January 19, 2004


I ain't drown or nothing. Coming back strong this week. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here's a note from my friend Ben:

Here's Proust, fucking with the darkness on the subject of music, in the new Lydia Davis translation of Swann's Way.

"The year before, at a soiree, he had heard a piece of music performed on the piano and violin. At first, he had experienced only the physical quality of the sounds secreted by the instruments. And it had been a keen pleasure when, below the little line of the violin, slender, unyielding, compact, and commanding, he had seen the mass of the piano part all at once struggling to rise in a liquid swell, multiform, undivided, smooth, and colliding like the purple tumult of the waves when the moonlight charms them and lowers their pitch by half a tone. But at a certain moment, without being able to distinguish and outline clearly, or give a name to what was pleasing him, suddenly charmed, he had tried to gather up and hold on to the phrase or harmony--he himself did not know which--that was passing by him and that had opened his soul so much wider, the way the smells of certain roses circulating in the damp evening air have the property of dilating our nostrils. Maybe it was because of his ignorance of music that he had been capable of receiving so confused an impression, the kind of impression that his, however, perhaps the only one which is purely musical, immaterial, entirely original, irreducible to any other order of impression. An impression of this kind is, for an instant, so to speak, sine materia. No doubt the notes we hear then tend already, depending on their loudness and their quantity, to spread out before our eyes over surfaces of varying dimensions, to trace arabesques, to give us sensations of breadth, tenuousness, stability, whimsy. But the notes vanish before these sensations are sufficiently formed in us not to be submerged by those already excited by the succeeding or even simultaneous notes. And this impression would continue to envelop with its liquidity and its "mellowness" the motif that at a times emerge from it, barely discernible, immediately to dive under and disappear, known only by the particular pleasure they give, impossible to describe, to recall, to name, ineffable--if memory, like a laborer working to put down lasting foundations in the midst of the waves, by fabricating for us facsimiles of these fleeting phrases, did not allow us to compare them to those that follow them and to differentiate them. And so, scarcely had the delicious sensation which Swann had felt died away than his memory at once furnished him with a transcription that was summary and temporary but at which he could glance while the piece continued, so that already, when the same impression suddenly returned, it was no longer impossible to grasp. He could picture to himself its extent, its symmetrical groupings, its notation, its expressive value; he had before him this thing which is no longer pure music, which is drawing, architecture, thought, and which allows us to recall the music. This time he had clearly distinguished one phrase rising for a few moments above the waves of sound. It had immediately proposed to him particular sensual pleasures which he had never imagined before hearing it, which he felt could be introduced to him by nothing else, and he had experienced for it something like an unfamiliar love.

"With a slow rhythm it led him first here, then there, then elsewhere, toward a happiness that was noble, unintelligible, and precise. And then suddenly, having reached a point from which he was preparing to follow it, after an instant's pause, abruptly it changed direction, and with a new movement, quicker, slighter, more melancholy, incessant, and sweet, it carried him off with it toward unfamiliar vistas. Then it disappeared. He wished passionately to see it a third time. And it did indeed reappear but without speaking to him more clearly, bringing him, indeed, a sensual pleasure that was less profound. But once he has back at home he needed it, he was like a man into whose life a woman he has glimpsed for only a moment as she passed by has introduced the image of a new sort of beauty that increases the value of his own sensibility, without his even knowing if he will ever see this woman again whom he loves already and of whom he knows nothing, not even her name."

Posted by Sasha at January 19, 2004 10:35 PM | TrackBack