Durrant – featuring in MPRG's Controversy exhib later this month – reveals some of the secrets of his psyche with an excellent and entertaining Social Work, while Courtney Symes discovers the delights of Melbourne's galleries, visiting Blindside, the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, the Candle Ends Mini Festival at Brunswick Arts Space, fortyfivedownstairs and more. Robyn Gibson considers the damage being done by Australia's infamous mining boom in Greenwish, while Jean-François Vernay listens for the sound of fiction featuring Carmel Bird, Christopher Koch and other great Australian authors. We also have JF's Tassie Travelogue beginning, while Ben Laycock's Greetings from Peru reaches it's penultimate conclusion.
As the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is about to kick off (or already has), I thought it might be timely to explore the affinities between music and fiction. Some distinguished authors devote their lives to the trial of novel-writing by patiently re-writing whole excerpts of their painstaking works so as to bring the art of fiction to perfection. They would go as far as to hone every bit of sentence simply to achieve the musicality of read-aloud words. Carmel Bird, among others, has this quite distinctive Flaubertian attitude to her fiction, as she confesses in The Automatic Teller (1996): “Reading work aloud after you have written it is something some writers do, and some don’t. I do. Reading it helps me to know for sure whether I have said what I wanted to say, and whether the rhythms of the sentences are right. I am very keen on the rhythms. One of my greatest pleasures is when I get together with Michael Fortescue, who plays the double bass in Hobart, and he improvises on the bass while I read my work, any of it, not stuff that has been specially prepared. Each time we do it there is the possibility that it won’t work, but it always has.”
Christopher Koch – a former poet – has also been inspired by Gustave Flaubert’s ‘épreuve du gueuloir’, a phrase the French novelist coined to describe his reading aloud test. By revising his text over and over again, Koch pays special attention to the musical ring of words at every step of the creative process. The cadence of the prose in his lyrical debut novel entitled The Boys in the Island (1958) is behind this incantatory rhythm which takes its source in various prosody effects such as varied repetitions, the presence of a leitmotiv and a network of almost canon-like echoes. Even though it is discreet, there is a definite kinship between the narrative of The Boys in the Island and music.
Like Philip Salom’s Toccata and Rain (see our March issue), Charlotte Wood’s The Submerged Cathedral (2004) also takes after a classical piece of music: La Cathédrale engloutie (1910) by French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Wood’s parents’ love affair became the starting point for this intriguing novel which a critic from The Bulletin likened to Debussy’s piano prelude: ‘Wood’s writing is made of the same stuff as Debussy’s music: exquisite and sometimes dissonant chords; delicate, slow notes; a gentle, passionate witness of the patterns submerged within the real order of things; of longing and elegy. And of love.’ But music does not inform The Submerged Cathedral thematically (the novel does not deal with musical impressionism), or stylistically as in The Boys in the Island, or even structurally like Toccata and Rain. It may sound slightly cliché to draw an analogy between music and fiction as Roland Barthes did in his lecture courses and seminars at the Collège de France, originally published in 2003 in France under the title La Préparation du roman – “The literature of today: brings to mind the last movement of Haydn’s Farewell: one after the other, the instruments stop playing; only two violins remain (they carry on playing the third); they remain on stage but snuff out their candles: heroic and melodic” – but why is it that authors take a lively interest in music and frequently get inspired from it?
Admittedly, seduction is the very substance of fiction which will bring psychical pleasure to readers thanks to its narrative tricks and gift for invention. On top of voicing what people wish to hear, like advertising agents (Peter Carey and Barry Oakley, for instance, came from that sort of background), authors can coat their tales in a poetic musicality which will bewitch most music-loving readers. The melodic line therefore contributes to the largely underrated pleasure of the text, which is something you will hardly derive from a science book.
Source: Trouble Magazine: June 2012.
Jean-François Vernay’s next book in French is a reflection on the nature of fiction