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Variations on a Theme: Scored Music and Language in Julio Cortázar's ‘Clone’

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For Julio Cortázar, scored music exhibits the same problematics as language. ‘Clone’ constitutes Cortázar's most sustained exposition of this idea. The story abounds in musical versions and performances, denying any access to the putative originary centre of the music of Carlo Gesualdo sought by the group of madrigal singers. At the same time, the singers unconsciously enact events from Gesualdo's life, giving a version or performance of a story whose ‘originary truth’ is itself unknowable outside of the (textual) versions of biography. The third level of performance is the text itself. The story's epilogue and Cortázar's hand-written manuscript of both it and the story reveals ‘Clone’ to be a performance of a textual version of a (musical) version of Bach's Musical Offering, further destabilising the notion of an ‘originary’ text/performance. However, the epilogue's implications are more far-reaching, with humans emerging as (passive) sites where a multiplicity of performances (of texts) is enacted. This radically alters our understanding of Cortázar's work. Rather than seeing the central concern as the need for a transgressive response to a ‘repression-return of the repressed-repression’ cycle, ‘Clone’ suggests that what is required is a liberation from the interpretative/performative structures, or ‘textual chains’, through which we live.
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Keywords: Bach; Carlo Gesualdo; Julio Cortázar; language; manuscript; music; performance; versions; ‘Clone’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Durham,

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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