Saturday, October 20, 2007


So now I have this tiny (externally) but (internally) whacking big iPod, 4 times the space of my wheezing, ancient original, & no longer have to worry about whether adding the new John Zorn record is going to force me to delete White Light/White Heat or something just as crucial. But then I have to worry about the hard drive on my laptop, which is (I believe) something like 20 gigs smaller (go figure) than this tiny iPod thingy. The solution of course is to relocate the iTunes library to an external hard drive.

Which I've done, & now I'm going wild ripping CDs that I haven't listened to in years. There was a very long period – maybe the better part of a decade – where I listened to almost nothing but "classical" music, jazz, & British Isles folk music. And I was under the impression that I had fairly decent libraries in all of those areas, until I started thinking to myself, what ought I to have listened to over those years when I was doing a nonstop diet of Messiaen, Gorecki, Schnittke, Gavin Bryars, etc? & so I came to realize that my library of the "real" classics – & here I'm thinking in particular of Beethoven, Brahms, & Mahler – is actually rather thin.

Some of that can be remedied in-house. I just ripped all 8 CDs of J.'s box set of the complete Beethoven quartets, along with her Karajan versions of the Brahms symphonies. But Mahler is still thin on the ground. One of the curiosities among the CDs I accumulated from my two-year subscription to the BBC's classical music magazine, which sent a disc every month, is a recording of Mahler's 10th symphony – unfinished at his death in 1911 – which has been "completed" by someone else.

Now I can imagine finishing an unfinished novel for which detailed notes exist – Wharton's The Buccaneers, for instance – or even writing a ending for a book whose author dropped dead without telling where he was going (Edwin Drood); I can even imagine, in an era when poetic rules & conventions were much more universal & binding than our own, finishing an unfinished poem: if, say, the last 300 lines of Thomson's The Seasons were missing, or if Spenser had left a detailed outline for the last 1/3 of Faerie Queene VI – I can see a writer of even moderate genius being able to turn out a serviceable pastiche. But I can't for the life of me imagine "completing" a major piece of romantic orchestral music.

(A lot of that's just a function of my abysmal ignorance about music – about, especially, the process of composition, orchestration, & so forth. Wikipedia tells me of Mahler's 10th that "a continuous 'beginning-to-end' draft of 1,945 bars exists, but much of it is not fully elaborated and most of it not orchestrated." Okay. I can dig the "not orchestrated" part: I assume GM sketched out the progression of major themes & melodies, & his "completer" assigned them to sections of the orchestra & them cooked up parts for the rest of the players. But what in heaven's name does "not fully elaborated" mean? This is all a function of my failure to take that music appreciation class back in the '80s, when I was still able to learn things.)

Pope is Bach in poetry; Thomson is Telemann. Beethoven is Hegel in notes.

1 comment:

Archambeau said...

Pope is Bach, Beethoven is Hegel -- I like it! Let's see... how would it work for the Americans? Longfellow is John Phillip Sousa, Wallace Stevens is Samuel Barber, William Carlos Williams is Aaron Copeland, and your man LZ is an obsessive-compulsive John Cage. I can even think of a few Vanilla Ices, but discretion bars the naming of names...