Uqbar: Confessions Part II (of II)

The first Uqbar post was written in an earnest tone. Now, I will confess: Uqbar is a fiction.

Literature is one of my main nonmusical influences. The foundation of my approach to musical form is rooted books like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V (look for a post on Vonnegut and form coming soon). It was Jorge Luis Borges who initiated my fascination with time. After all, form is just the relationships between musical ideas within time as well as their durations.

Borges inspired my piece A Tale of Nine Coins. The nation of Uqbar has never existed except in the dreams and writings of that beloved Argentine author and librarian. Borges’ Labyrinths, a collection of short stories and essays, is one of the most influential works I’ve read. The first story, “Uqbar, Tlön, Orbus Tertius” tells of the discovery of a nonexistent country and the roots of a massive, intellectual conspiracy to invent a world. The full text can be found here. In the story, artifacts and ideas from Tlön, a fabricated world, begin to infest our world until what was once real is replaced:“The contact and the habit of Tlön have disintegrated this world. Enchanted by its rigor, humanity forgets over and again that it is a rigor of chess masters…”

My imagination ran wild, and I decided to pretend to be taking part in the conspiracy of Orbus Tertius. The two folksongs from Uqbar described in my last post are thus fictitious. They were written as though the two tunes were artifacts from Tlön.

In Paul McCartney’s approach to writing the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper, he imagined was a member of a different band, the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Adopting this new persona, he was free to write songs that Paul McCartney ordinarily wouldn’t. Likewise, with Nine Coins, I was similarly liberated from old habits. Composing thus became a fun, role-play exercise as I daydreamed the music of Uqbar.

Nine Coins is satisfying as a purely musical work. Nevertheless, the act of presenting the folksongs as being authentically from Uqbar adds a new dimension its experience. Composing it, I had hoped that listeners would either recognize the allusion or be curious enough to look up Uqbar. It was an invitation to participate in the music of a fantastic place.

***

Nine Coins is dedicated to the Eveloff Family

You can listen to Nine Coins here.

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  1. […] Please visit here to read Uqbar: Confessions Part II […]

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  2. […] more on the piece’s background, please visit two older posts, Uqbar Confessions Part I and Part II, to get the whole […]

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