Que sais-je? La musique concrete

by HRM on June 21, 2011

Book review by Lendl Barcelos

La Musiqu Concrete

Title: Que sais-je? La musique concrète
Author: Pierre Shaeffer
Publisher: Presses Universitaires De France
Date Printed: 1967
Pages: 127
Format: Paperback
Language: French
Colour: Sea-foam
Smell: Musty, but still fresh
Size: Coat-pocket
Marginalia: No

She entered the café as I was reading one of the shorter stories in Borges’ Fictions. Let me explain two things before I continue:

1) It has been two months since I’ve been reading Borges. His name did not signify much for me before this; he was, however, on the list. After too many friends had scoffed at the lack of Borges in my life, I figured it was time to begin. A couple of stories into the collection and I now realize they were perfectly right to ridicule. It is difficult to keep up with the individuals whose projects intersect with yours, but when you do find them, a little part of you dies…or better, their name replaces that part.

2) I have a habit of reading the shortest stories in a collection first. Brevity is key.

She sat with her back towards me; she must’ve not been interested in starting up a conversation (not that I’m capable of such action, anyway). The thought also crossed my mind that perhaps she was waiting for someone else, but this turned out to be pure speculation, and untrue.

We both ordered chocolat (for the uninitiated, this simply means a hot chocolate). I reckoned she must also hate coffee. This was to be our first connection.

Since her face was out of view, I decided to continue reading. I began to read a longer story in order to prolong my stay at the café. Her sea-foam green dress and matching shoes caught my eye and, out of sheer chance, our glasses emptied in unison. Our time was coming to an end; she had settled her bill.

After a quick trip to the foul-smelling toilet, we met face to face in the doorway for a too-brief moment. As I exited and she went in, I could only hope that she would not assume the smell had me as a referent.

I paid my bill and left; she was still inside. My opportunity to initiate communication had definitely passed. Walking slowly toward Shakespeare & Company, the bookshop across from Notre Dame, her stride overtook mine. At the thought of this being another connection, she turned right. My destination was to the left. Our paths were now completely divergent.

Arriving at my goal, I began, as always, to look through the used books when a stack fell to the floor. Picking them up, I was greeted by the sight of the same woman as before. This defied all logic and how exactly it occurred, I have yet to understand. We stared directly into each others eyes; I am not keen on initiatory gestures. Both of us were unsure of what to do next, but she immediately darted away from Shakespeare in the direction of the rue Saint Michel. This signalled the end of our third connection.

Once she’d left, I picked up one of the fallen books. It was La Musique Concrète, by Pierre Schaeffer. An original from 1967 with a wonderful purple and sea-foam green cover for only €1. I could not pass this up. After all, Schaeffer, a pioneer in sound, was one of the first to separate a sound from its referent.

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ISSN: 2116 34X