William Walton, Façade


I was listening to “Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin” on WQXR last night. This week, he’s featuring the music of William Walton. Here is how his website describes Walton & the programming for the week:
Inspired by a composer that was in the vanguard of British music in the 20th century, Benjamin Britten once wrote that hearing William Walton’s music was a “great turning point in his musical life.” We’ll trace the arc of Walton’s life and his associations with some of the greatest artists of his time.
Just before I turned in for the night, I heard him introduce “Façade” as a track that really captured the spirit of the 1920s—setting poems by the Sitwells to music. He said the whole thing sounds like a bunch of people who’ve gotten drunk on bathtub gin.

Well, the bathtub gin was in the US—there was no Prohibition in England—but I certainly agree that this is a trippy, drunken nutty piece.  The online playlist lists the 10 minute suite as containing the following sections:  
Hornpipe, 
En Famille, 
Mariner Man, 
Long Steel Grass
,Through Gilded Trellises
,Tango – Pasodoble. It sounded to me like a mad mix of spoken word, Elgar and ragtime. You can buy the recording on Amazon or iTunes. I wish one of you would & would tell us what to think.





Our class

The first half of the 20th century stands are among the great periods of English literature. The tremendous changes wrought by modernity—women’s rights, technological innovation, urbanization, a destabilizing empire, and class friction—manifest themselves in writing that is innovative, challenging, and deeply engaged with the changes going on around it. This semester, we’ll study some of the masterpieces of the period through the lens of voice. What does it sound like to be modern? We will ask this literally—through music, film clips, and other sound files—and literarily—through close reading of texts to see how each of these writers wrote in a distinctively modern voice.
Readings:

  • Rebecca West, “Indissoluble Matrimony” (1914) 
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914) 
  • Katherine Mansfield, “Prelude” (1917) (blackboard)
  • D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love (1920)
  • T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • W. B. Yeats, poems
  • Stevie Smith, Novel on Yellow Paper (1936)
  • Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight (1939)
  • Louise Bennett, poems (blackboard)