Monday, July 25, 2016

Tech is good. Journeys and madeleines of sound

Just musing today, hot summer afternoon, home reading Alexander McCall Smith, easy reading for summer, and noticed how much better it is to read when you can easily look up the references in ways not possible years ago.

Usually in my case it's to music I'm not familiar with and the characters are, meaning the writer is too, so I like to get the sound surround effect of knowing what they're hearing.  I do this all the time with Donna Leon, the opera and particularly Handel aficionada, found myself listening to many a Handel aria,  because her characters refer to it, and now it's happening with Smith.

What happens is that as soon as a character refers to a piece, or an artwork, I instantly seize my tablet, and find the music or the painting on YouTube, and it's surprising how often it's there and easy to find. 

Today it's Isabel Dalhousie and Jamie, the musician, remembering a concert of early music they attended.  They mentioned a song I don't know, though I know a lot of Elizabethan music, so I went in search.  

And found glorious Alfred Deller, a voice I hadn't heard in decades, right there on YouTube, with his consort, singing all the medieval and Renaissance pops. I have sung a lot of these, in various choirs as a kid and at the Uni, and play them on recorder as often as not nowadays.

But there was Il Est Bel Et Bon, large as life, lovely funny song about a young wife admiring her husband's kindness and his feeding the hens, making silly noises at them.  She's reporting this to her mother in law, as it happens.  This may be strictly fantasy, knowing the early period, but it zoomed me right back to uni, where I sang this song, in the first sopranos of our Madrigal Chorale.  We even made a record, very proud of ourselves, long since lost in the many moves I've done, but still imprinted in memory.

And the Wraggle Taggle Gipsies O, even further back, to school. And more songs,  and more recently, Three Ravens and others from the early music period, back to early days of learning recorder, as an adult, and now I've outlived most of my co learners. Remembering Arda and Dominique and Jenny and more.

Anyway, these are the sudden precipitous journeys your mind goes off on when you read, at least mine does. Like Proust's madeleine, but with sound.  Do you do similar things with music or references to paintings?  

I think a lot of us might do it for literary references.  Isabel, in the Smith books,  is batty about Auden, please, why, and she lards a lot of her dialog with quotations, which she then goes on to explain, Lord, save me from people like Isabel in real life.  It's okay to quote, but the explaining is, well, not so. Good she's safely shut inside fact she's an irritating person, which may mean I've read enough of her for now.  But all the same, I did look up the Auden references.

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