A Pallid Wave on Shores of Night by Adam S. Cantwell (Passport Levant MMXI).
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
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All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/
This is a beautiful sewn hardcover book of 96 pages with stiff black dust-jacket bearing an exquisite angelic harp design (Decor by Erté) , silk ribbon, red endpapers and a frontispiece by Baron George Hoyningen-Huen (Agneta Fischer). The edition limited to 100 hand numbered copies. My copy is numbered 50 and possesses exceptionally aesthetic yet heavy-duty page paper.
The black board covers beneath the dust jacket bear the words -“This physical reality contains all the miracles.” Anton von Webern – on the front, and nothing else anywhere. This is intriguing to me especially if this refers to the Anton Webern who was a serialist composer with whose music I am obsessed (among much other classical and contemporary classical music). I need my ‘fix’ of Webern each day in order to exist. (9 Mar 11)
Moonpaths of the Departed
“…the attempt to evaluate the experience and the emotions it engendered for artistic or musical correlatives. I have turned worse horrors than this into Art, …”
Judging between the correlatives of this story’s data and that of Anton Webern in words that itch to coalesce like Gothic music or Lovecraftian Zannisms-by-Zemlinsky, we have here in this substantial weird story – to my utter delight – the real Webern as protagonist and narrator, pickled by séance and an ‘Oh Whistle’ flute, by a Baron and Baroness to produce the ultimate performance music from caves, cave-art and caves’ coalescence with an otherwise Gothic building in 1914 Austria or Slovenia (or Poland if the salt-mines I visited there are anything by which to judge in proximity to the inner-cathedral images here). ‘Three Pieces for Cello & Piano’. Weird Literature of the first water – with olms and other creaturifications (Lovecraftianisms otherwise honed by another Poe), “uncongenial and alien“, miasmic, and the writer’s fingers, the composer’s fingers, the Baroness’s fingers, I sense, all “plied unheard-of chords of claustrophobic hemitones; the cello picked a twisting path with whining harmonics, as if tunneling through a solid mass”. Yet this is not just a great Horror story (which it undoubtedly is), but one imbued with a sense of European Absurdity and serial flashmobs coming up from beneath the words to get part of the atonality of action. The induced madness is perhaps not in the protagonist, but in us, “the kind of avant-gardism that looks within, …” (9 Mar 11 – four hours later)
The Kuutar Concerto
“The rest of larcenous ensemble danced along the thread of the unfamilar music like slinkers on an icy walltop, …”
The beauty of reading a real book like this one is that one cannot do ‘find’ searches to check on something. The experience is at it is. Only re-reading will enhance or spoil that experience. These real-time reviews walk that tightrope. For example, was the Baroness in the previous story called ‘Europa’? Whatever the case, this story concerns another favourite composer of mine, Wagnerian yet Baxian, the Finnish Sibelius (a favourite yet so utterly different from Webern!), a composer who, before today, I previously knew only from his music. No ‘find’ searches for gestalts or leitmotifs in his precarious life, no emotions, inspirations, either. Here, as in the previous story, he is among “lizards pickled“, tempted into creativity of that inward avant-gardism (against his nature?) by life and its own temptations, drugged or ‘sexed’ or base-lined into genius (or just minor larceny?). A sort of ‘Death in Venice’ in reverse? And that that old-fashioned genius can exist within the threads of modernity, power lines, lines of modern fiction… This is a major work (I can tell already), one that tells me that “Music was a game they played with the truth, it was the tail of a kite, it was a shadow of an ever-changing ultimate that somehow held its shape in the mind, …” Myths and legends and “gods of Antiquity” are only half the battle. One needs more to turn ‘Kalevala’ to ‘Kuutar’. (9 Mar 11 – another 3 hours later)
I now cannot exactly recall why I mentioned ‘serial flashmobs’ rising up in connection with this book’s first story. But they sort of did rise up in this second story’s first few pages! (9 Mar 11 – another 15 minutes later)
Symphony of Sirens
“Q: You fell asleep in your … vision?”
Amazing stuff. Don’t know where to start or end. Firstly, thank you for providing a story about a composer I’ve never heard of before, although I do love the Symphony No 3 of his apparent teacher, Glier (for me, Glière). Aptly, perhaps, for this book, I see this story as a coda. I always do. Last stories in collections are invariably codas, whether the author intends or not. This one has Swiftian land on clouds (cf: the earlier caves), as told by a Q & A session between the composer as A and a woman (who turns out to have a name that perhaps answers one of my earlier questions above) as Q, following an incident on a plane. A bit LOST-like, too. It is my Klaxon City. It is a wistful jiggling with my own trip to Moscow last September. It is my potential de-coda of all the book’s previous themes of avant-gardism and Aesthetics. It’s simply wonderful. As is the whole book. [And who thought I would ever have the surprised pleasure of reading a Lovecraftian story narrated by Anton Webern?]
“Soon I overcame my fear and walked from wingtip to wingtip.” (9 Mar 11 – another hour later)