Music is the catalytic element in the work of Proust. It asserts to his unbelief the permanence of personality and the reality of art. / … the invariable world and beauty of Vinteuil, expressed timidly, as a prayer in the Sontata, imploringly, as an inspiration, in the Septuor, the ‘invisible reality’ that damns the life of the body on earth as a pensum and reveals the meaning of the word: ‘defunctus.’ (Proust, pp. 92 – 93, Beckett)
These were the ending thoughts of Beckett on “Proust”, read last night whilst summoning a tired sleep that would not materialize. The brain slogged whilst the body raced the mind; I must have reread Beckett’s words three or four times. Many things came to mind, but synthesis of words to mind remained illusionary. Instead, a daydream, a crude pencil sketch, imagining a peacock feather into a white tattoo across my arm — I turn forty only once, you see. We shall see, on both accounts, if a level of meaning materializes with Time.
One thing that did come to fruition - an exploration of how music influences the mind. A visit to the local art museum allowed a brief interlude ~
Today’s venture to see the new acquisition of Ai WeiWei’s, Sunflower Seeds*, chanced an opportunity to see, Untitled (Structures), by artist Leslie Hewitt and cinematographer Bradford Young. Untitled (Structures) is a duel channel video projection that lasts about 17 minutes. The piece, partly inspired by an archive of civil rights photos recently gifted to Menil Collection in Houston, was filmed in Memphis and Chicago.
In a darkened area of the first gallery, I stood before two projections (stills and not stills of film — I was never quite certain even after reading interviews about how the piece was shot). First, rather self-consciousness, I stood in a vast empty space, my body forming a triangulation between two large screens. Space of room verses where body stood rather rigid and conscious: aware of the young guard who greeted me with his hardbound book; loud footfalls echoing off the oak boards behind me; a clatter of cutlery from the dining area next door and the voices that trailed in and out of focus.
It faded, these distractions and space became non-existent as a still of a woman spoke to me in its quiet beauty – typing this hours later, I see the perfectly round pearl earring, its image crisp as others fade. It was a tight shot, just a partial of this woman in fading twilight that invoked a warmth despite the bleak narrative — it must have been the lights, tiny honeycomb specs filling the background. It ‘read’ vintage – her small, round hat, the demur earring – it made me think Chicago, it made me envision jazz mingling with busy streets .Voices shook me back to reality. I moved back so that they could move in. I turned slightly; they were young, though, and moved on two stills later.
Deep as I was trying to figure the poetics of this art without words, I longed for music. Music would have allowed me to focus more. Music would have allowed me to better infer the story.
I stayed until the screens became familiar. Many people passed through during those silent minutes. No one really stopped to ‘read’ the projected story. There was something toward the end (the end for me for I’ve no idea what was the beginning) where the man in the projection is a still on both screens – carbon copy, so to speak, and then, in a flash he turns his face toward me on only one screen — it is quick — then it is his still again on both screens – I see it still, his eyes, his mouth. (curiously, this recall makes me see snippets of last nights dream I’ve been trying to recall – someone died, I think)
What would have happened had this been set to music? Does music allow us to see more clearly, or does it distort certain realities. Samuel Beckett seems to believe that Proust believed reality was music.
Do we lose too much by too many vibrations? Do we stop to hear if we are too busy listening? I’m beginning to understand a bit more about what John Cage meant when he spoke of Silence opening us up to hearing.
Despite these contemplations, I have provided a bit of music – one is (according to YouTube link) the musical piece that Beckett alludes to in the quote; the other is my interpretation of reality – music that has you holding your breath, even when you really wish to sing along because you know, you know, it is This art that gives your own life meaning ~
*more on Ai WeiWei – local art center has purchased a piece of this amazing installation first shown at the Tate.