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This report is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

Pound: Le Testament de Villon James Malpas

Pound strenuously applying himself to be the ultimate Paterian, in Paris in the early 1920s, underscores the impressions made by his early poetry and now aspires towards the condition of music for it. As with many of his most interesting accomplishments, the words are not his own, but another's - Villon's, whose ribald, rebellious and lugubrious text Le Testament is to shoulder the Pound music-theory. This had been elaborated in the New Age articles, written between 1917-21 by 'William Atheling', who was against all romantic, Wagnerian 'mushiness' and overblown chromaticism and for the contrapuntal clarity and linearity of the baroque and prebaroque eras. Since 1914, Pound/Atheling's guiding light in this area had been the reviver of authentic performance and reconstructor of ancient instruments, Arnold Dolmetsch. A decade later, Pound was to commit his own theories to paper in Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (1921-4). The second part of the title recalls Rameau's influential Traité de l'harmonie (1722), the first part his musical sorcerer's apprentice (pace Dukas), George Antheil, Dadaist American, who promised Pound 'a world of steel bars, not of old stone and ivy'.

It was not brashness alone that drove Pound to composition, then; though the image-maker liked the idea of the pundit being able to do, to make it new in every respect, from shoes (for - or against - James Joyce . . .) to furniture, which was solid and well-constructed, undeniably austere - Hugh Kenner describes one piece as looking like 'an ...


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