Thursday, 9 August 2012

Eliot Reads Prufrock

I Come In Value Packs Of Ten

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, by Thomas Stearns Eliot, is my favourite poem. Not that I've read them all, I mean all the poems in the world, before arriving at this objective decision; that is not what I meant at all. There are far too many poems in existence to have done that, seriously, there's literally dozens out there. But of the five or six that I have read, Prufrock is quite definitely the best.

So I quite enjoy listening to the poet's own recitation, and ever since playing the old vinyl record at a friend's house in about 1980, have always been within a lodger's lunge of such a recording. Today, deciding to legalise our relationship, this poem and me, I grabbed a few spoken word MP3s from Amazon: The Waste Land, a scratchy old clipping suite encoded at an average of 62¼ kbps (and extravagant at that if you ask me); Prufrock itself; and one other, The Triumphal March From Coriolan.

Immediately, the 20 minute duration of the Prufrock file caught my attention. You see, Prufrock is my party piece. Well, it's either that or a Pogues-informed The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Eric Bogle's despairing Gallipoli dirge, which nevertheless does have the advantage of being an actual song. No, I don't get invited to a lot of parties... you knew? You are not blind! How keen you are! On second thoughts it might be more accurate to describe Prufrock as: the piece I would recite on the night bus home from George Square, in order to ensure my evening ended with a good, sound beating up. Playing relentless Status Quo on your ghetto blaster works almost as well.

But I divest. I knew that, even after ten pints of Stella Artois, there's no way to stammer, slur, stretch and deform a recitation of Prufrock over more than about 10 of those 20 minutes. So what was going on? Firing up foobar2000, I discovered that both of the higher bit rate files contained multiple works.

I Call That A Bargain

01 - The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.mp3 actually includes the first three poems (which belong together anyway) from Prufrock and Other Observations, and finishes with Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service. Here's the cue sheet:

00:00 - The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
08:20 - Portrait of a Lady
15:35 - Preludes
18:20 - Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service
20:00 - [end]

02 - The Triumphal March From Coriolan.mp3 contains the following:

00:00 - Ash Wednesday
13:45 - A Song for Simeon
16:15 - Marina
18:33 - Triumphal March From Coriolan
21:45 - O Light Invisible (from The Rock)
24:20 - Chorus from Murder in the Cathedral
26:30 - Chorus from The Family Reunion
28:20 - [end]

I guess someone read the original LP's bipartite title, T S Eliot reads The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock & Triumphal March From Coriolan (link goes to a March 1959 Gramophone review), and decided just to rip and label sides A and B accordingly and respectively. So there you have it: get 'em while they're hot, eight and three-halves poems for the price of two. As for The Waste Land, well those files didn't contain any Easter Eggs. Incidentally if you'd like to hear that latter masterpiece in full, the Harper Audio is rebroadcast in various formats (though not MP3) by the Internet Multicasting Service here, and of course less legally throughout YouTube.

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