Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dream Music

Petya Rostov's musical dream the night before he goes into battle with Denisov and the partisans includes this wonderfully narrated passage, which seems—doesn't it?—evocative of the way Tolstoy's novel itself works:

The melody grew, passing from one instrument to another. What is known as a fugue was going on, though Petya had not the slightest idea of what a fugue was. Each instrument, now resembling a violin, now trumpets—but better and clearer than violins and trumpets—each instrument played its own part and, before finishing its motif, merged with another, starting out almost the same, and with a third, and with a fourth, and they all merged into one and scattered again, and merged again, now solemn and churchly, now brightly brilliant and victorious.

"Ah, yes, it's me dreaming," Petya said to himself, rocking forward. "It's in my ears. And maybe it's my music. Well, again. Go on, my music. Now!" (1055)

This novel is Tolstoy's dream ("a dream as real as stone," to quote Greg Brown's great song "Telling Stories"), Tolstoy's music, played out through the stories of an orchestra of characters, whose motifs and lives merge with each other and scatter again, moving through a range of tones and moods, worming its way into our ears, compelling us to accompany it as it goes on and on.

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