Wednesday 7 May 2014

Orfeo by Richard Powers

Oodles of years ago, but in reality probably only ten, I read Time of our Singing, enjoyed it a very great deal, lent it to a friend and forgot all about it.

Then I saw a new novel with a musical name and whistled it up on the kindle app.

If you like musical novels, then this in The Guardian review will please you

Powers has not wholly solved the problem of writing about music without resort to technical language. To be fair, it is probably insoluble. The novel's evocations of musical pleasure will work best for readers who understand what, for example, suspensions or "strident minor sixths" are; but a lot of the musical description accomplishes impressively imagistic things with the most familiar possible terminology: names of instruments, "crescendo", the kinds of spatial metaphor with which music is always already riddled. ("The sopranos chase each other up a cosmic staircase, driven higher by the lurching vibraphones.") Cleverly, Powers makes sure to use as many vocal analogies as possible, since everybody knows what the human voice does: its verbs are as familiar to Lady Gaga fans as to creators of squeaky-door opera.

Great descriptions of Mozart 41, Kindertotenlieder and The Quartet for the End of Time, mixed in with what I read as a comprehensive ( and witty) trashing of the excesses of the 60s.

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