Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Fabulists' Waltz

I may have let it drop a time or two in these premises that I'm a bit in the bag for Thomas Ruggles Pynchon.

I've been rereading 1997's Mason & Dixon, savoring ev'ry rich drop in anticipation of the new novel due out this December, rumored to be titled Against the Day. (If you're pondering a Christmas gift to chuck my way, ponder no longer!)

'Long about halfway through the book I came across this gem, which serves as a raison d'etre for the story, and a defense for the PoMo Twisted History it contains. It is eerily relevant:
Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir'd, or coerc'd, only in Interests that must ever prove base. She is too innocent, to be left within the reach of anyone in Power,— who need but touch her, and all her Credit is in the instant vanish'd, as if it had never been. She needs rather to be tended lovingly and honorably by fabulists and counterfeiters, Ballad-Mongers and Cranks of ev'ry Radius, Masters of Disguise to provide her the Costume, Toilette, and Bearing, and Speech nimble enough to keep her beyond the Desires, or even the Curiosity, of Government.
Earlier this week after a protracted session with the huge book, I found myself in a melancholy space. My mind wandered a bit, and I fancied myself in a huge, echoing room, with a hand-cranked phonograph in a corner far away, its speaker a great Art-Nouveau jonquil, playing a rather creepy little tootling waltz. Just why the room was empty, whose hand had set down the needle on the Victrola, and whose mind had selected the music is anybody's guess, but I felt compelled to try to reproduce the tinny, reverberant waltz that permeated my daydream.

And so I did. For your pleasure:

The Fabulists' Waltz


Will Divide said...

Fabulis, Neddo. Where'd you hire the clarinet players?

A new Pynchon novel?!?!! I'll need to get me another tatoo!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's creepy at all.

I think it's wonderful. Fabulous even -- for many reasons.

I'll be listening to it a lot today.

Thanks, Jeddie.

Neddie said...

Will: Apple Jam Pack 4 for GarageBand. Orchestral samples. Make them clarinettists play it over and over and over until they get it RIGHT. And no union dues.

BG: Thanks, hon! There's a filter that you can get (just like a PhotoShop filter) that will take a nice, clean digital recording and put scratches and tinny acoustics on it. THEN I guarantee it'd sound creepy, make it sound like a hundred-year-old 78. But 1) I don't have the filter and 2) I don't think I could bring myself to use it.

nash said...

A lovely piece, Neddie -- I can almost see the melancholy space myself. I sometimes have strong musical imaginings myself; alas that I've never formally studied music and cannot translate them into this reality. For example, I once had in mind a scintillating flamenco version of The Doors' "The End" -- and don't get me started on the zydeco version of "Stairway to Heaven" that intruded once while I was pondering something or other. Can that Jam Pack thingie do a convincing rubboard?

I remember browsing some of your old Pynchon posts a while back and thinking that I needed to find the time to reread Gravity's Rainbow. Now I'm thinking that first I need to finish Mason & Dixon, which I snapped up when it came out, got halfway through, and set aside thanks to other distractions -- and now I have no idea where that big-ass hardback is. Probably still forming its own little gravity well in one of the boxes from my last move. I should check the garage for bending-light-ray anomalies. Haven't done that in a while, anyway.

I'm excited to hear about the new Pynchon, too -- something to look forward to in December if the world's still here. We should start a reading group or something.

Categorical Aperitif

A Big Fat Slob said...

Thanks for this. It reminded me that I bought M&D when it first came out but never got around to reading it. Recent changes around here have allowed me to begin pulling my books out of storage and stacking them about. I think I'll poke around a bit and see if I can't find this one so thats I can read it before the new one comes out.

Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

Very nice waltz -- a form I've never successfully completed. I began one a month or two ago, but gave up after 10 or 12 measures. That piece of manuscript paper joined the unbelievably huge stack of other partial songs next to my piano.

Great orchestral samples, too. Just recently, I found an old sound card that can run a thing called sound fonts -- so I can now get more realistic piano sounds from my midis. That's all I need, really, so I'm happy with it. I've always heard good things about GarageBand.

Wren said...

What a gift, Neddie.

So evocative.

As I listened, I heard (and saw) the old accordian player in the town in Germany where I once lived; your empty ballroom, the floor scuffed as if recently used by slow, swirling dancers, the Victrola all alone in the corner; a carnival midway after closing, the gleaming merry-go-round horses and tigers in shadows and a dark wind blowing popcorn boxes and bits of paper ribbon along the cold asphalt; and the shades of soldiers, guns held ready, running, turning, firing, falling with scarlet blooming like dinnerplate dahlias.

And then a hand, lifting the needle off the spinning disk and I thought, "over so soon?"

Thank you. You've wakened dreams.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Ha ha! That's awesome. I think it goes over the opening credits of th' Pynchon movie. Love the diatonic descent on the third of th' four phrases. Especially the fourth one that rubs. That's pretty.

And when it goes minor, because it's so Fellini when it goes major again.

Will Divide said...

Re: Pynchon movie score

In another life, and under another name, years ago I interviewed Laurie Anderson. She said she had been interested in writing an opera based on Gravity's Rainbow. (She has a song about Mr. P on her Mr. Heartbreak album and I guess I asked her about that.)

Anyway, when she wrote Pynchon to ask permission he replied it was fine by him, so long as the only instrument she used in the score was a kazoo. "I think that was his way of saying 'No'", Ms. Anderson said.

nash said...

Would he have been cool with electric kazoos? Because then it might have been feasible.

Categorical Aperitif

Neddie said...

Wowsies! A MIDI kazoo! It's either the coolest thing ever, or the sort of thing that led to the fall of Rome.

Pynchon's kazoo restriction on Anderson is pretty typical of his sense of humor. I think he was actually serious, and trying to nudge her toward a Spike Jones direction.

Prolly shoulda been a harmonica, though, come to think of it.

nash said...

Indeed. He did write the liner notes to Spiked! The Music of Spike Jones.

I shudder to think what the leitmotif for "A screaming comes across the sky" might sound like on electric kazoo. I shudder, I tell you.

Categorical Aperitif

Neddie said...

Nash: It occurs to one that The Great Book contained a law firm named "Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus, and Short." Care to elucidate?

nash said...

The moniker originated as an online handle for a now-defunct captioning site (many of the former frequenters of which have since moved to a funct one); I was casting about for a pseudonym, and since I was a graduate student working on Hobbes at the time, a slurred version of his famous description of life in the "state of nature" ("And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short") somehow suggested itself. I don't recall having Pynchon in mind when it came to me -- though I had read G's R by then. In fact, one of my professors at the time, bless his late, great soul, was the guy who turned me on to Pynchon. (He was a Luddite, this guy -- did not use a computer or watch TV -- but lemme tell ya, Neddie: if he had ever perused the blogosphere, he'd have loved your site. Not just the intelligent Pynchon stuff, but the high quality of the writing, the relentless, agile wit, and the musings about music.) Anyway, no, the handle goes back further than Pynchon, to the source of his typically clever little allusion.

Hmm. I was to pull a handle from Pynchon, I don't know what it would be. Pig_Bodine, maybe -- I could say I was Jethro's long-lost (in the preterition sense?) cousin. And I've always loved the name Tchitcherine. Sounds like some harsh Slavic skin ointment.

Categorical Aperitif

Dr Doom said...

Sounds like just the tune they were listening to in Europe during the lazy summer of 1914. Or just the tune we are listening to in this lazy summer of 2006 waiting for the guns of August.