Not I for Solo Piano: Beckett’s Text as Music

Rhys, Paul (2014) Not I for Solo Piano: Beckett’s Text as Music. In: Beckett and Musicality. Routledge, London. ISBN 9781317175902

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My admiration for Beckett’s writing and my fascination with the structure of the monologue in Not I left me with a determination to understand that structure and to embody it in the music that I would compose. So I set about analysing the text in two complementary ways: first a search for repeating text fragments, then a semantic analysis which sought to reveal narrative continuity and interruption. The printed text of Not I consists of a succession of short phrases separated from one another by three dots or ellipses. Other than this, there is almost no other punctuation and a bare minimum of directions for performance. When one reads the play or witnesses a performance one becomes instantly aware of a web of competing trains of thought that constantly interrupt one another, or occasionally develop unimpeded before being cut short in turn (see Figure 9.1). My first step towards understanding the structure of the text was to use a word-processor to search for repeating text fragments or groups of fragments. This approach was a natural extension of habits I had acquired as a computer programmer. I was unaware of the work by literary scholars, such as Rabinovitz,2 who have used a computer concordance to analyse individual works of Beckett and to investigate their relationship with other works in his oeuvre.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Ian Walker
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2018 08:57
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:15

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