Joyce and Antheil


Joyce and Antheil: The Unfinished Operas
Composing an Opera: First Steps


Antheil and Joyce

article by Dr. Mauro Piccinini to be published shortly in The Journal of Modern Literature.


The Genesis of Cyclops

The following is excerpted from Bravig Imb's Book, Confessions of Another Young Man:
As no pianos were permitted in the building in the rue de l'Odeon, George rented a room in a little hotel in the rue de Tournon, around the corner, and did his composing there. It was a most banal little room, long and narrow, with a single window to the street. There was a huge feather bed in one corner, a tiny chair, and table, and the little upright Pleyel piano faced the washstand in true Bohemian fashion. The wall paper was a horrid yellow with sprays of Frenchy flowers. It was clear that George believed only in himself and not in a Muse, for no Muse would have stayed in the room a second.

Indeed, George did have a keyboard manner, and it was natural, for he never dropped it even when alone with me. I remarked this as I watched him that evening, playing the aria from the "Cyclops". Small, delicately built, he seemed almost too fragile to attack the keys, but a glance at this impassive profile, as he slightly bent his head in abstraction and at his strangely powerful short-fingered hands speeding competently up and down the keyboard, corrected this first impression.

The aria was noble and well proportioned and I enjoyed it because I was able imaginatively to transpose George's voice into the beautiful soprano timbre for which the music was written. All the composers I have ever heard were alike in this respect: they must sing with their own works although blessed with peacock voices, and they sing falsetto, alto, basso, whatever the music requires, with all kinds of supplementary snorts and squeals and squawks to give the proper rhythmic emphasis to poignant passages.

To anyone not a musician, and not understanding this quirk of composers, George's performance would have seemed profoundly ridiculous, or, as the American dowager, somewhat down at the heel, who lived next door, politely said, "So Japanese"

"Do you like it?" said George, a little out of breath.

"I think it's quite beautiful," I said, really impressed.

"Well come over here, and I'll show you how I'm going to orchestrate it, " said George.

From Confessions of Another Young Man (p. 28), by Bravig Imbs, 1936. Imbs was an aspiring composer, who later became a journalist, and was the 'inside man' who helped launch the spurious story of Antheil's supposed death in the Sahara desert in 1925.

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