Baptism Of Solitude
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Novelist, composer, expatriate and rebel Paul Bowles is one of the most compelling and mythologized figures in twentieth-century American culture. Remarkably gifted, Bowles entered the vibrant art and literary world of the late 1920s and early '30s as a poet and composer (studied with Aaron Copland). After he moved to Tangier Bowles began writing fiction: The Delicate Prey, The Spider's House, Let It Come Down, and The Sheltering Sky, which he wrote in 1947, and which was immediately hailed as a classic. Bill Laswell, legendary bassist and producer, went with the Metastation team to Tangier, recorded Bowles, and set his words to ambient landscapes. This collaborative effort resulted in Baptism of Solitude, which contains excerpts from his novels and poems.
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Anyone who has heard Bowles' voice knows its mesmerizing and hypnotic qualities. The sonorities, whistles, and hoaryness draw the listener inexorably in. Listening to this voice recite chilling scenes from "The Delicate Prey" and "A Distant Episode" delivers both a beautiful and a horrifying experience. "Baptism of Solitude", from the collection of essays from 1957 entitled "Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands are Blue", provides a good centerpiece for this collection. Bowles reads the beginning and ending of this reflective essay on the transforming nature of the awesome silence of the desert.
Ethereal music accompanies all of the readings. Usually it enhances the words but at times it intensifies and competes with Bowles' voice. When it does, some of the nuances of his voice become obscured. But luckily these times remain few in number. Those looking for unaccompanied readings by Bowles should seek out the earlier CD "Black Star at the Point of Darkness."
Bowles made only a few recordings. And none of these were major releases so they remain somewhat difficult to find. For Bowles fans they represent a unique opportunity to hear him read his own work outloud. And for this reason alone they are invaluable.