Yes, You Can Hear Music Based On the Punctuation in J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey Tonight
J.D. Salinger: This is giving me a headache.
Hulton Archive/Antony Di Gesu
Haven't you always wanted to hear a color-coded piano duet based entirely on the punctuation in J.D. Salinger's short stories Franny and Zooey? Well, esoteric art fiends, tonight you finally can!
Contrary to what you're thinking, "Franny and Zooey for Piano Duet" isn't a liberal arts kid's senior thesis--it's the project of local multimedia artist Marya Alford, and part of the literature-inspired exhibition "Suggested Reading" presented by L.A.'s Fellows of Contemporary Art (FoCA).
For those belonging to that very specific nerd faction at the intersection of lit geek and music scholar, "Franny and Zooey for Piano Duet" makes for great art porn. From Alford's website:
The composition consists of the artist's transcription of the various punctuation from each line of "Franny and Zooey" to a blank page of manuscript paper. Each color designates a different type of punctuation in the story. For instance, pencil stands in for periods, orange for commas, green for question marks and so on. This system also designates each type of punctuation as a certain type of note (periods equal whole notes, commas equal quarter notes, apostrophes equal grace notes, colons and semi-colons equal dotted half notes, etc.)...You get the idea.
While we can't hate on Alford's meticulousness and precision, the project kind of reminds us of (speaking of liberal arts college) one of those Adderall-fueled nights where you meant to get a lot of studying done but ended up color-coding your sock drawer instead.
As far as experimental compositions go, the music itself isn't all that unpleasant-sounding--you can take a listen here--but it's not exactly evocative of Franny and Zooey's themes of existential transformation and enlightenment. Then again, neither is punctuation.
In keeping with stories' male/female dynamic, Alford will be performing the piece tonight with L.A. pianist and composer Ron McBain at The Women's Twentieth Century Club in Eagle Rock. McBain helped translate the piece from Alford's synaesthetic notation into a more conventional form:
Incidentally, Alford has a Kickstarter going to pay for pay for "the rental fee of the performance space, tuning of the piano in the space and production of the audio CDs and booklets of the piece." You can donate until tonight.
More info on the exhibition, including the works of other local artists can be found here.
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