Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music for the Marriage of an Econometrician

Ronan O'Reilly is an econometrician in the Richard Powers novel "Plowing the Dark." He is developing a software system that can predict complex systems, like oil prices, into the distant future. What he cannot predict is that Maura, his lover will no longer wait for him as he codes in the isolation of other fully obsessive coders in Seattle. She will marry another man.

"Stephen is probably no you," she writes to him, "but then again, you're no you, either. At any rate, you're not here anymore are you?"

O'Reilly had "failed to predict the obvious." Lost in thought he makes four passes past his apartment before entering it again to find the one CD that was to be the recessional music played for their own wedding.

Cantata 197, the 6th movement. "A bass aria, for Nach der Trauung (after the wedding), rolling in innocence, sung by a bass whose perfect, amused intonation declared that he had never lived anywhere but here, his vocal chords squarely at home in the bungled, compromised, roundly resonant place nearest to hand."

The music that is quoted begins at [16:12].

O du angenehmes Paar, (O you sweet delightful pair)
Dir wird eitel Heil begegnen, (May all happiness caress you)
Gott wird dich aus Zion segnen (May God from Zion bless you)
Und dich leiten immerdar (and lead you evermore)

Figuration opens this aria in a state of complexity laid upon simple, slowing changing chords. It is music of sweet contradiction.

The opening line is set twice; addressed individually to the couple. The first line is echoed at [0:57] then connected breathlessly to the next three lines which are presented together, then echoed together [1:22] after a strange passing dissonance.

O you sweet, delightful pair.

"O'Reilly raised his ethereal stemware of now-imaginary ambrosia and toasted the pair in question, across a distance that no amount of technology would ever be able to close." (p.300-302).

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