Monday, June 10, 2013


I don't remember exactly when my sister happened to mention that Ken Russell had done a documentary about Frederick Delius a number of years ago. I'm reasonably certain it was within the last six months, and I kept meaning to look it up and see if I could perhaps buy a copy.

Somewhere during that initial conversation, though, as my sister described some scenes from the film, I remembered something: Kate Bush did a song about Delius, which she called "Song of Summer," and this, coincidentally, is also the name of the film. Knowing the song, and recognizing some of the dialogue my sister described, I realized that Kate must have seen this film, too, and more than once.

As I have worked at the rewrite of my first novel, it has occurred to me that Delius' music might have some significance to my oboist, Neal. This weekend I decided to hunt down some of the music and found that Delius made great use of the oboe in his compositions. As I listened, I realized the music would suit Neal as well as Vaughan-Williams always has.

In one of the newly-composed scenes I have added, as Neal is home and recovering from surgery, he is reading the book the Delius film was based upon: "Delius as I Knew Him," by Eric Fenby. I had downloaded a copy to my Kindle, because I liked what I read in the first preview pages. Most likely, Neal's reading of the Fenby book has something to do with research for his thesis, but since I never plan to go into any great detail in describing the Herculean task Neal has set for himself, I suppose that's sort of pointless to say here. But suffice it to say, I can well imagine Neal loving Fenby's account, because I love it so far, myself. It has great appeal to me as a musician and as a Catholic. (Fenby was a devout Catholic, which seemingly annoyed the hell out of Delius, who seems to have been an atheist.)

Fenby voices, in far more eloquent terms than I will use here, that it is difficult to reconcile how so much beauty (the music) could spring forth from such a hard person. And a hard person Delius certainly was -- a cruel philanderer who ultimately died of tertiary syphilis, and suffered terribly before death finally released him.

Beauty can spring from some very odd vessels indeed. A person can be capable of creating things -- music, art, poetry, etc. -- of extraordinary beauty, and yet still be an absolutely wretched personality, either outright mean, or clueless, or egotistical, or -- ?????

You name it; no doubt we have all encountered this sort of thing in one way or another. The exquisite creation one so loves in no way jives with its creator. What a conundrum!

Neal's partner in the first book is a musical prodigy. A genius. Extremely talented. He performs and creates music of great beauty, and yet...caught up by his Muse, he can be an incredible a-hole. This often leaves Neal puzzling over the same thing Fenby ponders in regard to Delius. How can someone be so hard in life and their dealings with other people, yet have another side so sensitive and passionate?

The world may never know the answer, just as the world may never know just how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop...

P.S. -- If curious, look up the film on You Tube. It's there, in five parts, and I just watched it. I couldn't help crying at the end.

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