lundi, octobre 22, 2007

TABLE DE CHEVET (2)



Le dernier "opus" de Chapman, que l'on suit depuis longtemps, auteur des splendides Daughter, I forbid your reccuring dream, Stet et Glass. Avec un extrait, étonnant, là : http://www.fuguestatepress.com/howx.pdf

This unusual novel comes in the form of a libretto for an oratorio, completed by a fictional composer just before his death in the 1990's. After an introduction that gives us the bare outlines of his personal history, most of our knowledge of his inner life--his emotion at the death of his wife, and the way he is dealing with his own illnesses--comes to us from his libretto.

The libretto consists of dozens of scored quotations from outside sources (many of them invented) around the subjects of illness and the fear of death. Particular obsessions of the composer--the life and death of contralto Kathleen Ferrier (who died mid-life of breast cancer, as the composer's wife did), the illnesses of composers and performers Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, Gustav Mahler and Alfred Schnittke, as well as Hindu poetry, German history and many other matters, provide the reader with a ghostly outline of the life story and soul of a dying artist.

The most unusual formal innovation here is the musical scoring, indicated by columns--the density of simultaneous sung quotations will increase in moments of great emotion; spareness and "white space" become more frequent as hope recedes. We come to know the composer as one who had already withdrawn from the world, allied only with the woman he loved. And we see what is left for him once he has lost her.



The last musical work of fictional composer Eckhard Rabindranath Unruh, produced in his last year on earth. A musician born in India of German parents, he was trained in Hindu classical music, served in the British army in WWII. He could find no outlets for his music in postwar Germany and so supported himself by working in a plant nursery. "Unruh had an instinct for making his work undesirable." He emigrated to the United States and tried to get his career on track in California, all to no avail. He was known to a few aficionados. That was all. "Unruh's time may have passed before it ever arrived." Unruh was an odd bird, much more so than the average odd bird that many artists are.
Fugue State Press has sent an advance copy of Chapman's novel in spiral-bound double-page layout with a fugal element. There are English-language translations for the words of the speakers who utter parts in languages from Hungarian, Sanskrit, Sumerian, Portuguese, Czech. There are four spoken recorded tracks, two separate choruses, live speakers #1 and #2, and instrumental soloists all going simultaneously. In concert, performance time is supposed to last 53 minutes. The obsession of the variegated libretto is death, its many manifestations, the descent into nothingness, the triumph of disease, rotten corpses "too filthy for the dogs to eat." Quotes from various cultural works and reminiscence follow in rapid recititives, with contralto, with baritone. The truth emerges from these complex juxtapositions.
Chapman gets his point across and does it in an original manner by his choice of these cultural antecedents joined together in a Greek chorus of despair. Let's try to get used to techniques like these. An artist has license to engage in such irregularities, using the voices of others in an oratorio of the damned. Once again, Chapman develops the theme of the artist in the postmodern world. The theme bedevils him as it did in Stet. It wouldn't surprise me if he returns to it again. How is This Going to Continue? is an unusual fiction of originality filled with the high purpose of Chapman's vision.
--Arnold Skemer, ZYX

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