Free Music in Literature Essay Sample

In Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall Kazuo Ishiguro explores human emotions, music and inseparable connection between past and present. The story “Crooner” draws parallels between music, literature and human nature, since they all are products of inspiration. The author uses music as a tool to prove that human nature is unpredictable and implies the idea that past is the strong tie that may connect different people from different worlds.

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From the first pages, Kazuo Ishiguro prepares the reader to perceive the story as a riddle, where the real state of things may appear to be opposite to what it seems to be obvious. At the beginning of the story, before starting to perform serenade Tony gives Jan the key he should play his guitar with. This key and the further string of events settle a vague suspicion that each turn of the plot means something more than it seems at first. Eventually, the main character finds his apprehensions to be true. While having a motif to help spouses to renew their feelings for each other, Jan discovers that the journey of Tony Gardner and his wife to Venice is not a romantic revival but merely a symbolic closure of their relationship. The author implies the message that life is unpredictable, and it is useless to study human nature.

To evolve this idea Ishiguro uses irony. This “proper” style includes a musician who is not Italian, musical accompaniment by the guitar, which regularly is not a part of traditional Venetian orchestra, and gondola, ruled by a nationalist hypocrite. The author prepares a true romantic scene staged with fake decorations. The very situation suggests that ordinary reasons are misplaced or substituted by hidden motives. The author starts to play with the reader the way he plays music – intriguing, involving.

Further reading discloses characters as “upside-down” and indefinite as the whole story. All characters present dual nature, exposing their protected sides and leaving a vague impression that they have more to show. Tony Gardner’s wife received the most vivid depiction in the story, and the first time she appears proves that the key given by the author works. Jan mistakes Lindy for a “model of those glossy fashion magazines” but realizes that she is at least fifty when she takes off her glasses. The irony here works as well to indicate Lindy’s complex individuality and intriguing role in the story. After arguing with her husband about being rude she attempts to apologize. And once the reader is ready to believe in her sincerity and good nature she confuses Jan with accordionist from the orchestra and describes his music as “pretty”. No need to be a guitarist to understand that “pretty” is a lame compliment for a professional musician. The author does not allow the reader “to see” Lindy during serenade, first depicting her as a silhouette in the shadows, and later, when she walks away from the window. Kazuo Ishiguro sways the reader’s attitude about Mrs. Gardner like a pendulum from nice to negative and back to nice, leaving her image undefined. The author narrates as if he is playing the musical instrument, leaving few solid lines and mixing everything else. Reading the “Crooner” is like listening to music: the ability to analyze gives place to feelings and emotional attitudes.

The pendulum stops when Mr. Gardner reveals Lindy’s story. The greatest role of her life was to find a wealthy husband, and she was quite persistent: ”Six years of maneuvering, planning, putting yourself on the line like that. Getting knocked back over and over again”. On the background of his wife Tony grows as a positive character, seduced by a selfish woman. The uncertainty of Lindy’s character is necessary for strengthening the effect of last pages when the reader is prepared to accept her as marriage breaker, basing on her past, but Tony turns to be the one who decides to split. Ishiguro completely turns upside-down all conclusions the readers could make, stating that people’s behavior is unexpected and too complicated to analyze.

Though Tony Gardner turns to sacrifice his love to come back to the stage, the narrator’s character is a set of opposite qualities. Jan is a bit naïve, and he managed to preserve clear conscience through his hard childhood. His whole life is centered on music, starting from the days his mother used to listen to Tony Gardner and in Venice where Jan works as a guitarist. He actually supposes people should be guided by love and affection, saying that “…if they go on loving each other, they should stay together for ever. That’s what these songs are saying”. If Tony Gardner surprises the reader preferring fame to love, Jan is remarkable for being constant in his sincerity and loyalty to his ideals. After all he learned about Mr. Gardner, Jan admires him and values for what the crooner did for his mother: “Because Mr. Gardner had seemed a pretty decent guy, and whichever way you look at it, comeback or no comeback, he’ll always be one of the greats”. Ishiguro evidently points to the difference between the two characters, noting that the sides they take do not affect their significance. The same with music: each record means different things for different people. A person recognizes emotional colorings and imposes personal qualities due to the past experience and memories. It is vividly shown in “Crooner” when Jan’s memories of his mother and Tony’s story about his wife become mixed. Tony Gardner finds something common between Jan’s mother and his wife, saying:” Too bad she didn’t get out. I don’t want that to happen to my Lindy. No, sir. Not to my Lindy. I want my Lindy to get out”. He recognizes what life Lindy could have without him, learning more about desperate attempts of Jan’s mother to marry a rich husband and all her subsequent failures. Tony and Jan share their past, finding something familiar in each other’s life and it becomes the glue that connects them.

The narrator’s memories of his mother are the best way for the writer to show how the past becomes a prism through which a person recognizes something familiar in new things or individuals. It is also the most touching motif of the story. Tony Gardner began his story about Lindy to get Jan acquainted with her. According to him, it is important to know the audience to perform well. The singer told Jan about one trick. Gardner’s solution for good performing was to establish the connection with an audience, to associate it with something personal for him. He spoke of his concert in Milwaukee and the way he imagined good pork chops the town was famous for. Jan learned a lot about Mr. Gardner’s wife, but he decided to add the recollections of his mother to give the excellent guitar accompaniment. His mother used to admire Tony Gardner, and his music comforted her at evenings when she felt lonely and hopeless. He tried to play so his mother would have recognized it “as coming from that same world, the world on her record sleeve”. According to the author, remembering and honoring the past is the way for the main character to remain whole and open.

“Crooner” is all about unpredictable ways people live their lives. The same way the music does not remain still, the story teaches not to trust first impressions but study a person carefully, ready to be surprised and discover something familiar. The author proves how strong the ties between completely different people may become if they start sharing their past. Main characters are good examples how honoring the memories is the way to learn the present and the means for evoking inspiration.


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