MUSIC by Walter de la Mare

And this next story is fortuitously a theme and variation on the previous one I read (‘Odd Shop’)…

“But then he could tell you the name of any bird – land-bird or sea-bird – you might have heard warbling, or screeching, why, half a mile off. He can hear a fly crawl over the wall. He can watch even a trace of a lie in your mouth before a syllable comes out of it, as easy as a cat catches mice.”

“It’s this music-stuff that’s on his mind. He thinks of nothing else; he broods on it. And so, I suppose, he can’t die easy.”

Another discovery for me; they keep on coming! This the music of my own lifelong interests in ‘classical’ music, old as well as contemporary, and indeed avant garde, (“He says that even this criss-cross  hullabaloo that’s all around us has a meaning to it, if one could give it a name.”) (“And I shouldn’t wonder if it has got into those music books of his, either. All lines and squiggles – “)
Such ‘music’ is here invoked by WDLM, regarding an old composer (called Dr Brandt) and his rough-spoken and fright-expressing factotum (or so we assume him to be), the latter taking a medical doctor in a precarious gig along the sea cliffs and wave strewn sounds, to the maroonable house where they both live with Fanny the cat. The factotum seems relieved the old man is dying so he, the supposed factotum, can leave the place, and he is bringing the doctor to ease the composer’s ending, if not coda!
With added WDLM-archetypal references to “these lying cheapjacknewspapers”, and the sounds of mermaids, angels, not-angels and a sunken church.
The factotum refers, too, to the composer’s “music mind you, that may snap your backbone and stun you for good and all. That’s what he says.”

“The whistling and siffling of wind and sand over the dunes, the tide washing and ruckling in the shingle. Is that Dr Brandt’s trouble?” asks the medical doctor, evoking, for me, a coded reference to MR James’ Oh Whistle (see my earlier review of it here).

Music as “a gabble, or, rather a remote yet vaguely harmonical babble of voices, either high up or in the interstices of the hiss and clutter of the sea.”
Yet, I begin to wonder whether the factotum has his own bats in the belfry when he lets slip: “You may think, if you want to, that it’s my tiles that are loose. Who cares?” And the composer does not exist at all? The factotum is Dr Brandt himself? 

“…there followed a music – a music drawing nearer until the whole canopy of the heavens enveloping the world seemed to be welling with a vast strangely beautiful and terrifying strain of harmony. It died away like a falling rumour of itself into the wail of a rising wind and the incessant din of the breakers …”

The perfectly musical dying-fall of a story.


My other WDLM reviews:

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