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Orfeo (English Edition) par [Powers, Richard]
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Orfeo (English Edition) Format Kindle

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Longueur : 385 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Page Flip: Activé Langue : Anglais

Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Orfeo has a galloping finale that is sweet, funny, sad and haunting all at once... A formidably intelligent, ecstatically noisy novel --Guardian

Extraordinary and confounding, mind-spinning and wonderful --Independent on Sunday

This is the best novel about classical music that I have read since Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus... There are passages that make you want to run to your stereo --Independent

A virtuoso performance --Sunday Times

A magnificent and moving novel --Los Angeles Times

Powers is prodigiously talented. Besides being fearfully erudite, he writes lyrical prose, has a seductive sense of wonder and is an acute observer of social life... I [picked] it up eagerly each day and [found] myself moist-eyed when I came to its last pages --New York Times

Extraordinary... His evocations of music, let alone lost love, simply soar off the page... Once again, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our finest novelists --Newsday

Présentation de l'éditeur


Seventy-year old avant-garde composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police outside. His DIY microbiology lab - the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to extract music from rich patterns beyond the ear's ability to hear - has come to the attention of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid on his house, Els flees and turns fugitive, waiting for the evidence to clear him and for the alarm surrounding his activities to blow over.

But alarm turns to national hysteria, as the government promises a panicked nation that the 'Bioterrorist Bach' will be found and brought to trial. As Els feels the noose around him tighten, he embarks on a cross-country trip to visit, one last time, the people in his past who have most shaped his failed musical journey. And through the help of these people - his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime artistic collaborator - Els comes up with a plan to turn this disastrous collision with national security into one last, resonant, calamitous artwork that might reach an audience beyond his wildest dreams.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1425 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 385 pages
  • Editeur : Atlantic Books (20 janvier 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00GF2LNN0
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5 1 commentaire client
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Format: Relié
Onzième roman de Richard Powers (né en 1957), l’un des principaux romanciers en activité à la surface de cette planète-ci, publié au début de cette année 2014, Orfeo est sans aucun doute appelé à faire date, comme, du même, la Chambre aux EchosLa chambre aux échos,The Echo Maker.

Roman de la musique et des biotechnologies, Orfeo raconte l’histoire d’un homme en commençant avec le jour où la police lui rend visite par accident, et trouve chez lui quelque chose qui paraît suspect, jour à partir duquel la vie de cet homme va basculer, donnant lieu à un immense flashback.

A travers la vie de Peter Els, compositeur que le succès a fui toute sa vie (ou qui a fui le succès? la différence est-elle si grande ?), c’est cinquante ans d’aventure de la musique contemporaine qui nous sont contés.

Moins touffu que Le temps où nous chantionsLe temps où nous chantions, l'autre grand livre de Powers consacré à la musique (mais il faudrait remonter aux
...Lire la suite ›
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x90aac438) étoiles sur 5 156 commentaires
74 internautes sur 82 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f7d0c78) étoiles sur 5 Music for the End of Time 21 janvier 2014
Par Roger Brunyate - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If you are a music-lover, read this book for its extraordinary insight into the mind of a musician. At least listen to its sound-track. For, as he proved in THE TIME OF OUR SINGING, Richard Powers is peerless in his ability to recapture music through words. As he looks back over the life of American composer Peter Els -- fictional but so possible -- he tells his story as much through the music he listens to as by what he writes or does himself. He fills many pages at a time with the sound of masterpieces, some familiar, some obscure, all miraculous. I knew most of the pieces that first awaken Els to music, so I could hear them in my head: Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, Messaien's Quartet for the End of Time. But Powers treats them with a depth of perception and breadth of reference that I know will send me back to my CDs to hear them again through his ears. His account of the genesis and performance of the Messaien in a German POW camp especially, though based upon a source that he gladly acknowledges, is twenty-five pages of sheer wonder.

Halfway through the novel, Powers mentions a piece I hadn't heard in many years: Terry Riley's In C, arguably the seminal work of American minimalism. So I found a recording on You Tube and played it as I read on, and kept doing this until the end, with composers such as Shostakovich, Harry Partch, or Peter Lieberson. The most striking was an almost hallucinatory sequence in which Els, on the run from the FBI, is in a college-town cafe. A piece is playing on the sound system: Proverb, Steve Reich's exploration of a text by Wittgenstein. I did not know this at all, so stopped to put it on. Immediately, the music and the words began to entwine with one another. Powers was writing, as it were, in real time; as I would read something, I would hear it also, without even trying to get my bearings. But he was doing a lot more than just describing a particular piece at a particular time; somehow, he could summon a whole millennium of music, wrapping its end in its beginning, casting Reich's pulsing notes as the heartbeat of eternity.

Plot-based descriptions of the novel may make Els seem like some latter-day Frankenstein, but he really isn't. All the same, let me explain. After retiring from his small college in Pennsylvania, Els goes back to his old metier as a chemist (his major in college), and experiments with home gene-splicing, which is apparently less complex than it sounds. He is trying to encode a piece of music into a strand of DNA, then splice it into a living cell which would perpetuate it for all eternity. Early in the book, unfortunately, this gets him into trouble with Homeland Security; the present-day framework of the novel spans a period of about a week while he is evading arrest as a suspected terrorist. Not so, except in the radical sense that all music is terrorism, born of the need to destroy old assumptions and open fresh possibilty. Peter's gene-splicing project is both a kind of metaphor for music itself and a bid for immortality. For every single one of the pieces that form the sound-track to this extraordinary novel has to do with the passing of time and its end in death or silence.

And so it is in the plot. This is the story of an older man looking back at his life, his loves and losses, his wild inventions, all-consuming obsessions, successes and failures. Powers is not quite so good at conjuring up Els' own compositions as those of others, but he still gives a remarkable account of his progress as a composer from the radical years of the sixties through the eclecticism of the present. And he is equally fine as a novelist, showing Peter Els as a young man, discovering Mahler's music and his girlfriend's breasts at the same time, falling in love with the first singer of his Borges songs, making worlds afresh with his daughter, and then losing it all. Creation and loss and the passage of time, these are the themes of this book at every level. But Peter's road trip through America turns out to be about something else: the recapture and repair of the past; wrapping its end in its beginning, as with the Steve Reich; and like music, not ending at all.

Readers who are not musicians will probably not have read this far. And rightly so, for I am not sure this is the book for you. Powers' exploration of a man in his time and in eternity is a noble theme in any tongue, and he handles it masterfully. But he has chosen to tell it through the language of music -- and that may not be equally accessible to everyone. [7 stars for musicians; 3-4 otherwise]


I am returning to this having just read Powers' THE GOLD BUG VARIATIONS, his landmark novel of 1991, and extraordinarily similar to this one. Surely ORFEO must be a deliberate attempt to write a farewell variation on the earlier book, bringing its subject up to date and adjusting the proportions? ORFEO's Peter Els has progressed to gene splicing in his kitchen, but Stuart Ressler, the equivalent scientist-composer in GBV, fifty years earlier works right on the edge of cracking the genetic code. The chief musical referent in GBV, as its title would indicate, is Bach's Goldberg Variations; ORFEO is immersed in modernism, the music of the postwar period. Both have to do with death, inheritance, and immortality, but ORFEO treats the theme more lyrically, with greater heartbreak. Reading GBV, it would seem that Powers was trying to get in everything he knew about everything -- history, science, mathematics, linguistics, painting, philosophy -- bursting at the seams as though he would never again write another novel. ORFEO is not only slimmer but more focused. Powers is still the same extraordinary polymath, but here he has chosen one medium to carry all the others. And this is music, in which he is totally superb.
45 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f7d0f3c) étoiles sur 5 Vintage Powers, although slightly uneven. 20 janvier 2014
Par Ash Jogalekar - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Reading a Richard Powers novel is always an experience. Powers is one of the world's most creative and cerebral writers. His novels contain surprising, dextrous and often amazingly imaginative connections between a dazzling array of ideas from poetry, music, culture, science and technology. The metaphors and allusions he weaves can leave readers stupefied. This is only my second Powers book but I can attest that reading a book by this remarkable author is never easy and sometimes exhausting, but always rewarding.

Powers's latest novel amply evidences all these qualities. The main storyline is about a music composer doing biotechnology in his garage as a hobby who flees from the authorities after they misunderstanding his tinkering. But this main story is almost a byline and the real purpose is to explore Peter Els's life and especially the river of music that has been his constant companion. Along the way we are treated to expansive, creative, several pages-long descriptions of famous music pieces like Mozart's Jupiter symphony, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps. Classical music aficionados will find these descriptions a treat and will gaze upon Powers's prodigious musical knowledge with wonder. Some of the renditions - like an exquisite unpacking of Steve Reich's eerie, haunting "Proverb" in a scene set in a college cafe - are mesmerizing. In fact it's worth listening to the relevant pieces either during or after the reading (there are two Spotify lists of the music on Powers's website).

A few central characters dot the landscape of Els's life; his wife and girlfriend, his daughter who was initially estranged but is now a doting presence, and a best friend with whom he shared an inspired musical relationship, albeit one that was marked by highs and lows. All these threads and characters are interspersed with the main narrative and the multiple stories constantly travel back and forth in time and space like gleaming, colorful strands of memory. Lost love, reclusive bliss, fond hope; all find ample expression in Els's life and Powers's pen.

My problems with the book are similar to those which other critics have pointed out. In sculpting out such a rich tapestry of ideas Powers often leaves his characters and the details of their lives impoverished and neglected. The personal is sacrificed at the altar of the cerebral. For instance Els's interest in biotechnology is described rather sparsely. Both he and the other characters in the story often suffer attrition, as if they are simply vehicles for the ideas. There is more than one occasion on which an individual seems to flit in and out of a scene, like a waiter bringing choice tidbits to a privileged table. This would have been ok if the entire emphasis was on the meal, but it's a bit of a problem if you were writing a story about the waiter's life. And while I will not give away the ending it too seems like a victim of Powers's fondness for metaphors and temporal back-and-forth, a feverish explosion of creativity that gets the better of him and leaves the essence of the characters smoldering behind.

Nevertheless the book is eminently readable and yet another tribute to this remarkable writer's inventiveness. I have read very few authors whose sentence constructions defy imagination like this, whose palette of metaphor and sheer connectivity of ideas contain the whole of humanity and the universe, and whose books, when you finish reading them, genuinely leave you wondering, "How on earth does he do that?".
25 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f5cf198) étoiles sur 5 What's In? What's Out 24 janvier 2014
Par Thomas F. Dillingham - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Patterns. Repetitions. Rules. Freedom. Mastery.

In her essay "On Beauty and Being Just," Elaine Scarry poses a question: "What is the felt experience of cognition at the moment one stands in the presence of a beautiful boy or flower or bird? It seems to incite, even to require, the act of replication. Wittgenstein says that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it. Beauty brings copies of itself into being. . . . Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable." Scarry has much more to say about the experiences of beauty in our lives, but her constant point is that beauty is not useless and not escapist--that beauty moves us to make better lives, a better world, not just for ourselves, selfishly, but for all humanity.

Readers of Richard Powers's novels have become accustomed to his challenges--to the layered and complex issues his narratives raise and force us to consider, maybe contemplate, while we follow the fortunes and misfortunes of his characters. In his most recent novel, Orfeo, the composer/chemist hero, Peter Els, confronts many challenges to his youthful belief that making music is creating beauty--a belief that is decidedly out of fashion during his days as a student and young adult. When the novel begins, he is a retired teacher living with his aging Golden Labrador and engaged in a hobby based on his first college major, chemistry: that is, he is doing research into gene splicing because he is interested in whether music (the making of music, responses to music) is genetically determined. If humans (and some animals) have similar responses to certain chord progressions or melodies, does that fact indicate a genetic predisposition? And could that suggest that DNA programs are chemical music? Could genes be composed like musical phrases?

In the midst of one such experiment, Els realizes his beloved dog, Fidelio, is perhaps dying; he calls 911 and sets in motion the calamitous series of events that constitute the crescendo finale of his life. But interspersed in the narrative of his painful encounters with what we know as the "surveillance state," we have the narrative line portraying Peter's childhood and youth, up through his marriage and the birth of his daughter--and along with that, the descriptions of his obsession with music, his lesser interest in chemistry, and the complications in his personal relationships brought on by his efforts to create music inspired especially by his romantic attachments. Along the way, he encounters composition teachers and other musicians who are all angrily seeking the new and revolutionary art forms, whether musical or theatrical or graphical, that will convey the reality of the world of the 60s, 70s, 80s of our era--periods of senseless wars, assassinations, brutal repression of protest and assertions of freedom, claims of the right to take off one's clothes (thanks to the Living Theater), to participate in happenings that embody the idea that random and un-ruled and spontaneous behavior creates art of the instant, ephemeral (who needs permanent monuments, they are repressive) and mind-blowing. A mistake-free culture fueled by John Cage's aphorisms, including prominently and repeatedly "A 'mistake' is beside the point. Once anything happens, it authentically is." This, and comparable though diverse comments from Harry Partch, George Crumb, Milton Babbitt and other thinkers struggling with the question of the purpose of art and the problem, confronted by Peter Els, "Music is awareness flowing in through the ear. And nothing is more terrifying than being aware" are scattered in boldface type through the text. [I did not notice Schoenberg's comment: "The laws of art consist mainly of exceptions." Perhaps too subversive of the main argument.]

The story of Peter Els's advances and retreats in the world of musical composition intertwine with the description of his flight from the agents of the security state--the year is 2011 and the panic that engendered the Patriot Act is in full cry. In this respect, parts of Powers's narrative feel as though they could be reports on yesterday's events, as mutatis mutandis, they are. One of the aphorisms was true in the 80s: "I wanted to believe that music was the way out of all politics. But it's only another way in." It's true today, differently.

Because the central character lives in a world of music, there is a great deal of very informative and even inspiring commentary about music--especially about pieces Peter listens to during his lifetime--and so readers are treated to lucid and even revelatory analyses of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, Steve Reich's Proverb, Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs (written for and performed by his wife, transcendent mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson), and several other works, including Peter Els's own imagined opera and his Borges songs, works that might as well be (maybe Powers has composed them and will let us hear them someday?). There is also a fair amount of discussion of gene chemistry, of the strategies of avant-garde theatrical directors, and other technicalities related to Peter's life and work. The novel never lets us forget that artistic creation is part of the social and political fabric of the world in which we live, both transformative in some ways, but vulnerable, even victimized, when the forces "in charge" turn their baleful eyes of death in its direction. This last comes home to us in the deep commentary on Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, written ostensibly as an "apology" to the Russian people for his sins against the reality of the Soviet, though perceived, perhaps rightly, as a gesture of defiance to the moustached leader crouched in the Kremlin.

As may be apparent, I am impressed and enthusiastic about this novel, but must admit that it may not be popular with all readers. Some may find that it assumes a degree of familiarity not only with music but with the art scene that such readers may find "elitist," or exclusionary. My recommendation--find recordings or performances of those works--listen, then re-read. The novel is fascinating, enlightening, and deeply moving.
16 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f5cf33c) étoiles sur 5 Avant-garde music for avant-garde readers! 9 mars 2014
Par Oliver Twist - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is the tragi-comic story of Peter Els, a man who was born with an aptitude for both music and chemistry but was conflicted about which direction he should take in life, eventually unable to satisfy himself in either discipline. In the end, more out of frustration than some inner driving spirit, Peter tries to meld music and bio-chemistry in a bizarre experiment, perhaps create an opus magnum, but succeeds only in poisoning his dog, which puts him in the limelight as a potential terrorist. (No spoiler alert here-all of this is revealed in the first few pages.) Peter spends the rest of the book reviewing his rather eccentric and haphazard life as he zigs and zags across the country to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
Richard Powers writes very well, in one of those literary styles that is never overbearing, it is down to earth enough to keep your mind on the story. His prose is pleasant and lyrical, perhaps too lyrical, in the sense that half of all the descriptions are in terms of sound and music. In the course of the book he analyses several known musical works as to their structure and composition, which can be frustrating if you're not classically trained in music. Also offputting is the way the narrative jumps from the present to the past in no discernible pattern as Peter Els reminisces over his miserable life, his mind flitting back and forth with the constancy of a metronome. Even though the story is basically about running away from the law, there is very little actual running happening, three quarters or more of the story is told through remembrances of the past.
By far the most frustrating thing about this book is the character of the protagonist. It is very hard to get to like Mr. Els, he hardly seems to like himself. He appears to have a problem relating to people, even his girlfriend, and later his wife, and his relationship with his only male friend is all push and pull. He doesn't seem to have a mind of his own. He shifts from chemistry to music because of what his girlfriend thinks, and later on makes a career decision at the expense of his family, but even after making up his mind he's not really trying. He experiments with the new because he is in the field of avant-garde music, but Mr. Powers fails to convince me that Peter is really committed to all these life choices, he carries on more out of bull-headedness than passion. In fact, I don't see any real ambition or love in his life, for either people or music, and he even allows his final discovery to dribble through his fingertips. It's very sad.
I think fans of Richard Powers and those readers interested in classical music may like this book but I can't imagine it's one of his best. I was intrigued by the beautiful comments and praise on the back cover and I really wanted to like this book. It was not what I expected.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f5cf714) étoiles sur 5 In Tune With What a Musician Feels 3 avril 2015
Par Denzil Pugh - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I've never read a book so in tune with what a musician feels, what he or she sees, when playing symbols from a page, contrasting the diaphragm, sounding the notes which would set angels to attention. I've never read a book that says what it means to love music, to be enthralled with every passage of sound in one's life. And never have I read a book that contains in its pages its own soundtrack. But it's here...

I don't think I have to say that any musician will love this book, as the division between someone who simply listens to music while jogging or cruising down the block and the person who hears the music, the notes fill up every corner of the air around him, has never been so aptly described. I have often said that Mozart or Beethoven would weep and render their clothes asunder if they knew that their most famous works are now used as cell phone tones, heard in grocery stores as an irritant, rather than praises to God, or messages to Life, Death, and Time itself. I want to grab the earplugs of the people around me and yank them out, saying, "Listen!! The music is all around you." Would they miss the trumpets of Gabriel for the autotuned babble of One Direction?

But this book contains all this, and a story as well. It is the story of Peter Els, a prodigy child musician (on the Clarinet, no less), and an outcast from the rest of the social order, as he spends his time listening to music and seeing inside of the notes what Kant would have called the Noumenal World. He sees the notes as the pure Forms, outside the cave, that other people can but dance to, shake their hips and gyrate. (No, I see nothing of this person in me at all..............) He sees in mathematics the numerical order of the musical world, and in Chemistry, the underlying tones of the Universe.

But, alas, he is torn to choose between chasing after standing on the mountaintops and gazing out at Paradise and real life, love of a woman, and the constant pressures to understand to his professors' ideas of music theory in the Twentieth Century. The book transitions back and forth between his life story, his past, the events of the 1940's on (reaching the present), and the point where the story begins, where FBI agents raid his home after finding potentially deadly homegrown bacteria.

Els becomes, perhaps, a mirror of Willie Loman, as well as the defiant character found in Faustian legend. All bound together in a work of literature that may not ever get the acclaim it deserves.

I say this because a reader who is not a musician probably will have little patience with the verbal description of long works of music composition. The reader will tire of little plot in the present and too much back story. A reader not familiar with Post-Modern literature will not understand that the journey throughout the book, in time and mind, is the story worth telling.

I've told my own story about singing, about belting notes in my car, where no one could hear, of singing Art Garfunkel's "Skywriter" in the grocery store parking lot, late at night (and this was before the days of iPods and mp3 players, where every bagger is totally deaf to anything going on around them because they're too busy listening to the rot in their brains.) I've told why, even though, to my parents, I had a great voice, but never used it. And I feel a kinship with Peter Els. The last thing he wanted to do was to actually publish a work, and he hated every time he did it. To face the criticism of the expression of the Music of the Spheres as Peter heard them, I wouldn't want to publish them either, but rather hold them close to my chest and hear the notes late at night, rotating around my room, illuminated by the lamp post outside.
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