Thursday, November 06, 2014

Goldberg Variations

Well, I've gone and done it. Finally.

It's taken time, years in fact, but I have my "variations on a theme of relationship" completed. Completed in that I've written them all. Now is the assembly of them into a coherent whole.

Or as coherent a whole as a theme and divers variations might allow.

But, "Goldberg Variations?" Well, the family name of the two main characters is Goldberg.

Disingenuous, I know.

Why "Goldberg Variations?"

I'm fond, very, of Bach.

I have a seeming obsessive fondness for Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Said Goldberg Variations served as background music while more than a few of these variations were written.


And I wanted to see if what is done frequently in the musical world could lend itself to the written word. So, a theme followed by thirty variations, followed by a reprise of the theme (or, in this case, story.)

And yes, this mimics the outer structure of Bach's Goldberg Variations: an aria, thirty variations on the theme within the aria, and a final reprise of the aria. Why mimic? See my "obsessive fondness" mentioned above.

So we have an initial story, introducing Anna and Ruth Goldberg, mother and daughter. This told from Anna's perspective. The final story is the same pair, in the same situation, but this time Ruth is our point-of-view character.

And in between these bracketing stories: thirty glimpses into how these two women might interact in a kaleidoscope of different worlds and different situations. Magic; the hard realities of life; death; birth; love; loss; all the way to the end of time itself.

The photos strewn about this blog post? Again, see my "obsessive fondness" above. These variations on Bach's Goldberg Variations formed the soundtrack to this writing effort.

Remaining true to myself, I have more variations in a minor key than Bach. Celtic melancholy. How could I not?

Some of the above may help in the hardest task before me: writing a synopsis of this work. I'll let you know how that goes.


  1. It sounds complicated but fascinating!

    1. Thanks, Helen. The individual stories weren't particularly complicated, although the last one, the reprise of the first story (the two written a couple of years apart) was interesting to do, approaching it as I was from a different point of view, and with so many written between the first one and this.

      I'm still not certain a theme and variations, so much a part of musical composition, fits with writing. We'll see how they all look together.

  2. That sounds like a really cool, and unique, approach!

    1. Thanks, Icy. It's certainly not common, of that I'm sure. Possibly because it doesn't work as well in writing as it does in music? I dunno.

      I did find "Exercises in Style" by Raymond Queneau in which he writes 99 variations on a very simple story, after attending a performance of Bach's Art of the Fugue. But the result has more a focus on exercises in language/style.

      I'm aiming for variations on a theme of relationship, with story at the center.

      We'll see how it goes.

  3. Now this is an interesting idea.

    1. Thank you. It has been interesting to do, exploring the many possible directions of the lives of these two women, Anna and Ruth Goldberg.

      I'm glad it's over, mainly because I've wanted to see the results of this experiment for a long time now.

      As to how it will be received...ah (as the Bard said) there's the rub. :)