But you need to be patient with me. I’ll get there, in fact the novel has already started, we are all, so to speak, in the middle of it, you just haven’t noticed yet.
A bird is singing out of your ear, and if you were to look up and to the left for a moment you would see that it is there sitting on a small branch. It is a pale breasted bird and appears to be wearing a small red felt hat. It is probably the Owl of Minerva, or pretending to be. You can pretend too.
Look up further. The old tree you are sitting against is filled with many more birds and if you care to listen you will quickly find that they are all also singing. In fact the air is filled with song, and they are exotic songs which are not commonly heard in these shadowy, cold lands of the north. Shimmers of sound, it is a matter of fact. Look around and you could make another list of all the animals around you if you cared to. Some are wild and some domestic, chickens from the local farm, as well as lions and a rhinocerus from Africa. You appear to have charmed them all with your notes. That is the idea isn’t it? Songs.
Notations. Catalogues. The strings of your harp are also of a precise number, and tuned to an exact pitch: as I’ve had reason to say before and on more than one occasion, the musical component comes first – rhythm, balance, measure.
You could list these separately if you wanted to, and discover all the harmonies which each ‘scene’ makes. Go on pretending. And the tuning can be changed to suit the mood. We may begin happy, or sad if you prefer, whichever is proper to your situation. Sometimes it is a playful scene. Sometimes it is violent and horrific. There and back, it is of vital interest.
So when to charm open the Gates of Hell you must face first down the Furies: follow the score here – sung by a female contralto these days (I was fortunate to hear Janet Baker in one of her last performances). Keep pretending. Watch, or rather hear, the beautiful patterns of Gluck’s notations along the lines of music and the rhythms – or ‘feet’ as they are properly called. The notations, the catalogues, as your eye runs along with them, although if you prefer you could just as well call them lists . Here is a 10 minute YouTube clip of Janet Baker singing Orfeo (which includes a WWF ad to ‘Save the Rhino’ as well as the famous 1990′s staging of the Furies at the Gates of Hell). The demons love their mathematical regularities – “No!… No!!… NO!!!” : HE of course is captured, and the Furies are simultaneously captivated by what they hear. Isn’t that the point? Time no longer.
Time no longer, and my life is too short: these days the musical components seem to work better listening to Oliver Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps. I can’t go any faster, my work is a cathedral and I need a long time, centuries. And how much longer do I have?
(The Beginning and ending above include lines from ‘From an Unfinished Novel’, some draft material abandoned by Nescio and never completed: see Amsterdam Stories P121-122)