Paradox Faust

So here we are; or rather, here I am – a helpless victim of the Crystal Age. Voices and faces and vices are all but a button’s press away, I suffocate beneath a scented towel of luxury. It is Tuesday night the eighteenth; I listen to an old recording of Berlioz’ reworking of Faust, made over forty years ago, and to help me understand the drama I browse online through a libretto (Ditson, Boston MA) printed in 1898. Although I speak no French, some essence of delight has obviously managed to escape translation, since the publisher has given in parallel texts:

“Let us forth! Come and taste life and pleasure, while every sense shall glow with a joy beyond measure”, alongside “Partons donc pour connaitre la vie, et laisse le fatras de ta philosophie.”

Perhaps there are multiple nuances of meaning which the anonymous translator employed by Oliver Ditson thought best left unsaid…indeed, the French version is a joint effort between Nerval, Gandonnière and Berlioz to capture the stunning grandeur of Goethe’s original German.
And I myself grow weary of this endless round of learning, desperately trying to condense the furious fractal dreams of colour chemistry into a tidy set of rules that I can happily forget.

My CD of Berlioz’ Faust is a reissue of the Gedda/Baker/Prêtre 1970 recording; a year later, the book ‘Production Planning’ was published by Heinemann. I wonder if Prof Burbidge listened to this music while he sat at his desk, puffing thoughtfully at his pipe and crafting the tidy constellations of ideas that make up this daunting opus?
As a business student I am intrigued by the index to this book, in particular the missing entries; no reference appears for Project, or Statistics, or Teamwork, or Efficiency, or even Excellence. Perhaps in the early ‘70s it was taken for granted that personnel would work as a team and that workers would deliberately pursue an efficient method of performing their duties. Not that this was actually the case, of course; but it would be absurd to acknowledge that British Industry was not the envy of the Western World.

Trying to match song lyrics in two languages is rather like trying to function normally in the real world; each of us has a flawed, partial understanding of what people mean when they talk to us, along with a flawed idea of what we expect others to understand by what we say to them. And so on, in gracefully descending layers of concentric self-deception and grand pulsating parody.

Then again, perhaps John Burbidge was a connoisseur of Folk Music; in the early seventies he may have enjoyed listening to Fairport Convention (who went on to spend over thirty years touring the UK, Europe and the rest of the World) on his elderly Thorens record deck.

Journal Entry, Tue 26 Nov ’02:
Andy (works manager in the office next to my lab) has changed his listening from Rod Stewart to Billy Connolly and his office now resonates to roars of audience laughter and the comedian’s routine (lots of screaming in helpless rage) at full blast.
Margaret joined him in the office and giggled wildly as she listened to this onslaught; I was reminded of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady who enjoyed listening to their victims being tortured on tape.

Journal Entry, Sat 10 Aug ’02:
Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have vanished after spending time playing on a computer. John Powley, the local councillor, said: ‘We have been trying to bring Soham into the modern world. Agriculture continues to decline and we need to replace it with modern industries such as Information Technology….these things don’t happen in a nice market town like this.’

Journal Entry, Sun 10 Aug ’03:
Went to Cropredy Folk Festival – spent a fortune, lived like a king! Entry ticket: £60, had beer, crepes and coffee, pizza and tempura, breakfast in Village Hall, breakfast in Canoe Club, wine from M&S, potato wedges & blue cheese dip, noodle soup and falafel salad…line-up included Blue Tapestry, Procol Harum, Lindisfarne, Dennis Locorriere, Equation, The Trevor Burton Band and of course Fairport.
The Saturday afternoon was blazing, glorious summer weather; I wandered round the site, reeling from the heat and trying to see if I could spot Robert Plant in the crowd. One of the afternoon bands was Al Hodge and the Mechanics, from Cornwall, playing a rock set which concluded with ‘Hey Joe’. The festival runs to a firm timetable and bands are never allowed to perform encores; however, this lot were brilliant, and the crowd carried on yelling and cheering until compere Richard Digance was forced to invite them back on stage, where they delivered an unforgettable performance of ‘Your Love Keeps Liftin’ Me’. Magic!

Journal Entry, Tue 12 Aug ’97:
Went down to Cornwall last Thurs – train delayed at B’ham (rail crash) & re-routed past Artillery St. Then delayed again at Bristol (suicide on line).
Last night went to pictures to see ‘Men in Black’. Superb – some kids in audience dressed up in black suits, ties and ray-ban shades.
At work was told that new MD been going round to be introduced and shake claws with everybody; he made some comment to Dave about ‘They’re not working you hard enough’.
In Chemistry in Britain, article about paint firms in B’ham being fined for operating an illegal cartel. Guess who included? Carrs, har har!
Phone call from Riaz; six new Black Belts awarded at Sparkhill so they’re going out to dinner on 21st – I’m secretly invited.


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