Conrad’s The Rescue
Getting back into creating music after a few years dominated by my writing muse. So, a few months into the pandemic lockdown, I bring my musical instruments up from the basement where they have been stored for about two years. The Author’s Note of Joseph Conrad’s 1920 novel The Rescue comes to mind as he approaced a novel he had abandoned 20 years before. I had not abandoned a project but rather the artform of music. Certainly not music altogether but rather the creation of music. It has always come and gone through out my life with the regularity of natural cycles. It competes with the writing muse, the photography muse, the film muse. So here, a return to an abandonded art-form and creating works in it life I did a few years ago.
I’ve had my instruments all up in my studio for about a week. So far, mostly exploring the patterns built into the instruments. This is the first attempt at just me playing in real time with no other instruments than my two Korgs. Played with one take using the piano keys of the Mini-Logue XD matched with the pad on the Electribe Sampler. New music experiments with the Korg instruments. A Novation Mininova is under the Tascam Porta-Studio DP 2400 SD. I’m thinking about attaching up my Kassilator Pro to the other instruments. And I swore I would not have all this musical equipment in my office when I took it all down to the basement two years ago. At that time, my writing muse dominated my artistic efforts.
The Rescued Band
But now, during the second month of the pandemic, I’m starting to bring the band up from the basement. It’s almost like reuniting with some old, close friends again. In a type of reunion around the creation of art. After being abandoned for some time. Yet never forgotten.
This is somewhat how I felt about music in my life. I had to do more than just listen to it. I had to create music. So, the above is the first post inpired by that returning muse of music in my life. She was always coming and going into my life since as long as I can remember.
The Rescue / Original Cover
A quotation from Joseph Conrad comes to mind here. Somehow, it seems an image or symbol of this return to music in my life at this time. This second month into the Covid-19 Pandemic. In 1918, Conrad took up the novel The Rescue that he had abandoned in 1898. Conrad emphasizes that he did not set the novel down in despair. Rather, he had doubts as to how to handle the subject matter presented in The Rescue through his prose.
When Conrad set this novel aside, it was to work on The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. Once Conrad started working on other novels, he kept working from beginning to end on new stories, and kept setting The Rescue to the side, as the other novels were “on the tip of my pen” as Conrad wrote. The novels lent themselves to a type of urgency that The Rescue did not. Conrad notes in his Author’s Note to The Rescue, that he picked the novel back up out of pure sentiment. He compared his encounter with his old work to members of the crew of a sailing ship he once captained but abandoned. One of my favorite quotes:
Conrad approaches the old work and they are happy to see him and want to get on with the new work. This is somewhat the way I feel with the instruments behind my desk where I’m typing this now. The piece in the video based around this image of reuniting from Conrad. Totally improvised and all recorded on first take.
A while back, in my diorama phase of 2018, I created an idea for a diorama based on this amazing scene of the author reuniting with a work left behind many years ago. I wrote up the idea below and have not returned to this thought for a long time. After all, my musical instruments have taken a second seat to writing during the past few years. But now, interest in music is coming back, almost like Conrad’s brilliant metaphor of his abandoned novel; he the 1898 novel as members of a ship that he had abandoned.
I think the below speaks for itself. It is included without any editing from the original document I created about two years ago. Here it is below in the form of a film scene or a diorama scene. An image somehow frozen for me. A great symbol by Conrad, a master symbologist. The symbol of an artist returning to the past rather than the future. I feel somewhat like Conrad in this respect: returing not to a former project (like Conrad) but a former medium (music from writing). Anyway, below seems rough notes for a director for the set up of a scene in a story. This Author’s Note posseses some of Conrad’s greatest symbolism in describing his work he started in 1898.
Scene/Image from Preface to The Rescue / One of Conrad’s Great Symbols
Scene: A sailing ship from the early part of the 20th century approaches another sailing ship that appears motionless in a windless bay off of a thick, tropical coast. Motion of the approaching ship shown by waves pushed around it and its sails blossomed out full of wind. The other ship has no waves around it. The sails of this ship are old and tattered and hang limp from its masks. Its crew members are all on deck in ragged clothing and pushed against the rail on one side of the ship as the all watch the approaching ship. The captain of the approaching ship leans against the starboard rail and looks towards the motionless ship and its crew members holding a long telescope.
Background: The Rescue, A Romance of the Shallows (1920) is one of Joseph Conrad’s works contained in what is now sometimes called the Lingard Trilogy, a group of novels based on Conrad’s experience as mate on the steamer Vidar. Although it was the last of the three novels to be published, after Almayer’s Folly (1895) and An Outcast of the Islands (1896), the events related in the novel precede those. The story follows Captain Tom Lingard, the recurring protagonist of The Lingard Trilogy, who was on his way to help a native friend regain his land when he falls in love with a married woman whose yacht he saves from foundering.
After he began writing, he set the novel down in 1898 and picked it back up in 1918. Conrad emphasizes that he did not set the novel down in despair, but rather he had doubts as to how to handle the subject matter presented in The Rescue through his prose. When Conrad set this novel aside, it was to work on The Nigger of the Narcissus. Once Conrad started working on other novels, he kept working from beginning to end on new stories, and kept setting The Rescue to the side, as the other novels were “on the tip of my pen” as Conrad wrote. The novels lent themselves to a type of urgency that The Rescue did not. Also in the Author’s Note, Conrad says that he picked the novel back up out of pure sentiment.
Symbolism: The artist returning to complete an unfinished work of art. Conrad’s novel is outwardly about the “rescue” of a married woman. Yet, symbolically it is about the rescue of an abandoned work of art. For artists this return is often to a particular piece of art that was started and abandoned. Almost like being in a relationship with someone. For artists know that their artist muses are much more than just fanciful visions.
(Joseph Conrad in 1920)
From The Author’s Note
The years passed and the pages grew in number, and the long reveries of which they were the outcome stretched wide between me and the deserted “Rescue” like the smooth hazy spaces of a dreamy sea. Yet I never actually lost sight of that dark speck in the misty distance. It had grown very small but it asserted itself with the appeal of old associations. It seemed to me that it would be a base thing for me to slip out of the world leaving it out there all alone, waiting for its fate–that would never come?
Sentiment, pure sentiment as you see, prompted me in the last instance to face the pains and hazards of that return. As I moved slowly towards the abandoned body of the tale it loomed up big amongst the glittering shallows of the coast, lonely but not forbidding. There was nothing about it of a grim derelict. It had an air of expectant life. One after another I made out the familiar faces watching my approach with faint smiles of amused recognition. They had known well enough that I was bound to come back to them. But their eyes met mine seriously as was only to be expected since I, myself, felt very serious as I stood amongst them again after years of absence.
At once, without wasting words, we went to work together on our renewed life; and every moment I felt more strongly that They Who had Waited bore no grudge to the man who however widely he may have wandered at times had played truant only once in his life.