26 September 2010

Music in Literature

There aren’t anywhere near enough references to Schoenberg in modern fiction. Glad to see that T.C. Boyle addressed that cultural impoverishment in East Is East:

. . . he laid his aquarium woes on Clara Kleinschmidt, talking to hear himself talk—and to pay her back, in small measure, for Arnold Schoenberg. (p.179)

Arnold makes a couple of other appearances through the novel, but that’s my favorite . . . even though the implication is that Saxby finds the discussion of Schoenberg a bore. Saxby’s a grown-up looking for an albino fish, in a boat called Pequod II, fer chrissake.

Boyle casts Carl Nielsen’s cameo in a somewhat more favorable light:

. . . and so while the meal cooked and Jeff swirled his half a can of warm beer round a plastic camp cup, the angst-ridden strains of Carl Nielsen floated out over bog, hammock and wallow, tempering the mindless twitter of the birds and tree frogs with a small touch of precision. (p.275)

A family of three are on a camping/canoeing trip in the Okefenokee Swamp, and Jeff, Jr, aged ten, has brought his clarinet along, to keep it in practice. It would take some musical precocity for a ten-year-old to manage Nielsen. Not saying it’s impossible—but it feels like a stretch.

Chances are the climate of the swamp is none too good for the instrument. Just saying.

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