Saturday, October 20, 2007

So let it be written, so let it be done

In a nondescript suburban bungalow where the beeps and buzzes emanating from the living room television on an orthodox Friday evening were, along with the intermittent scratch of a charcoal pencil by one child upon a piece of thick art paper, the ambient sounds drowned out by the other hooting and hollering after finally defeating a big boss man in the Ocarina of Time; where the murmurs of my wife, stretched out in relaxation on the couch, practicing her Welsh grammar - good luck with that screwy language - and where, lying silently underneath it all, was the dread emptiness of a baseball travel day, I rudely pressed my hands flat on the dining room table, blissfully unaware of having entwined the cord of my headphones around a finger so that when I stood up - resolute, determined that this was the night I would finally, at last, for sure this time, no doubt about it, save your questions for the end, complete my overwritten, long hibernating, godforsaken piece of fiction - they came crashing down with such a violent thud upon the wood, still shiny from a quickly-applied coat of Orange Glow hours before, the other inhabitants were forced by one of the unwritten laws of human relationships to chuckle. Grimacing as I passed my family to pull the tattered, spiral-bound notebook and its gently fading black cover off the shelf, I returned to the table and a stack of CDs, a staunch believer, a man of faith, that the muses would kiss my forehead and whisper the words of inspiration to allow me to finish.

Writing without sound, without a heavenly, or hellish, strain of notes is anathema to me. To others, music is mere background noise, something to hum along to while waxing your car, scrubbing the floor or reading a dime-store novel. For myself, it's the lifeblood of art - hell, of life, itself. Literature? You better know the language. Cinema? The world is ready-made for you. Painting? The same. Music, more than any other art form, can be applied to your world, the memories, both real and imagined, thrust upon you or carefully cultivated, becoming one with the notes that echo inside your head and your heart. I can't play a lick, I don't know any theory, yet the tears begin to well upon every listen of the allegretto in Beethoven's 7th. Why? The sculptured sound, the insistent and sad ostinato, the memories they represent for me, that I willfully associate with those measures. And you, you might feel something completely different. Even a chanson by Fauré, a song by Jacques Brel, an Italian opera by Handel can move someone who knows only English. Universal, indeed.

Perhaps even more disconcerting than a lack of music is the struggle to decide precisely what to listen to. Remembering an absolutely beautiful post at dents de lait about the author witnessing a production of Hector Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette, I decided to riff off that, bypassing a vocal version, Sir Colin Davis' take on said score, and move instead to an old instrumental warhorse, Tchaikovsky's overture on that same subject, here coupled with his 5th symphony, both masterfully conducted by Daniele Gatti. Now, the blame for overplaying lies squarely at the feet of unimaginative classical radio station programmers and not with poor Piotr. The guy was gifted with an affinity for melody; some of us should be so cursed. Anyway, strip off all the cliché that surrounds this piece, that threatens to choke it into silence, and you're left with a stunning work. And the 5th ain't too bad, either. But, given how I wanted to finish up with that, I decided to start with the 4th/Capriccio Italien.

Why these particular works? More than anything else, the evolution of my story from a tale of a monk-like, black magic-wielding Charles Baudelaire wreaking subterranean havoc on an unsuspecting Paris to a Lovecraftian ghost story to an atmospheric yarn-cum-romance-cum-mixed bag of whatever stuff I could glean from the palimpsest of my life: imagination, things read long ago, allusions, anecdotes, a line of verse, a word. There's an inherent melancholia in these pieces, for obvious reasons, and they seemed to be the perfect fit for the end of my tale and its tristesses de la lune.

Pen, paper. Paper, pen. Now write.

It wasn't strictly a catharsis, nor was it a labor of love, but something that I needed to do. That's the best description that I can fabricate, as banal as it sounds. I suppose that writers with actual skill would understand what I mean. I have no delusions or pretensions to ever try this again, at least not anytime in the near future. It was in the doing, the writing of a larger-scale form, the challenge of a being a Gravesian Boyce to a Dickensian Beethoven. A far, far lesser light - rest quietly, William, that jab was directed at myself, certainly not you - who nonetheless completed something that he's wanted to do for years.

The mere act of writing, composing, painting, that one thing which elevates us above our barbaric, animal nature that all too often manifests itself [fuck, it's hard leaving politics out of a post - must - resist], to have drunk from that rich reservoir of the very best of humanity, to not have destroyed, but to have created something that will be read not by millions but by a mere handful at best feels - after pens run out of ink during sleepless nights, after daydreams and the transcription of long-simmering thoughts, after reevaluation, rearrangement and spending far too much time on whether or not to change a word or a phrase, after ephemeral ideas quickly jotted down on a tiny pocket notebook stuffed in my backpack while on the bus to and from work, after the repeating of a theme over and over in my head when walking down my street or grocery shopping, using the back of the receipt if necessary - pretty damn good.

What didn't feel pretty damn good was getting up after the final notes of the last CD rang out into nothingness and realizing only then that I had had one too many glasses of wine. I closed my notebook with the gently fading black cover, turned off the light and began to navigate around the table, the cats' scratching post and down the hall to our bedroom, with only the weak beams of the streetlight outside to guide me, high comedy for all. Larry, Curly and Moe would've been proud. I'm just glad everyone else was surprisingly asleep, for I certainly would've knocked them over. I'm even more glad that l'histoire de Madeleine et Gabriel est fini enfin.


Scarlet Witch said...

I admire your wife for attempting the Welsh. Personally, I need more vowels in a language, but whom am I to criticize?

I need to go read your fiction. But then, I need to go finish mine. Damn this blogging!

Scarlet Witch said...

I mean, "who am I?" (I should also expect more grammatical correctness in a language, esp. my own, eh? I'm babbling. Ale with lunch....)

Randal Graves said...

I think she's nuts, way too many consonants. But then again, at least it isn't Russian! I'm too stupid to try and learn anything not using the Latin alphabet.

And good luck finding it, it's not online. :)

But if you drink more, you can imagine that you did. :) Speaking of the spirits....