Franz Michael Maier (Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar der Freien Universitaet Berlin)
"Perhaps I'll be able to find Clov's song": The Question of Melodic Continuity in Fin de partie and Krapp's Last Tape
In Beckett's late television plays, music represents a subtext, a Gegenwelt. An entity in its own right, music exerts in one case a comforting influence on the protagonist, in another an enchanting hold—adding thus its specific quality to various situations. By giving music the ability to represent the "invisible reality" in his television plays, Beckett adopts the Proustian concept he described in his early monograph Proust of 1931, in which he unfolds his preoccupation with music by singularizing Proust's "réalités invisibles" to the one "invisible reality" represented by music. The Gegenwelt appears in the form of a continuum of the plays' musical component: in Ghost Trio the final section of the second movement of Beethoven's piano trio is heard in its entirety in an uninterrupted two-minute appearance; in Nacht und Traeume, the seven-bar tripartite Gestalt (2+2+3 bars) of Schubert's melodic line appears as a coherent whole.
I will attempt to show that Beckett's usage of the Proustian concept of music is not an unexpected, non-construable procedure but a carefully prepared decision based on several thorough examinations of Proust's concept. Two examples taken from my recent book, Beckett's Melodic Lines, investigate the role of music in the following stage plays:
In Fin de partie Beckett contrasts the philosophical doctrines of Hamm and Clov. Inspired by the sophist Eubulides's teaching that the concept of becoming is paradoxical, Hamm's conviction is that life is a series of isolated moments. Clov resists this, arguing in favor of continuity by planting seeds and by singing a four-lined song. During the play's production in January, 1958, this song was the subject of much discussion, as documented in Beckett's correspondence with Alan Schneider. When Beckett later cancelled "Clov's song" in the play’s translations, he was tacitly consenting with Hamm's censor of Clov’s singing, thus refraining from a "retour à Proust."
In Krapp's Last Tape the motive of continuity is taken from Eubulides's philosophical opponent, Aristotle, who annotates his concept of becoming with sentences such as "A man becomes educated." The central notion uniting the stages of 1) "the coming to be of things that grow," 2) "the process of growing or becoming," and 3) "the state of having become" is physis. Aristotle says that when physis is used in the sense of coming to be, the word is uttered "as if one would pronounce the y long." This is the way Krapp vocalizes his favorite word, spool. Although Krapp's ultimate review of what he has become culminates in disappointment, he "revels in the word spool" (the o lengthened), like an Aristotelian philosopher might revel in the key word physis (the y lengthened). Through the vocalization of a vowel—the initial rudiment of singing—the notion of musical coherence in the play is maintained, an inclination toward the Proustian musical Gegenwelt thus rendered.