book review: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth


review: ‘An Equal Music’ by Vikram Seth

It was one in the morning. I closed the book and cried. I had just finished reading ‘An Equal Music’ by Vikram Seth. No other book, person or experience has touched me so deeply. Through the thoughts of violinist Michael and his desire for Julia, his soul mate, I relived the intensity of my own student life as an emerging pianist.  The author broke through the imaginary wall I had built over the years to protect my feelings from the pain and suffering of unrequited love and the intensity of heightened emotions developed through  constant involvement with music and the musical world.

With uncanny insight, Seth’s words transported me far deeper into the elusive world of music than I have ever been with any other writer. He captured exactly the exhilaration of those rare moments when a phrase is so exquisitely expressed that time stands still and the imprint of the moment is permanently implanted into the life force memory of performer and listener – the very reason for the existence of music in our lives.

Yet I do not share this author’s knowledge and love of his cities, the compositions he writes about, and even the musical import of the pieces he includes.  I have visited Vienna, Venice and London which are interesting enough, offer most enjoyable musical experiences but my city of musical intensity is Melbourne. Schubert and ‘The Trout’ are expressive enough. I admire Schubert’s lightheartedness and lyrical beauty but for me it does not reach the darker parts of the soul that Beethoven does and it is one short phrase in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto for piano that has haunted me over the years. Bach and his fugues impress me, they intrigue me and in the most powerful moments of development, it is the tension rather than the emotional impact that transfixes me.

When Michael has moments of weakness and is unable to play – these moments do not ring true for me. No matter what emotional upheaval may be driving my life, music is my saviour — playing it helps to release my anguish or anger. But I was never as talented as Michael, so that is probably why I do not fully understand.

The strength of the book is that it has moved me so much in spite of our differences.  If you have ever studied music, you must read this book, but get your tissues ready.

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One Response to “book review: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth”

  1. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth « Bibliojunkie Says:

    […] Ely for Language: The strength of the book is that it has moved me so much in spite of our differences.  If you have ever studied music, you must read this book, but get your tissues ready. […]

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