Monday, August 31, 2015

Music in Willa Cather's The Best Years

Though there is not yet any direct mention of music in Willa Cather's The Best Years, which can be found in the out-of-print set of Cather stories published in 1948 as The Old Beauty and Others (Michael and I read half of The Best Years today), there is such music in Cather's prose. Here's one example:
The horizon was like a perfect circle, a great embrace, and within it lay the cornfields, still green, and the yellow wheat stubble, miles and miles of it, and the pasture lands where the white-faced cattle led lives of utter content. All their movements were deliberate and dignified. They grazed through all the morning; approached their metal water tank and drank. If the windmill had run too long and the tank had overflowed, the cattle trampled the overflow into deep mud and cooled their feet. Then the drifted off to graze again. Grazing was not merely eating, it was also a pastime, a form of reflection, perhaps meditation.
Here's another that mentions sound:
If they turned in early, they had a good while to enjoy the outside weather; they never went to sleep until after ten o'clock, for then came the sweetest morsel of the night. At that hour Number Seventeen, the westbound passenger, whistled in. The station and the engine house were perhaps an eighth of a mile down the hill, and from far away across the meadows the children could hear that whistle. Then came the heavy pants of the locomotive in the frosty air. Then a hissing--then silence: she was taking water.
Willa Cather worked for a time as a tutor for the Menuhin family, and remained a close family friend after the Menuhin children grew up. You can see some interesting passages about the relationship from a Cather-based perspective here, and from a Menuhin-based perspective here.

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