― St. Nicholas Ridiculous (Nick A.), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 15:08 (sixteen years ago) link
― David Elinsky (David Elinsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 16:17 (sixteen years ago) link
― cozen (Cozen), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 16:20 (sixteen years ago) link
― otto, Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:37 (sixteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 20:42 (sixteen years ago) link
― tom west (thomp), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 21:49 (sixteen years ago) link
What that doesn't convey is just how funny a musical notation of chirping frogs in 'Watt' is, or how lyrical some of the short stories are, or how refreshingly strange the plays are...
If, like me, you prefer to take your literature in through the ears than through the eyes, this is the link for you:
― Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 23:39 (sixteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 05:05 (sixteen years ago) link
I think the reason why Beckett seems so difficult is, that he tries to put everything in every book. He wants every book to contain every aspect of life. Therefore he often needs to use untraditional methods.
― Jens Drejer (Jens Drejer), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 10:28 (sixteen years ago) link
...the researchers found estrogen users faced a 38 percent increased risk of developing dementia or forgetfulness, and those results were statistically significant.
In Waiting for Godot, Estrogen has no memory beyond what is immediately said to him, and relies on Vladimir to remember for him.
― Fred (Fred), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 12:07 (sixteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 14:49 (sixteen years ago) link
― jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 16:54 (sixteen years ago) link
― Paul Feldman (Paul Feldman), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 17:20 (sixteen years ago) link
― Fred (Fred), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 17:50 (sixteen years ago) link
Words and Music
Beckett held the idea of the "professional" poet in abhorrence. To him it was virtually a contradiction in terms. Craft, structure, rhythm, linguistic energy were assumed prerequisites, but poetry was a calling, not a profession, not something you could decide to do at a certain moment. He meant what Keats meant, whose work he knew so well, when he wrote that "if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all." He certainly did not mean that poets should not earn money-he himself had taught for a while (was miserable during that time), had translated prolifically, written essays and reviews-but that the poem itself should not be academic or intentional, that the library shelves must not crush the furze. Beckett was a poet down to his teguments, ligaments, cells; standing or sitting, poetry's presence in his presence was as pervasive as oxygen.
His way of reciting poetry was at the polar opposite of the French school of declamation. In reciting, Sam would sing, or croon, reading Apollinaire's refrain "voie lactee," from La chanson du mal aime, in the same line intervals as a blackbird's song. When I continued to read aloud other lines from the same poem, he corrected the way I read by singing-crooning them.1 This goes against his very own insistence on keeping color out of his actors' voices, asking them to keep it flat-"too much color, Billie [to the actress Billie Whitelaw], too much color," meaning to leave off acting, and instead to transmit the structure of the sentence, the pace and musicality of the words themselves, the power of what was being said or left unsaid, made to function like pauses in music. Even the syllables of the names of the characters were counted: in Godot the ratio is 3: 2-Estragon, Pozzo, Vladimir, Lucky-and in Endgame all four characters have names of one syllable adding up to "Hammer" and "Nail:" Hamm (hammer) and Clov (clou, the French for nail); Nagg and Nell, Nagel (nail in German). In that play, too, the monologue appears between two other movements, like an adagio in music.
By far the most memorable instance, in A.'s memory, of hearing Sam's work "straight from the oven," occurred on 20 December 1956. This was one of the greatest spiritual, aesthetic discoveries in A.'s life, which he never tired of describing, and which can never tire because the words always have the same effect that art has on the body, the sudden chill and increased pulse that Keats and Housman and Nabokov tried to describe. In August of that year, while A. was visiting Sam in Ussy, Sam had first shown him an as-yet-untitled version of what was to become Fin de partie [Endgame]. Then, in December, when Sam brought a suitcase full of books to A.'s studio in Villa d'Alesia-- the Cassirer edition of Kant's works in eleven volumes-he sat down on the huge gray couch and said, "I've added a monologue," without specifying "la petite piece," but meaning that part of the almost-finished Fin de partie.
A. asked, "If you know it by heart, can I hear it?" And Sam began to recite what is surely one of the great monologues in twentieth-century drama: "On m'a dit l'amitie, c'est fa, l'amitie . . . " When he continued, "Je me dis . . . going from major to minor, A. burst into tears; in Beckett's English translation it is just as wrenching, just as musical: "They said to me, That's friendship, yes, yes, no question, you've found it. They said to me, Here's the place, stop, raise your head and look at all that beauty. That order! They said to me, Come now, you're not a brute beast, think upon these things and you'll see how all becomes clear. And simple! They said to me, What skilled attention they get, all these dying of their wounds." And then, the sudden, stunning inversion in counterpoint: "I say to myself-sometimes, Clov, you must learn to suffer better than that if you want them to weary of punishing you-one day. I say to myself-- sometimes, Clov, you must be there better than that if you want them to let you go-one day. . ." He referred again to the play later, one evening, saying he'd call the play Fin de partie-Endgame-which prompted A. to ask if it was a continuation of Mr. Endon's unfinished chess game in Murphy, and Sam said he hadn't thought of that but yes, it was.
Sam's way of reading aloud, reciting, set the bar very high for his actors. They all ended up imbued with the music of his texts. Nor is it any wonder that so many composers were attracted to his work: Mihalovici, Dutilleux, Berio, Heinz Holliger, Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, John Beckett...2
Alberto Giacometti came ringing the bell at 10 Villa d'Alesia one day in 1957 (A. had no phone), to tell him that Stravinsky, whom Alberto was drawing, would like to meet Sam. Having promised not to give out Sam's phone number, A. transmitted the message and Sam and Suzanne met Stravinsky the same evening. Sam told us later, in 1962, about Stravinsky's remark to him that as a composer he'd been struck by how Beckett wrote silences in Godot.
He unsurprisingly knew many musicians, like the pianists Monique Haas, Andor Foldes, and, some years later, Eugene Istomin, to whom we introduced him. And the violinist Alexander (or Sasha) Schneider, of the Schneider String Quartet, was a friend through Suzanne, whom Schneider had met in Paris in the 193os and on whom, people said (it may have been Sasha himself), he had once had a crush (he told us she'd been "a beautiful blonde"). He had known her as a pianist. Though she didn't give recitals, she and Sam played together often, until he got Dupuytren's contracture.3
Billie Whitelaw, Beckett's favorite "instrument"-for that's how he wrote for her, and that's how she responded-tells an anecdote in her book Who He that bears retelling, as any playwright concerned with pacing would agree. She recalls getting a request from Beckett to "make those three dots two dots." Billie knew exactly what he meant. Sam also insisted on the whiteness of the tone. But the neutrality, the flatness and whiteness of the voice set against the words, did what flint does rubbed against steel: they set off a blaze.
He recited other lines as though they were tone-poems, Debussy with a brogue, so to speak; or rather, like a Lied, which in fact, in later life, was the musical form to which he always returned: Schumann, Brahms, and Schubert, especially Schubert Lieder.
― cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 17:54 (sixteen years ago) link
His plays are remarkable -- "Endgame" is my favorite, though I saw "Godot" at SF-ACT and it's remarkable, too.
― Mrs. Brian Johnson, Monday, 28 June 2004 21:42 (sixteen years ago) link
― PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Thursday, 25 November 2004 09:04 (sixteen years ago) link
― accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Thursday, 25 November 2004 10:44 (sixteen years ago) link
― Puddin'Head Miller (PJ Miller), Thursday, 25 November 2004 10:48 (sixteen years ago) link
― Puddin'Head Miller (PJ Miller), Thursday, 25 November 2004 12:26 (sixteen years ago) link
― jed_ (jed), Thursday, 25 November 2004 14:54 (sixteen years ago) link
― cºzen (Cozen), Thursday, 25 November 2004 16:01 (sixteen years ago) link
That is precious time I'm never getting back. argh.
― Joelle Burdette (sparkle j), Thursday, 2 December 2004 01:40 (sixteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 2 December 2004 03:00 (sixteen years ago) link