Who? Faubion Bowers, a flamboyant culture critic from Oklahoma, later to inexplicably rescue the Japanese art of kabuki from extinction.
What? A biography of the fin de siècle Russian composer Alexander Scriabin: a baby-faced solipsist and syn-aesthetic with a knackered right hand.
When? 1960s, and smacking of vaguely pre-acceptable speech.
How? Via sprawling examinations of the composer’s holidays and extensive quotations from boring domestic letters.
Why? Bowers’ fascination with the quasi-mystic Scriabin stays on the proper side of worship; he appreciates the music without indulging the pie-in-the-sky program notes that obsess most devotees. Instead, Scriabin’s poetry is presented plainly alongside the context of his development as a composer, and thankfully the two can be firmly separated. Bowers at once reinforces the untimely psychological force of the music, whilst dimming the mysticism that still surrounds the composer’s legacy. It is unfortunate that this legacy is not explored in the biography, as Scriabin, despite being examined in minute detail for 600 stodgy pages, dies from a lip-sore two pages before the end.
16 October 2016