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An Indyref Romance: Harmony and Dissonance – Chapter 9

Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco, Saint Cecilia and an Angel, Italian, 1582 - 1647, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection

In the weeks that followed Paul and Jenny continued their embraces to the accompaniment of Jenny’s music. He said that he found some of it rather difficult, but would like to hear more and would like to understand better. She started with Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations, and then skipped everything until some late Beethoven. They kissed to the Diabeli Variations, and they explored a little further with their hands while some late piano concertos were playing. It was all very new to Paul, but then again it was all very new to Jenny. They became closer. They found something that they could share. He described what touched him, or tried to describe it. But each of them found words inadequate. He was reduced to phrases like ‘the one we played yesterday with the fast bit and then the rather moving bit that sounded like…’ She’d play a bit of it again. Sometimes she found the part he meant and there was a moment of recognition.
She moved on with some Schubert quartets. He found himself listening to Death and the Maiden for the first time, and he liked it. He really, really liked it. He regretted he’d not known about it before.
“How did you find out about these things?” he asked.
“My parents always played this sort of music.”
“Mine did as well. But only the stuff everybody knows.”
“I like to explore. I like to find new things that I don’t know, that no-one told me about.”
“What will we listen to next?”
“I just thought we might work our way through the 19th century. Just lose ourselves in the music.”
“It sounds good to me.”
“I’m finding it all terribly romantic, holding you while listening to the peaks of romanticism in music. You’ll make me swoon if you’re not careful.”
“I never know quite when you’re being serious and when you’re taking the Mickey.”
“I’m afraid, I don’t always know myself.”
They continued with Schumann’s Kinderszenen, and Paul thought, perhaps, he might have recognised one of the scenes.
“That would be Träumerei,” said Jenny. “It’s the scene where the child is dreaming.”
“But do you really think anyone could guess that the music represented that?”
“No. I don’t think music represents anything and when it tries, it’s bad music.”
“But it was so beautiful, Jenny.”
“I’m not criticising Schumann’s music. I love it, too. It may have been his inspiration. He may have been thinking of children when he wrote it. But this music is not limited by what the composer thought it was about. It’s what we think it’s about.”
“You mean our kisses, the way you hold me while we listen, while we share our experience together?”
“Something like that.”
They began watching films as well. It turned out that Jenny had quite a collection of DVDs of films that Paul had never heard of.
“I’ve mostly watched things that have just come out at the cinema,” he said. “I’ve watched some old stuff on TV and I’ve seen the odd foreign classic. I know the basics, but you just seem to reach onto your shelf and find all sorts of things that I suspect not one person in Aberdeen has seen.”
“Oh, I don’t know. These films aren’t that obscure. I’m lucky. My dad has been collecting films since he was a student. He had hundreds of videos and now he’s got hundreds of DVDs. He gets them from all over the world.”
“So these are his films?”
“Mostly. I just ask him for a selection that might be interesting. Some I keep with me because I like to watch them regularly.”
“There not all foreign, are they? Sometimes I can’t be bothered reading sub-titles.”
“Me, too. No I have lots of old British and American films. I wanted us to watch a film about Brahms and Schumann, and Clara Wieck. I don’t suppose it’s very accurate, but it’s a nice story.”
“What’s it called?”
“Song of Love.”
“I suppose it’s in black and white?”
“All the best films are.”
Paul recognised the other man from Casablanca who played Schumann and he knew Katherine Hepburn who played his wife Clara. Brahms he vaguely knew, but couldn’t place. The film was gushing and far too romantic, but somehow when Jenny played him some Brahms it helped him to picture the man who was composing.
“You really like Mr Brahms, don’t you, Jenny?” he said after yet another CD appeared .
“Yes and no. I think, he’s very important. But I find him rather difficult.”
“I must admit I’m getting a little sick of him. Shall we move on?”
“Can I play just one more piece? If you don’t get Brahms, you can’t really get what comes later.”
“Sure, go ahead. What did you have in mind?”
“His requiem.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to make much of religious stuff, Jenny. You know that.”
“There’s a part which really helped me when I was struggling with Brahms. Don’t think of it in terms of religion. Think of it in terms of life.”
They listened and she pointed out the part she liked where the text was about all flesh being as grass. He didn’t understand the German words, but he felt her tremble and he noticed that his cheek was wet with her tears. He felt something, too. The words didn’t matter, and pure emotion welled in him. It was emotion for her and it was emotion for him. Somehow he was touched in a way that he had never expected to be touched by a requiem. He held her tightly and gently caressed her, and they melted into each other finding a closeness in each other’s arms. She saw that there was emotion in his eyes, too, that they were moist.
“Now we can move on,” said Jenny when the CD had finished.
They gradually began talking about what was most important to them. Paul tried to explain why he was so desperate that Scotland should become independent. He told her some of the arguments he had read and the sorts of the ideas that were discussed at the Yes campaign meetings. But he wasn’t trying to persuade her. He was just trying to explain. She asked pertinent questions. She tried to put herself into the position of someone who wanted independence. She tried to understand this man who she was coming to love more and more each day. Where they couldn’t agree, they agreed to differ, but without rancour. She no longer just moved on with the conversation, ducking away from an argument. She made points against his argument, but more in a spirit of cooperation as if trying to reach the truth. Each of them had no wish to attack the point of view of the other. Jenny began to understand the desire for independence better. She heard arguments that she didn’t know, that she hadn’t heard. She began to write a series of essays for Effie.
Firstly, she thought of her own point of view. What arguments from a Conservative perspective could be made for independence? Well, obviously it might help the Conservatives in England if all those Scottish Labour MPs were no longer at Westminster. But what about Conservatives in Scotland? Well, they had precious little chance now while Scotland remained in the UK. What would happen afterwards? It could hardly be expected that Scotland would have permanent left wing government. So would there eventually be a chance for the Right after independence? No doubt, there would. What else from a right wing perspective might be an argument for independence? Well, imagine someone who was concerned about immigration levels. Might not such a person reflect that splitting off from the UK would put a barrier between a place that has high levels of immigration, England, and a place with low levels, Scotland? It wasn’t that she was opposed to immigration, quite the reverse: she favoured a free market in immigration, too. However, this sort of argument could be used to attack those who favoured independence. Not all arguments that contain a degree of truth are politically helpful.
Suddenly, Jenny found that she had inspiration. She took what Paul had said the other day about UK supporters being British nationalists and she wrote a deconstruction of it. Writing in Russian was slow and difficult. She continually had to look in the dictionary. But Effie was right: it was liberating. She was using a part of her brain that felt somehow freer. She thought about what Paul had said about nationalism and how it was civic and liberal, and not at all like the ugly forms of nationalism in the world. She attacked these arguments, but she attacked them from within. She put the case for independence in the most positive light, and then one by one attempted to undermine each assumption. Meanwhile, they continued with their music and their films.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2018/06/an-indyref-romance-harmony-and.html

About Effie Deans

Profile photo of Effie Deans
Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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