Another take on: Infinity: The Story of a Moment by Gabriel Josipovici

“Non sminuite il senso di ciò che non comprendete.”
G. Scelsi, Octologo

“Do not belittle the meaning of what you do not understand.”
G. Scelsi, Octologo

I cannot help feeling there is a message here for both MJ and me. My post on this last week was not only flippant, but premature.

As I continued reading it, I was struck more and more by the undeniable fact that either the character or the author knew a lot about music. From the lips of this eccentric, pompous windbag came insights about life, but especially about music.

I had no idea at that point that the book was based on the life of the composer Giacinto Scelsi, a man who manages to be simultaneously arguably the most important composer of the second half of the twentieth century and incredibly obscure. Apparently Josipovici included actual fragments of the writing of Scelsi in the book. I, for one, would love to know which bits they were.

But even without being privy to this, having now read up on the extraordinary life of Scelsi, it becomes evident that fiction is absolutely no stranger than fiction. Josipovici has made Scelsi come to life. Would Scelsi, a notoriously private person, at least once he was finding himself musically, have minded? Josipovici has his central character say that he cares not what happens to him after his death. The funeral and anything thereafter is for others, not for him. I wonder if Scelsi himself would really have approved, or if Josipovici was attempting to absolve himself.

“La musica non può esistere senza il suono. Il suono esiste di per sé senza la musica. È il suono ciò che conta.” Giacinto Scelsi

“Music can not exist without the sound. The sound exists by itself without the music. It’s the sound that counts.” Giacinto Scelsi

Maybe it doesn’t matter. This book is a gift to be treasured from somebody who has entered a most bizarre world and come up with an account of it which contains so much more than a mere biography could provide. The more I think about it, the more I think this is a wonderful work.

I think this is easily worth 5 stars.

For anybody wanting more source material on the amazing Scelsi:

Scelsi on youtube

Isabella Scelsi Foundation

Uitti Two Bows Uitti has much of interest to say about her collaborations with Scelsi.

The Rest is Noise

Biography

GIACINTO SCELSI: SOUND MESSENGER 1905-1988

Bringing a Reclusive Composer to Light

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7 thoughts on “Another take on: Infinity: The Story of a Moment by Gabriel Josipovici

  1. First Karlsson, now Scelsi! If you’re not careful, you will yourself be novelized as a quirky literary detective.

    You know, now I think about it, that’s not such a bad idea…

    • I can see the title now:

      Looking thru the Tea Leaves.

      I would argue that Arvo Part is more significant in mid to late 20th Century music; along with Peter Sculthorpe and Tippett. Other Australians also do very well in the music canon. I don’t remember too much Scelsi being played on ABC Classic FM.

      However, biofiction, if written well, is always a joy to read -but ALWAYS has an added dimension if you recognise the factual character. I’m thinking of The Moon & Sixpence as one of the earliest examples.

      • DillwyniaPeter “I would argue that Arvo Part is more significant in mid to late 20th Century music; along with Peter Sculthorpe and Tippett. Other Australians also do very well in the music canon. I don’t remember too much Scelsi being played on ABC Classic FM.”

        I must say, anything past Mozart is new-fangled to me, which explains why I hadn’t heard of him. But a lot of people seem to think that he is genuinely revolutionary. I confess, I’m looking forward to hearing some time these pieces on one note. But I wonder if it is something that could be successfully done on radio rather than live?

        • Go hunt down Spiegel un Spiegel by Part. If the celloist is exceptional, then I can assure you, you will weep like a broken tap. And yet, I love this piece not because I weep, but for the cleverness of it. There are other stunning renditions of this using guitar etc.I’m sure there are you tube performances to sample.

          I dislike the 12 Tone School, Well not all of it, but a good 75% of it. I am a more Romantic fan – so give me a good dose of Brahms etc & I’m a happy fellow. And, being a distant relative of Vaughan Williams (grandfather’s 3rd cousin), I am a champion of 20th C English music.

          I can’t believe you don’t get to sample Beethoven (a mere 15 yr old or thereabouts when Wolfie died)

          • I can listen to Beethoven, but it doesn’t make me happy. Mozart, Baroque, Vivaldi and that crowd, Gregorian.

            I have played some 12 tone stuff and it made all the difference to me, I guess just the forced repetition made it more than tolerable, but I would never listen to it voluntarily. I will seek out your recommendation.

      • DillwyniaPeter “However, biofiction, if written well, is always a joy to read -but ALWAYS has an added dimension if you recognise the factual character.”

        I confess to being generally enraged by biopics and novels based on lives. If I had known beforehand what the deal was with this one, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. In fact, I have a Damon Galgut sitting on the shelf precisely because it is sort of a novelised story of EM Forster and even though I’ve loved every other one of his books, I just can’t pick the damned thing up.

        Historian. Like accuracy.

        But I completely acknowledge that not reading this book would have made my life a poorer thing!

    • Manny: “First Karlsson, now Scelsi! If you’re not careful, you will yourself be novelized as a quirky literary detective.

      You know, now I think about it, that’s not such a bad idea…”

      Yeah, and then Sheridan can write the movie.

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