Left To My Own Devices

Music Just nibbling on a post Prom sausage -- someone's having a barbeque in nose range and there's only so long you can smell something like that before giving in and dieting some other time. The first piece of Prom 11, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune which describes the moment when a faun has just awoken and spies some nymphs playing, was inspired by a poem from French author Stéphane Mallarmé.

Obviously because of time constraints there wasn't time to hire someone like Simon Russell Beale to record a version to play in before the performance but luckily and inevitably the Wikipedia has a copy. The entry notes journalistically that 'although poetry always suffers in translation, this poem presents especial difficulty, in part because so many words and phrases were chosen for lyricism rather than precision'. Here it is in French just in case.

It's heady stuff and it's not hard ladies would become embarrassed at the sight of it. I failed English Literature A-Level, but even I can see that the faun's intentions aren't entirely chivalrous:
"Day burns inert in the tawny hour
And excess of hymen is escaped away
Without a sign, from one who pined for the primal A"
It's quite surprising to see virginity (and perhaps the losing thereof) described in such a forthright manner for this period.

Mallarmé apparently modestly said that Debussy had somehow managed to transform the sentiments of the poem into music and it's true I could detect a certain eroticism to the piece. Perhaps this was the Barry White of its time, a sudden rash of births tumbling nine months after a performance.

My favourite Debussy movement is Clair De Lune from Suite Bergmanesque. It's one of the few pieces of music which actually makes me cry -- yes, even when it appeared against a waterfall in Las Vegas in the closing scene of Ocean's Eleven. Perhaps I'm become more sentimental in my old age.

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