Cascades in music, gentlest of all time’s shapes


Borges and Music

Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.
—Borges, “The Wall and the Books”

Borges was fascinated by the tango, and published several “milongas”—Argentine folk songs filled with passion, honor, and vengeance. There have been numerous works of music inspired by Borges, from lyrical settings of his poetry to surreal fragments of avant-garde classical inspired by his fabulist prose. This section of the Garden collects notes on these pieces and their composers.

The section is organized by genre, with individual musicians listed alphabetically. Each link takes you to a page profiling their Borges-related work. If you have any suggestions or additions, please contact the Garden!


Tango/Traditional

Jairo
Born Mario Rubén Gonzáles in Argentina, Jairo changed his name to an Aramaic word meaning “The Faithful Illuminated.” In 1976 he released an album named Jairo canta Borges.

Valeria Munárriz
A traditional Argentine singer, Munárriz released an album called Chante Jorge Luis Borges, featuring fourteen settings of Borges’ poems and milongas.

Astor Piazzolla
The world-famous maestro of “nuevo tango,” Piazzolla has composed many wonderful works based on Borges’ poetry.


Rock

Genesis
This group of seminal prog rockers committed “Squonk” to vinyl in 1976.

Arturo Meza
This Mexican singer/songwriter released Borges: Homenaje en el centenario de su natalicio in 1999, a musical tribute to Borges. [TBD]

High Mountain Tempel
San Diego space-rock duo gave their first album the Tlönish name of Pacific Sky Burial (Axaxaxas mlö).

The Mountain Goats
Fronted by singer, songwriter, and author John Darnielle, a Borges poem spurred their 2020 song, “Wolf Count.”

PopCanon
PopCanon were a cheerfully demented and wildly talented group from Gainesville, Florida. Among other literary treasures, PopCanon’s debut albums contains a Borges-inspired song called “Labyrinths.”

Offsite:

Blaak Heat
The third E.P. by this French-American psychedelic band is named Shifting Mirrors, and makes allusions to Borges’ story “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim.” [This link takes you to their Bandcamp page.]

Emma Zunz
This Polish industrial band takes their name from a Borges story. [This link takes you to their Bandcamp page.]

Secret Chiefs 3
Recording their music at “Forking Paths Studios,” this avant-garde band takes inspiration from the works of Borges. [This link takes you to their label’s SC3 page.]


Classical

Gheorghi Arnaoudov
Specializing in the creation of mystical spaces, this Bulgarian minimalist composed Ritual III, “Borges Fragment” for solo cello; Phantasmagorias I, based on The Book of Imaginary Beings; and Notes of the Phantom Woman, which incorporates “The Sect of the Phoenix.”

Lawrence Casserley
An avant-garde electronics composer from Britain, Lawrence Casserley’s albums Labyrinths and The Edge of Chaos contains works based on Borges’ short stories and poetry.

Brian Richard Earl
Earl composed Sonata for Flute and Piano, inspired by Borges’ poem “Tankas.” [This link takes you to the Borges Center, which offers the tracks for downloading.]

William Neil
An American composer who worked with the Chicago Lyric Opera, Neil set the poem “Límites” to music in 1978.

Robert Parris
This American composer’s Book of Imaginary Beings is inspired by Borges’ famous compendium.

Roger Reynolds
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and physicist Roger Reynolds has three separate pieces that incorporate texts from Borges.

Mark Saya
Composer of the percussion work, From the Book of Imaginary Beings. [TBD]

Diego Vega
Composer of Hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö for clarinet, violin, cello and piano. [This link takes you directly to the track.]


Jazz

Kyle Bruckmann
Bay Area oboe-savant and noise connoisseur Kyle Bruckmann named two pieces on his 2002 album Six Synaptics after “words” from Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

Evan Parker
British saxophone player Evan Parker pays homage to Borges on “Time, That Other Labyrinth,” an atonal improvisation on his album Mars Song. [Until the Garden gathers together an Evan Parker page, this link takes you to the track on YouTube.]

Matt Pavolka
New York jazz bassist Matt Pavolka recorded a song “The Garden of Forking Paths” on his 2008 album, Something People Can Use. [Offsite: Link takes you to Bandcamp.]

John Zorn
In February 2022, the wildly eclectic John Zorn will release A Garden of Forking Paths. According to Tzadik, “Zorn draws inspiration from the enigmatic short stories of Argentine philosopher/writer Jorge Luis Borges. Like a collection of short stories, each composition is a miniature world in itself and touches on philosophy and mysticism as well as music. Blending folk, classical, jazz, bluegrass, world music and more, this is truly music of the 21st century—unclassifiable and unique.” Expect a Garden review in February!


Author: Allen B. Ruch
Last Modified: 31 January 2022
Main Borges Page: The Garden of Forking Paths
Contact: quail(at)shipwrecklibrary(dot)com

 

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