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Halloween draws to a close and I found myself wandering home off the bus listening to Red House Painter’s “Katy Song” on the moonlit path and thinking about words and music. I had just finished conducting a seminar on the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses. For those not familiar with the text I will explain it briefly: Joyce writes an entire chapter in a bar scene and structures it as a fugue. The language serves a tripled purpose—narrative, thematic, and sound qualities. Snippets of songs and of important lines in the book are refrained and build one on top of the other fuga per canonem. So I was churning over thoughts of language patterns, phonetics and word associations, when I began thinking about nachtmusik. There is no real reason to actually associate certain kinds of music to the night, just as there’s no real reason why Ulysses should be considered Joyce’s masterpiece of the day and Finnegans Wake his masterpiece of the night. These concepts are purely constructs of the mind, for whatever reason we do it; the Real, idleness, nostalgia, kernelization of sound.

Then it hit me: night music is night music for the same reason that language is the perpetual creative act. Because language is the highest echelon of creativity; we have our set rules (grammar) but beyond that there are infinite ways to construct a sentence (ask Kafka) and infinite ways to combine phonemes to create neologisms (ask Joyce). The same goes for music; these chords sound nice together, these chords are dissonant—but it’s about how these sounds are constructed that plant the seed for our mind to categorize. Night music is night music because therein lies a space that drifts between notes where the sound can hide thoughts just like the darkness can. And so can language, we can bend words and reshape them and hide infinite packets of meaning behind a tenuously strung together set of sounds. Within these sounds are placed meanings and within these meanings there lies a cavity to fill with the connotative.

So it’s ultimately that connotative which is what really drives us to think about music as belonging to the night. At the heart of the skeletal frame of every musical piece is the standard set of sounds that connect together into a tapestry—sounds like words that flow and are definite, but when they sparkle together like fireflies in molasses there’s just that warm feeling that whatever idleness in my mind, whatever idleness floats where the darkened leaves block the moonlight from the un-lined shadows, that idleness will find its way between the cracks of letters, through the hands of words, into each droning violin bow, plucked guitar line, cymbal tap, or trinkling piano line; forever and ever.

Come back to me
My Language
Come back





thebhoy
11.01.11
That little end part is from a Derek Walcott poem... so is the fireflies in molasses. Yeah I had this musing last night, take it or leave it.

MO
11.01.11
I'll take it, nice write up man, always enjoy your blogging.

iswimfast
11.01.11
Very, very nice.

Aids
11.01.11
staff blog just killing it lately. really nice write up, yours are always top-notch. I like the way you think about music.

Adash
11.01.11
You conduct seminars on Ulysses? Massive kudos for that and a beautiful article. All this chat about night music and such reminds of Bruno Schulz' short stories

Crysis
11.01.11
Fantastic post

Xenophanes
11.01.11
"just as there’s no real reason why Ulysses should be considered Joyce’s masterpiece..."


Thought you were going to stop there. Was getting fired up haha

wabbit
11.01.11
Great post, short and to the point.


I've never been able to get into Joyce or really any other author who's works require that much patience, time and effort. Which is strange because I will spend incredible amounts of times with "avant-garde" music

Xenophanes
11.01.11
It's worth it. I spent my entire summer reading books in the same vein as it. Well worth it

Adash
11.01.11
Read Borges, Kafka and such first. Joyce is not a good starting point, probably best left for specific moments when you feel that you are in the mood to appreciate and stomach (astounding) technical literary wankery at its finest.

thebhoy
11.01.11
Borges was on my mind while I was writing this, and Walcott, along with Joyce obviously. Yeah I'm in a fourth year seminar on Ulysses and last night it was my turn to lead the seminar. Went well methinks

someguest
11.01.11
what is your major thebhoy

Wolfhorde
11.01.11
Nice writeup. The Kafka-part made me even laugh a bit. (Kafka is school lecture here)

thebhoy
11.01.11
Honours English, major history

Irving
11.01.11
Is there a way, to like, promote this guy to a position even higher than Staff?

someguest
11.01.11
"Honours English"

I wish I would have done this, but I was worried about jobs etc. Anyway, awesome write-up.

klap
11.01.11
THE NIGHTMAN COMETH

Zettel
11.01.11
This is so deep I cannot understand it. Honest.

Adash
11.01.11
Can't stand how mutilated Kafka is in english. Can't stand myself for not being able to read German. Scheiße

RosaParks
11.01.11
Trying too hard to be deep imo

robertsona
11.01.11
yeah uhhhhhhh

Acanthus
11.01.11
Blogs getting good lately!

thebhoy
11.01.11
I wrote this in 20 minutes, hardly consider that trying too hard

Aids
11.01.11
don't mind RosaParks, he's an idiot.

thebhoy
11.01.11
now, now. Everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Spare
11.02.11
too dumb to read finnegans wake

thebhoy
11.02.11
To be fair I haven't read all of it either. But it's my next reading project either this december or next summer as Ulysses was this past summer's reading project


toxin.
11.02.11
Yeah, excellent blog. I doubt I really retained any of that, though.

RosaParks
11.02.11
I'm an idiot, Aids? Or this is just a stupid blog. I wonder.

Spare
11.02.11
it's a mystery

thebhoy
11.03.11
jesus I write a short blog on something I was thinking about and people are still able to get into a squabble over it.

liledman
11.03.11
love it.

this however: "The same goes for music; these chords sound nice together, these chords are dissonant" gets me a bit riled up. nice is not the opposite of dissonant, if thats what you are inferring.

have you read schoenbergs explanation of consonance/dissonance?

thebhoy
11.03.11
I wasn't inferring that they are opposite, though my wording is a bit ambiguous.

RosaParks
11.03.11
It wouldn't have been a squabble if people were just allowed to have opinions. Idk. Maybe I'm an idiot for not liking this blog

bungy
11.04.11
You're an idiot for more than one reason


Katy Song omg

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