Blest Pair of Sirens: Some Thoughts on Literature and Music (published as This Man and Music)

Scope and Content

This series contains transcripts of the BBC Radio 3 broadcast of Burgess's T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures in 1980 and drafts of Burgess's adaptation of the lectures for publication, dated 1982.

Administrative / Biographical History

In spring 1980, at the University of Kent, Burgess delivered the T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, drawing his title and theme from the opening of John Milton's At a Solemn Music: "Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy / Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse". In four lectures titled "Blest Pair of Sirens: Thoughts on Music and Literature", delivered 28 April - 1 May, Burgess examined Eliot's incorporation of popular song into his verse, musical aspects of Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ's poetry, James Joyce's writing, and the novel in general. An edited version of the lectures was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 between 29 September 1980 and 20 October 1980. Later that year, Burgess delivered a series of lectures at Kenyon College in America in which he included many of the same musical examples. The lectures formed part of the John Crowe Ransom Memorial lecture series (13-17 October 1980) and were titled "Disharmonious Sisters: Observations on Literature and Music" or (individually) "Under the Bam" (a quotation from the poet Omar Khayyam), "Rhythms, Sprung and Not Sprung", "What Did The Music Say?", and "Leisure in the Novel."

In 1982, Burgess adapted his T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures for publication, ultimately under the title This Man and Music. In the book Burgess looks at the role of music in his life and examines the close and mutually enriching relationship between literature and music. He describes the process of writing his Symphony Number 3 in C, discusses the relationship between music and life, the language of music, and music in literature - particularly in the work of Hopkins and Joyce. He also analyses two of his own novels with a musical motif, namely MF and Napoleon Symphony, and includes a "Biographia Musicalis", an inventory of his own works.

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Related Material

Copies of both the edited and unedited recordings of the T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, and of three of the four John Crowe Ransom Memorial Lectures, form part of the audio collection at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and may be made available to researchers using the on-site Reading Room.