Bing Crosby, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Maurice Ravel on the Shore: Mediating Music in Tennessee Williams's _Something Cloudy, Something Clear_

Laura Michiels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Amongst the many different forms of artistic expression the American playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) took an interest in, music always occupied a prominent place. Williams alluded to a wide variety of musical genres, musicians and composers in his drama. Moreover, the playwright himself as well as the people he worked with likened his writing for the stage to music. In a 1950 letter to Irene Mayer Selznick, Williams claimed he does not "think a play is so different from a sheet of music" and director Elia Kazan described the long speeches typical of Williams's characters as "arias". For the purposes of this paper, I would like to focus on Williams's penultimate full-length play _Something Cloudy, Something Clear_ (1981). The text presents a fictionalised account of Williams's first love affair and the events which led up to his first professional theatre production. Since _Something Cloudy_ revolves around occurrences that actually took place in Provincetown 40 years before Williams wrote it, several critics have considered the play an example of "unmediated" autobiography and refer to its protagonist as "August/Williams", thus obscuring the difference between creation and creator. However, I am convinced the text very much foregrounds its own mediation and will try to show how it does so by means of its concern with music. It is, for instance, no coincidence the characters choose to listen to Maurice Ravel's _Pavane pour une infante défunte_ throughout their story, in that the piece offers a reflection on Spain's Golden Age, mediated through the French composer's sense of his own faded Spanish heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPanel on Production/Performance Practice of the 5th International Music on Stage Conference
PublisherRose Bruford College (UK), 18-19 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event5th Annual Music On Stage Conference - Rose Bruford College, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Oct 201419 Oct 2014


Conference5th Annual Music On Stage Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Williams, Tennessee
  • Something Cloudy, Something Clear
  • Music
  • Mediation
  • Ravel, Maurice
  • Bing, Crosby
  • Villa-Lobos, Heitor


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