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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Sunday, December 7th, 2003

Time Event
10:07p
Remixing and old stories and stories near to my heart
I was busy appending some nonsense of my own to the latest brilliant installment of jennyo's mediaeval romance, when the disc I was listening to came up with something familiar. Which was a sudden shock of recognition, because it was a disc I only just bought this afternoon.

What it was was a Scarlatti harpsichord sonata played on the piano by the wonderful Joanna McGregor - and the reason it is familiar is because I know it in another, even more unfaithful, transcription by Shostakovich for a small chamber orchestra which takes the hard classical lines of the original and turns them all to favours and to prettiness.

One of the interesting things about transcriptions is that they tell us how the transcriber was listening to the original. Shostakovich, in the 30s, heard Scarlatti as elegant kitsch, where we hear him as something rather tougher. The early Nineteenth Century heard Bach as fussy and academic; the early Twentieth as inspired and austere; we hear him as something altogether more complex and human. And this is partly a matter of performance practice - using the right instruments and the right balance of sounds - and partly a matter of our own aesthetics.

Which is part of what Jen is saying - you can rewrite bits of the Buffy mythos as mediaeval romance because story is story, but the effect when you do it will be very different to how it comes out in the original. And one of the reasons for this is that there are certain outcomes which are impossible in the mediaeval mindset which the style and diction try and reformat our reading towards. You cannot imagine a mediaeval story which culminates in a hero and heroine achieving orgasm through intense sm sexplay, for example, just as it would be hard to write a modern story in which hero and heroine sublimate like fury and transfer their erotic charge to the love of god.

( Over tea this afternooon, katemonkey was musing that she has problems with explicit sex in LOTR slash simply because there is no explicit canon sex either. There is no workable diction for Third Age screwing - though tons for homoerotic emotion. )

And yet these other ages are us - not just in the sense of being our parents' parents' parents - but in the sense of being the source of texts from which most of us construct parts of our identity.

Some of the stories we want to tell though are new in important ways. thete1 obsessional stories of Beautiful Monsters in Love are related to some stock concerns of the Romantics, but in ways that are not so much amoral as reassessing what the morality of such situations is.

I suppose that my own stock story is of how happiness comes along and you grab it and accept that it will probably go away or change in a bit, and that the moment is fair and will not stay. Which, again, draws on a lot of Tradition - bits of stoicism, and bits of Goethe's 'Faust' turned on its head. (Remember, in Goethe, Faust was to be damned if he asked the moment to stay - and gets off because the moment he asks for is one of public service. Ironically, public service which has involved killing people and stealing their land for the greater good of humanity - no wonder Spengler saw America as a Faustian society).

Everything in my life is in flux at the moment, except for the joy of music and friends...

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