MacDonald and Music

Re-Awakenings: MacDonald and Music

by Christi Williams; inspired by the following passage from George MacDonald’s poem “I Know What Beauty Is”: “I know the rapture music brings, The power that dwells in ordered tones, A living voice that loves and moans, And speaks unutterable things.”

by Christi Williams; inspired by the following passage from George MacDonald’s poem “I Know What Beauty Is”:
“I know the rapture music brings,
The power that dwells in ordered tones,
A living voice that loves and moans,
And speaks unutterable things.”

In Chapters 10 and 14 of The Light Princess, the Prince seeks to waken the Light Princess’s sympathy through the use of song. In both cases he moves the princess, though perhaps not as he might have initially imagined. The Prince’s songs exemplify MacDonald’s concept of the fantastic imagination as an act of music: “Where [a writer’s] object is to move by suggestion, to cause to imagine, then let him assail the soul of his reader as the wind assails an aeolian harp. If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it.” (George Macdonald, ‘The Fantastic Imagination’)

Re-Awakenings: MacDonald and Music, which has developed from responses to the initial Subverting Laughter project, brings together artists from the U.K. and the U.S in an exploration of how musical interpretations of MacDonald’s texts might increase our understanding of character and imagination.  Combining a wide variety of musical genres and backgrounds, Matthew, John and Stefan provide musical movement to awaken new reflections of MacDonald and of the fantastic imagination.

Matthew Roy is a Musicology PhD student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He works as a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, and teaching assistant and his current research includes an exploration of connections between childhood and music during the early nineteenth century.  Matthew will be posting on how music creates perceptions of character and how concepts of character can reflect the ineffability of music, particularly drawing on his experiences in composing a six-part piano suite based on The Light Princess.  Beginning on Monday, 11th November, he will post every second Monday of the month for the next six months, combining commentary with performances of the Suite.

Yorkshire artist John Chamberlain and Lincolnshire musician Stefan Smith form a musical duo called ‘B.T.D.’ which is producing an album called ‘Lilith’, inspired by George MacDonald’s (1895) novel.  They draw on a plethora of visual and musical influences, ranging from classicalism to progressive rock, and Leeds itself, in developing a concept album that re-imagines characters and scenes from Lilith. John and Stefan will be commenting on the cultural influences and methodologies which have been significant in developing their musical re-imaginings of MacDonald’s characters and text, using songs from their album as examples.  Posting alternately at the end of every month for the next six months, they will discuss how a range of elements, including geographical background, films and artists, youtube playlists and diverse musical genres, have all helped them to re-awaken the musical characteristics of Lilith.

For more information about John, Matthew, and Stefan, please see our contributor page.

Posts:

 11th November, 2013 The Light Princess Suite No.1: “The King and Queen”‘ by Matthew Roy

9th December, 2013 The Light Princess Suite No. 2: “Lagobel”‘ by Matthew Roy

17th December, 2013 ‘Why Lilith?  A Project Introduction’ by John Chamberlain

18th December, 2013 ‘LILITH! An Album’ by Stefan Smith

13th January, 2014 The Light Princess Suite No. 3: “The Princess”‘ by Matthew Roy

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