More Invisible Cities (and an invisible author)

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Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.

“But which is the stone that supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks.

“The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.”

Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.”

Polo answers: “Without stones there is no arch.”

Italo Calvino

The new album by A Winged Victory For The Sullen (Adam Wiltzie & Dustin O’Halloran) is a beautiful thing. This was originally a score commissioned for a theatrical staging of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, an adaptation produced by Leo Warner and given its first performance at the Manchester International Festival in 2019. I considered going to the premiere but was disgruntled by the way all the promotional materials for the event—posters, flyers, website—managed to avoid mentioning Calvino even though the work was obviously based on his novel. The author is similarly invisible among the album credits despite being acknowledged on the group’s Bandcamp page. I’m always surprised when people do this, especially professionals like the ones who staged the Manchester event, people you know would cause a fuss if they were denied credit for their own work in this manner. “Without stones there is no arch.”

Anyway, the music is very good, if a little solemn for something derived from a writer whose prose tended to the opposite. The late Jóhann Jóhannsson feels like the ghost at this particular feast. One of Jóhannsson’s final works, Last and First Men, had its premiere at the Manchester International Festival two years before Invisible Cities, and the latter’s choral harmonies, muted piano chords and grainy electronic textures situate the compositions very much in the Jóhannsson zone. As with Jóhannsson’s soundtrack albums, I wish some of the pieces were longer. Among the musicians are Robert Hampson—who I’d guess was generating some of those grainy textures—and Hildur Gudnadóttir whose cello-playing was a feature of many Jóhannsson recordings. Does the music work as a soundtrack for Calvino’s travelogue? A good reason to read the book again.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Invisible Cities: Miscellanea
Seeing Calvino: Invisible Cities
Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities
Colleen Corradi Brannigan’s Invisible Cities
Le Città In/visibili
Mikhail Viesel’s Invisible Cities
Bookmark: Italo Calvino
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
Tressants: the Calvino Hotel

Weekend links 558

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• One of the earliest posts here concerned The Suite of the Most Notable Things Seen by Cavaliere Wild Scull, and by Signore de la Hire on Their Famous Voyage from the Earth to the Moon (1776) by Filippo Morghen, a series of prints which depict the fantastic inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Moon. Morghen shows the Earth’s satellite to be a tropical place very similar to 18th-century conceptions of the New World or the Far East. Back in 2006 you couldn’t see copies of the prints as large or as detailed as this set at The Public Domain Review.

• “Last Call preserves the poignant irony that the trust and vulnerability that once made gay bars synonymous with gay community were also vectors of death, both in the form of murder and, later, HIV/AIDS.” Jeremy Lybarger on Elon Green’s study of the murders of four gay men in New York City in the 1990s.

• “No one in American letters ever pushed back against power over such a long time as [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti,” says John Freeman. Related: Ferlinghetti’s travel journals.

• New music with literary associations: Invisible Cities by A Winged Victory For The Sullen, and Star Maker Fragments by TAK Ensemble & Taylor Brook.

• Old music with no literary associations: The first of the forthcoming releases of live recordings by Can will be a 1975 Stuttgart concert.

The 120 Days of Sodom: France seeks help to buy ‘most impure tale ever written'”.

• The Joy of Circles: Vyki Hendy looks at some recent concentric cover designs.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Sculpted sushi made entirely from natural polished stones.

• My Hungry Interzone: Brian Alessandro on coming out and reading Naked Lunch.

• Andy Thomas maps Jah Wobble’s interdimensional dub.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 684 by Ben Bondy.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jim Jarmusch Day.

Circles (1966) by Les Fleur De Lys | Circles (1970) by Blonde On Blonde | Carry On Circles (2006) by Tuxedomoon