Literary critics are fond of referring to a work
as a "musical novel" whenever a writer
employs techniques that can be conveniently
described in musical terminology, but the
(5) notion that all such works are of the same
genre is an oversimplification. The writers
who have given us the most important
"musical novels" have used musical techniques
for very different purposes.
(10) In The Waves, Virginia Woolf uses musical
techniques to evoke imagery. Early in the
novel, a descriptive leitmotif is introduced
for each of the six characters, and colors
associated with different settings are like
(15) chords that are sounded again and again. A
musical composition, however, is heard in
time; a novel exists outside of time. In this
sense, the words of a novel are more like the
notes of a score, and the reader like the
(20) musician; so Woolf needed a literary device
to keep time. Her solution is again visual and
is expressed in the novel's title. The rise and
fall of the sea waves are a metronome, seen
but not heard by the reader; like the
(25)movements of the conductor's baton, they provide
In Moderato Cantabile, Marguerite Duras
follows the form of the first movement of a
sonata, presenting and developing two
(30) contrasting themes in different keys--the
first tonic, the second dominant--and finally
resolving them in a recapitulation by modulation
of the second theme to the key of the
first theme, thereby providing resolution and
(35) closure, an interesting form for exploring the
duality of human experience. "Moderato"
indicates measure and control, and the time
signature of the sonata is a square four-four:
Anne's life is structured and boring.
(40) "Cantabile" signifies the lyrical impulse: She
is stifled by a structured, boring life. In the
second chapter, Anne begins her strange
affair with Chauvin. Chauvin, or the second
theme, is Anne's quest for the "cantabile."
(45) They meet again and again, at the same bar
and always at the same time of day, until the
eighth chapter. Then, just as the eighth note
of the musical scale is the same as the first--
the tonic--but an octave higher, the final
(50) resolution comes in the form of a symbolic
reenactment of the murder that occurs at the
end of the first chapter:
Chauvin: I wish you were dead.
Anne: I already am.
(60) And Anne returns permanently to her boring life.
When most literary critics pronounce
both The Waves and Moderato Cantabile
"musical novels," it is these gross features
(65) that they have in mind; and so they overlook
what makes Moderato Cantabile a truly
musical novel: It is actually "heard" by the
reader. The novel is mostly dialogue punctuated
by the sounds of a radio, boats, and
(70) crowds, like musical phrases defined by rests;
all that we know and all that we need to
know of Anne and Chauvin is what we hear
them say. Ironically, this technique that
makes Moderato Cantabile more successful
(75) than The Waves as a "musical novel" may
account for Duras' relative lack of success as a
filmmaker. Despite the great success of her
screenplay for "Hiroshima, Mon Amour," few
of the 19 films that she wrote and directed
(80) did well, primarily because words often
replaced action entirely.
14. The author's primary concern is to
(A) provide a definition for the phrase "musical novel"
(B) compare the literary works of Virginia Woolf
to those of Marguerite Duras
(C) show that the term "musical novel" does not
have a clear, unambiguous meaning
(D) provide guidelines for interpreting musical novels
(E) evaluate the relative effectiveness of different
15. According to the author, The Waves is less
successful than Moderato Cantabile in creating the
experience of music for the reader because
(A) Woolf used musical devices primarily to evoke
(B) sea waves make a rhythmic crashing sound as
they break on the beach
(C) The Waves does not parallel a musical structure
such as a sonata
(D) a conductor's baton is seen but not heard by
(E) the title Moderato Cantabile has a musical
16. The author mentions Duras' lack of success
as a filmmaker in order to
(A) prove that good novelists do not necessarily
make good filmmakers
(B) help show that dialogue has a different effect
(C) demonstrate that Duras was an artist who was
more than just a writer
(D) suggest that a successful filmmaker needs to use
action as well as dialogue
(E) suggest that most great novels cannot be made
into great films
17. Which of the following conclusions can be inferred
about the musical structure of Moderato Cantabile?
(A) Chapter two of the novel is intended to represent
(B) The symbolic re-enactment of the murder represents
the modulation of the second theme.
(C) Anne corresponds to the tonic theme, and Chauvin
corresponds to the dominant theme.
(D) Anne's return to her previous life corresponds to the
end of a sonata.
(E) The murder in the first chapter echoes the "moderato"
of the novel's title.
18. Which of the following musical interpretations of the
final exchange between Anne and Chauvin would the author
most likely agree with?
(A) The Anne theme has been modulated into the Chauvin
theme and continues to survive Anne's departure.
(B) Chauvin has absorbed the Anne theme, thereby
providing the reconciliation of the final part of the movement.
(C) Anne has renounced the Anne theme in favor of the
Chauvin theme, so no reconciliation has actually occurred.
(D) Both the Anne theme and the Chauvin theme continue
to exist side by side in Anne and can never be reconciled.
(E) The Chauvin theme has been modulated into the Anne
theme and thereby extinguished in a reconciliation.
19. With which of the following statements would the
author most likely agree?
(A) The musical form of the sonata is ideal for exploring
the complexities of human feelings.
(B) Music is a more effective art form for expressing the
duality of experience than literature.
(C) Unless a novel has a title and subject matter that
suggest musical form, it cannot be "heard" by the reader.
(D) Novels with musical structures are interesting
experiments but will not likely produce serious literature.
(E) Musical structures and techniques can be used to
enhance the effectiveness of a literary work.
20. The author's attitude toward Duras' work
can best be described as
(A) studied neutrality
(B) muted criticism
(C) scholarly indifference
(D) qualified admiration
(E) unbridled enthusiasm
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