Journal Article

André Gide, the Piano and Writing: Keys to a Creative Symbiosis

Naomi Catherine Ardley

in Forum for Modern Language Studies

Published on behalf of Court of the University of St Andrews

Volume 47, issue 3, pages 275-288
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0015-8518
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1471-6860 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqr007
André Gide, the Piano and Writing: Keys to a Creative Symbiosis

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The affinity with the piano which pervades André Gide's Journal is less apparent in his fiction, for characters who play the piano are few. Comparing references to the piano across his various writings can, however, offer an illuminating commentary on the symbiosis between music and the act of writing which is suggested by Gide's approach to these disciplines. Like the act of writing itself, his preference for private practice over performance or attending concerts points to a desire for a solitary creative command of the artistic material. Simultaneously a source of rigorous discipline, absorbing distraction and inspirational expression, Gide's self-indulgent piano-playing was in continuous yet ambivalent partnership with his writing. Gide's writer and musician figures, so often used to explore his personal ideas, enrich our understanding of these creative disciplines: he endows some with his views, constructs in others an antithetical stance, and uses characters to exemplify his criticism of these two art forms, their interpretation and reception. Gide expressed an ambivalence towards artistic success measured by popularity. His criticism of virtuoso pianists and passive audiences, both fictional and real, parallels that pertaining to authors of popular fiction and their mediocre readers. Whilst musical and literary characters in Gide's fiction often share his views in principle, they prove unable to sustain the same commitment or to nourish the same symbiosis between these art forms. Rather than seeking to resolve the counterpoint between music and writing which pervaded his life, Gide delights in perpetuating this ‘dissonant harmony’ in his œuvre.

Keywords: Gide, André; music; piano; writing; literature

Journal Article.  6764 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Literature

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