Friday, November 14, 2008

First the madeleine, then the music

Very interesting post, with musical examples, which attempts to determine exactly what piece of music served as the inspiration for the fictional "Vinteuil Sonata," rhapsodized over by Marcel Proust in an early section of Swann's Way.
Much as the flavor of the tea-soaked madeleine evoked powerful feelings of nostalgia for Marcel, another device is used by Proust to stir up the memories and emotions of the main character, Charles Swann. In the second part of the first book, Un amour de Swann (Swann in Love), a piece of chamber music is introduced to the story. It is a sonata for violin and piano composed by a Combray musician named Vinteuil, which haunts Swann throughout the novel as a leitmotif, reminding him again and again of his troubled, obsessive love for Odette de Crécy. They shared this music as their favorite sonata, and hearing it always brought Odette to Swann’s thoughts instantly, whether she was present or not. Its familiar “little phrase” recurs many times and its subtle changes in expression affect Swann profoundly. Effectively, Vinteuil’s evocative sonata is used by Proust as an analogue of Swann’s interior life, as well as a nearly synesthetic source of revelation.
My money is on Fauré, but who knows for sure?

No comments: