Thursday, October 20

Cuttings 23 - The Tin Drum

I just finished this book by Gunter Grass. Was very interested in this idea of an unreliable narrator. The central character, Oskar, is also the storyteller. He writes from the bed of a mental hospital and sometimes says things like 'Wishing to stick to the truth, I shall try to circumvent Oskar's pen and make a few corrections...' making the reader suspicious of the whole narrative in the book, not knowing what to believe. This has particular significance regarding how the book deals with literature, art, memory and history. But taking the thought specifically into the area of songwriting, it throws up some interesting questions. If lyrics claim to be truthful/autobiogrphical, they are at best subjective, and they can even be totally fictional - how is the listener to know, unless he knows the songwriter personally. Surely if the writer is good, he can convincingly create a false autobiographical song - this is his artistic priviledge, just like an author - and what exactly does it matter if his words are true to his real life? Having said that - I go back to earlier thoughts and ask, if the emotions of the song are not rooted in reality, does this not effect the performance of the song?

The role of art in relation to dealing with german history is given immense significance by Grass. Oskar is also an artist - a writer, a musician: a glass-piercing singer and a drummer.. his ability to bring people to tears with his drumming, to evoke the past, to recreate specific moments from his childhood - this seems to give great power to music, to rhythm (drums don't even have tone..) in the hands of an artist.