I sat down last night with my notebook to ‘play around’ with a few cues provided in my newly arrived coursebook for the advanced Creative Writing Course (yes, I’ve taken the jump and decided to go ahead with this and so I will have plenty to work on this autumn and winter) and then realised that it was the Last Night of the Proms – the annual very English celebration of classical music, joining up the performance in The Royal Albert Hall with those in parks across the four nations: Hyde Park in London, Glasgow Green in Scotland, Belfast City Hall in Ireland and Swansea in Wales. There was a time that I queued up and attended the odd concert in the Hall, that was at a time that I could leave my job early (just round the corner from the Albert Hall) or was a student in London and with friends we could happily stand and wait until the doors opened and we could all take up our positions in the large hall, standing and waving and enjoying the music.
Last night I simply watched it from the comfort of my armchair, glass of wine nearby, and enjoyed the music through my stereo system, loud and joyful. Sir Roger Norrington conducted but first of all there was the winner of the so-called Maestro competition, Sue Perkins, a comedian, delivering her celebratory performance in style and with gusto. You can read about it here. It was great to see Sue and Lesley Garret performing together: a great female artist conducted by a great female artist. How unusual is that?
And then the Albert Hall performance? That was sheer enjoyment, with amongst others, Bryn Terfel, pray-singing to the stars as Wolfram in Wagner’s Tannhauser: ‘Die Seele die nach horenen…… , wenn sie entschlaft…….’ fragments of this song delivered with violinists caressing their strings, the male players in white jackets, the female orchestra members in a dazzling variety of colours, bare shoulders, shimmering blue jackets, glossy hair in the middle of a blue ceilinged and adorned Albert Hall. So different from the past when the orchestra members mainly wore black, an odd wine coloured dress or skirt, but that was it. Times are a-changing and for the better.
Helene Grimaud, the French pianist who has the condition called synaesthesia, where she ‘hears’ in colours, played the most wonderful rendering of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in C-Minor, which is chrystallised so perfectly in Beethoven’s 9th. And as you may remember from one of the meme’s, I love the sound of Beethoven’s 9th, and this precursor is on a par. HG just plays those keys on the piano, the white and black ribbons, fingers moving, caressing and jumping across with a sound that almost vies for attention with the concentration on her face, walking her fingers, magically.
So much for writing and editing and getting started on my course, but writing this surely makes up for what I did not write last night? It’s given me so much to think about, how can you write down sounds, how can you write down the sensations and overwhelming feeling that music can give you? That, obviously, is part of the craft and the great challenge in writing well. I will not give a complete review here of the whole evening, you may not get to the end of it, and I’m sure all the papers will have plenty to say, if not the website. Words and sounds and sensations, they all have to tie up somehow in the story and perhaps an exercise in writing down what you sense (hear, smell, taste) is perfect!
And now for the reading bag: I’m doing well with short stories this week, I’ve received a copy of Shusha Guppy’s The Secret of Laughter, a collection of ‘Magical Tales from Classical Persia’. They are lovely: each story starts with ‘Yeki bud, yeki nabud….’ – ‘once upon a time’ and they are mainly stories that the author remembers from her childhood, belong to her imagination and are part of her memory. One or two taken from Firdowsi’s Shahnameh and Rumi’s Masnavi, are part of the Persian story tellers heritage. I am reading this collection of stories as part of the publications in the ‘great myths’ series that I embarked on this year. It is a beautiful collection and I will write some more on them in future.
Another book I’ve started and now almost finished is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – I’m sure one of you recommended it, but I cannot remember who it was, the book appeared on my tbr list and I happened to pick it up, slightly at a loss this week, not in the mood to read. This is definitely a different approach to writing a story. I am fascinated how the author keeps me enthralled and makes me want to read on. The book reads like a collection of different stories that have somehow been joined together because Olive Kitteridge happens to walk across the view, or because someone mentions her name, spurious links that don’t actually say much about the main character, nevertheless help you build up the picture of the place she lives in, the people that surround her and the way they talk about her and how she talks about them. It is quite a fresh approach to character development! I do love the book and the way the story unravels itself. But again, I’ll say more about it at some later stage probably.
And the: yes at long last I have written that review on Coetzee’s Disgrace and I’ll put it up this week. Too much going for today!
Enjoy your Sunday – I’ve still got to read the papers, take a serious look at my coursebook (yes, must do that) and get rid of some of the ever growing weeds in the garden even this time of the year. It looks a bit wild out there and it is actually not pouring down with rain. I need two Sundays into one.