Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Michael Cunningham Visits The University of Puget Sound

I ended last week by attending a performance of Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, reading the prologue of the acclaimed novel to the music that inspired its creation. Cunningham thrust us into the experience of listening to literature to a soundtrack. Mozart and Schubert best captured the general tone of what he thought his novel would be. He described listening to the classical compositions over and over again until the lives of his both fictive and historical characters came into fruition. So he read to us his written incarnation of Virginia Woolf while the Northwest Sinfonietta String Quartet played Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" live to the cadence of his voice. To sum it all up, he completed his reading of the prologue, the intimate scene depicting his vision of Virginia Woolf's suicide, to the music from the motion picture composed by Philip Glass. From second row center, I closed my eyes and listened to Mrs. Woolf being engulfed by eddies of water through the unsettling trills of two violins, the deep current of the pulsating bass and the swift arpeggios of the piano that insistently pulled her along the river bottom. That night I got a book signed, purchased my first Philip Glass album, went home, listened and read.

Cunningham did me a favor really. I realize now how to use music to benefit my writing. Picking a tone is like picking the color of a certain day or feeling. Now something that seemed intrusive to my writing process can take part in getting some of those blasted words down onto some paper, or into the screen, for a change. As a musician myself I can only leap for joy at the joining of these two art forms, and I have to say, I've come away from it all with some new ideas.

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