Flaubert (the zero)

In Italo Calvino’s “The Levels of Reality in Literature”, there is a brief section which exposes on the tiers of authorship. Calvino uses the example of Flaubert and Madame Bovary. Flaubert takes on two roles. The first is Flaubert the author of the complete works (so far) of Flaubert and the second is Flaubert the author of Madame Bovary. Flaubert the second is a condensed reflection of Flaubert the first.

What if we went one step further? There would exist a preface of a preface if you will: Flaubert the zero is the entire human of whom Flaubert the first, the author from who Flaubert the second writes Madame Bovary, is made of.

Theatre director Peter Brook cuts to the heart of his craft in a similar manner. In “The Empty Stage”, he writes: “There is always a new season in hand and we are too busy to ask the only vital question which measures the whole structure: Why theatre at all? What for?”

That is what Flaubert the zero is about. We can strive for better technique because it brings out the music, but unless we have a reason for bringing out the music, why music at all? We must examine the process and reason for learning an instrument. This extra step, Flaubert the zero, is a crucial crossing of the gap between the process and purpose of learning and performing music in the first place.


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