A Pictorial History of Jazz: People and Places from New by Orrin Keepnews, Bill Grauer

By Orrin Keepnews, Bill Grauer

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Everything would seem to oppose the aristocratic thinker Nietzsche to the anti-elitist philosopher Sartre. ” And yet these two shared a similar admiration for Chopin. There are those who will object that this is a mere detail. But a great deal, if not everything, gets told through such choices. As Nietzsche maintained: All of life is a discussion of tastes and colors. Whether one prefers Pergolèse or Rameau, Beethoven or Rossini, Wagner or Bizet, Schoenberg or Stravinsky, Glenn Gould or Samson François reveals affinities of thought more profound than any conceptual opposition.

Since childhood, he had been fascinated by Madame Bovary. His antipathy for the author paradoxically led him to conceive a monumental study—something between a novel and a work of historical anthropology—that resulted in the three thousand pages of The Family Idiot [L’idiot de la famille], with a fourth volume to have followed. Even if the project’s origin was as old as his playing of music, his emotional, imaginary, and intellectual investment in it was of a different nature, precisely because it oriented the time of Sartre’s life, giving it a finality.

Like the playing of music, dreams were not the subject of Sartre’s writing. And this does not at all diminish their importance, as indicated by both their continued role in his life and his intimate, private reminiscence of them. This close relation between playing music and recounting dreams is not fortuitous. When Sartre plays the piano, his imagination is at work, mobilizing the history of his feelings, as well as his memories, be they dreamt or recomposed. There is some play in this musical practice, as much in terms of theater as in terms of movement.

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