An Equal Music / Galatea 2.2

An Equal Music is worth the read if you love classical music or are a classical musician, and even more so if, like me, you just happen to be a lapsed violinist/pianist living in London with a hankering for Vienna.

Having said that, I should clarify that you may not necessarily like the book after you’ve read it. You may, for example, get completely pissed off with the “classical musician psyche”, which I identified with occasionally, but more often than not was slightly stupefied by. This is possibly one of the many reasons why I gave up classical music for debating, where people are just as dysfunctional but at least a little more rational.

One thing I did understand completely in the book was the protagonist’s devotion to his violin, not merely as an exceptionally sweetly singing member of its class of string instrument, but as a unique entity in itself – the feel of it under his chin, the bounce of light off its varnish. The smoothness of its neck under the skin of his thumb as he goes from first to fourth position. Force me to choose between slashing my arm with a knife or slashing my violin and I will unhesitatingly and willingly make myself bleed. The fact that it lies long-neglected and lonely in its case as I write this makes no difference to what I’ve just said, although it does make me feel painfully guilty.

Galatea 2.2 was fascinating, but less of an easy read. Again, it dealt with ideas I personally like reading about, so if you tend to be drawn to variations on the Pygmalion myth, artificial intelligence, academia, the passions of reading and trials of writing, then this one’s very much worth a try. I actually found it far more moving than An Equal Music, and found its characters (even the computer) decidedly more multi-faceted. Oh, I should add – apart from all the things listed above, it’s also about where life and love seep into cracks between the compartments, and why that ultimately makes it so difficult to learn the human condition without living it yourself.