Written as a Year 11 English Literature essay, changed and formatted for the E2 audience. Enjoy.
Music is an integral part of everyday lives. It allows people to escape from the real world into their own little imagination-based world. It invokes deep and desirable emotions in people. It 'soothes the savage breast', as the saying goes; relaxes, calms, relieves. It gives people an excuse to let loose some energy by dancing around like headless chickens.
It would be somewhat of a crime against nature to exclude music and musical references from such a
book novel that paints the picture of human nature and life thereof so wonderfully. The Australian novel The Children's Bach, by Helen Garner, which is also the name of a real-life sheet music book compilation, illustrates how the banality of life can be easily turned upside-down by the simplest catalyst of meeting someone remembered from nearly twenty years ago.
As in life, the characters in The Children’s Bach react to different music in different ways. The music of choice seems to be classical music – references to opera such as La Traviata (p. 56) and Don Giovanni (p. 3) are examples of such music – but also current and up-to-date music (at the time this
book text was written), with a reference to popular Australian 70’s TV program Countdown (pp. 58, 59).
I, personally, have ‘exotic’ tastes in music. Rather than follow mainstream pop, rock, metal, R‘n’B and rap styles of music, I tend to favour a genre that is more dance-related. In an era where R‘n’B and rap are dominant over other forms of music, I find solace when I hear a dance tune. In this way, I can relate to many of the characters from The Children's Bach, as many of the music references were not mainstream at the time.
Especially Dexter. Dexter tends to enjoy the opera and classical music, which is something to be ridiculed in the teenage circuit these days. Dexter likes singing them as much as the next music lover (“And now, I shall sing the catalogue aria from Don Giovanni”, p.4). It is excellent that he sings such classical music, as, where music is becoming a talent for the untalented, there is still room for someone to enjoy real genius in the forms of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven... and, yes, Bach.
The other character I can relate to is Poppy. Although I take piano llessons and not cello, as Poopy does, I still often feel like I am not doing enough practise before my lessons to really make the piece sound good. Although my teacher isn’t as critical as the teacher in the
book text, I feel like I let her down. But in the end, it turns out OK, as it does in the book text.
Music is also a way of leaving the time period of this novel undefined. There are few definitive chronological references throughout that also relate to music, and the few that do pin the time period down to some time during or after 1970 or so, which still leaves a thirty-five-year margin that the text could possibly belong to. It also gives readers something to relate to in any time period, even into the future.
Such an elegant yet subtle device for escaping insanity (or sanity, for that matter) is music, so much so that it can be used in many forms, including aural and visual. Helen Garner seamlessly weaves into her
book novel The Children's Bach a picture of music that is evocative, deep, mystifying and at times, touching.