Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More from Melancholy of Resistance

Nothing energises me like a good dose of well-written misanthropy... Mr Eszter is taking a walk on the streets of his town and encounters filth on the pavement. this is what he thinks...

It was, after all, as if the earth had opened up beneath him, revealing what lay underneath the town, or, and he tapped at the pavement with his stick, as if some terrible putrescent marsh had seeped through the thin layer of asphalt to cover everything. A marsh in a bog, thought Eszter, the essential fundamentum of the place, and standing there for a while in vacant contemplation he suddenly had a vision of the houses, trees, lampposts and advertisement hoardings sinking right through it. Could this, he wondered, be a form of the last judgment? No trumpets, no riders of the apocalypse but mankind swallowed without fuss or ceremony by its own rubbish? 'Not an altogether surprising end,' thought Eszter, adjusting his scarf, then, having come to this neat full stop and considering his own investigations at an end, prepared to move off.


The book is quite dense at places. I have been trying to read up on the theory of "musical temperament" which I think is the central idea of the novel and most of it is totally Greek for me. One of the central figures in the novel Mr Eszter (who is taking a walk in the above passage), a figure almost out of a Thomas Bernhard novel, is obsessed with returning the musical instruments to pure tuning based on mathematical relations between the harmonics (he calls it "musical resistance"). The European classical music as it is practiced is based on "well tempered system" (one of which was invented by the musicologist Andreas Werckmeister) which doesn't follow this whole number approach. He then connects all of this to philosophy about "the existence of the platonic realm" or "the existence of the order in the universe." Mr. Eszter however only meets with miserable failure in his pursuits because Bach and Beethoven sound like "ear-splitting racket" on instruments tuned on "natural" harmonics. I think Krasznahorkai wants us to conclude that our universe is defined by disorder, chaos and anarchy and in political terms (it is primarily a novel about politics) it means that authoritarianism and fascism are the only way of imposing order.

I am yet to finish the book, around fifty pages are left. Will try to write more when I am done. I was reading about the music theory in the wikipedia but didn't really understand what it was all about. He gives some background in the book too but it was not enough for someone as ignorant about classical music as me. There is a brief monologue in the movie too which, needless to say, didn't make much sense to me either when I watched it.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, you must mean the Just Temperament and the Equal Temperament. Here's anice link:

http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~suits/scales.html

It works really well if you ask someone to play and show you the difference (you won't get it on the piano since its tuned to the Equal temperament already). Try a flute. Play the note with the harmonics (the just scale). Then play the same note as it should be played (the equal temperament) and you can easily tell the difference.

But don't worry - its fairly complicated even for those of us with musical training!
n!

Alok said...

Yes it is just temperament that he talks of in the book...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation

I dont play any instrument and neither do i know anyone here who plays anything or even knows anything. My idea of music ends with "what sounds good to ears" :(

chris said...

I just found your spot. I like what you've got going on: the Zizek post back in October, the David Lynch stuff.

Alok said...

thanks chris! glad that you liked it.

km said...

Uh, I am a terribly music theory-challenged guitarist, so to me, a well-tempered instrument is one that doesn't shout back at me :)

And one needs a PhD in Math, Physics and Music just to explain those damn ratios between notes.

Anyway, Alok, I see you are enjoying Melancholy as always :)

Alok said...

Yeah I tried reading up on the net but gave up soon...

glad to see you back. Hope the India trip was great!