Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood Music Festival
Lenox, MA«archive page
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building one man is still trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions……Guy Noir, Private Eye.
GK: It was June and I was in Massachusetts working for the Edith Wharton Society which runs the lady’s old summer house, The Mount, in the Berkshires. They called it a summer house back in 1901, a three-story 65-room house on 100 acres, but Edith Wharton came from high society as you know if you’ve read her novels, which I haven’t but I know people who have. She lived here back in pre-World War I days with her ne’er-do-well husband Teddy who was not a sensitive literary type guy (TR: HEY --- HE CLEARS THROAT, HAWKS, SPITS) ---- he liked to put away a few bottles of whiskey (BELCH) and then have target practice (GUNSHOTS, GLASS BREAKAGE) and he didn’t think much of Edith’s literary pals. (TR: BUNCHA FRUITCAKES AND PANSIES IF YOU ASK ME --- HENRY JAMES! WHAT A LULU) Eventually she got tired of him and ran away to France, and the house got sold and became a school but now it’s been renovated and the beautiful gardens opened to the public by the Edith Wharton Society which called me in to consult on a little problem they were having.
SS: I’m Doctor Shoshana Flexner, and I’ll get right to the point, Mr. Noir. The Society raised millions of dollars to renovate Edith Wharton’s house and her gardens and make it the showplace that it once was and now we discov er that Edith Wharton had a child, a son, named Elwyn James and he had a son, James B. James, known as Jimmy, and he wants to take over The Mount and turn it into a race track for dirt bikes.
GK: The sudden appearance of an heir, huh?
SS: He claims to be the grandson of Edith Wharton and Henry James.
GK: Henry James the author of the longest and most convoluted sentences in the history of American fiction?
SS: One and the same.
GK: My understanding of Henry James, ma’am, is that he showed no interest in women, beyond the conversational level.
GK: You can’t father a child by sitting in the library with a glass of port and discussing the subjunctive mood.
GK: My advice is to hire a lawyer and beat this guy off with a stick.
SS: He has a birth certificate.
GK: Worth nothing.
SS: Letters from Edith addressing him as “My darling grandson”
GK: Forgeries. You don’t think James P. James is legit?
SS: I don’t know. That’s why we brought you in, Mr. Noir. (STING, BRIDGE)
GK: I went out to The Mount which is on the main road north of Lenox, a big brick house overlooking beautiful gardens, tall hedges, a fountain, lawns. I heard someone playing a lute (SFX) and a flute (SFX) and several barefoot maidens in white gowns came dancing through the meadow (FEMININE SOFT CRIES) and an old coot in his birthday suit was reciting a poem:
TR (POET): Ah the green shoot from the root and the fruit of the absolute ----
GK: The banner on the house said Edith Wharton Literary Festival ----- and they had a movie that Thomas Edison made of Edith Wharton and Henry James out for a drive in her open automobile. (CAR RUNNING)
SS: There it is, Henry, the whole Lenox countryside, what a marvelous view----
TR (CAPOTE): And I adore your car. It’s so commodious. And if we have ---- as I have reason to think we have------ driven past the turn down to the Lenox ---- which, by the way, I believe should probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right, then, by my calculations, we should be very near Tanglewood where, this very afternoon, there is a dance performance of the Ode to a Grecian Urn-----
SS: Oh oh. (CAR DIES) I’m afraid I’ve pulled the choke out and flooded the carburetor. Oh well---- maybe I’ll just hop in the backseat with you and----
TR (CAPOTE): Hop in the backseat with me?? Why ever would you do such a thing?
SS: Have you ever heard of “canoodling”?
TR (CAPOTE): Canoodling. I have no idea what it could possibly mean.
SS: I was afraid of that.
GK: It was an interesting piece of film footage and Dr. Flexner showed me around the grounds. In honor of Henry James, they had built an enormous letter J which stood a hundred feet high-----
SS: Henry James was Edith’s great mentor and he taught her to write more freely and from different points of view and to use interior monologue and the technique of the unreliable narrator.
GK: Unreliable narrator, huh?
SS: Yes. Do you know what that is? (BRIDGE)
GK: We made eye contact for several long seconds during which I had a distinct feeling that I was no longer in control of the story. That perhaps she was. Or Henry James. It filled me with uncertainty. But was that a reliable reaction? (STING)
GK: I found Jimmy James on his hog farm south of Mill River. (PIGS)
TR (NEW ENGLAND): Noir, huh? Kind of an unusual name.
GK: Family came from Quebec.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): You’re not a private eye, are you?
GK: Do I look like a private eye to you?
TR (NEW ENGLAND): (PAUSE) No. Not one bit.
GK: Well, there you are. I understand you like to race dirt bikes.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): That’s just about my whole life, Mr. Noir.
GK: Ever hear of a famous dirt biker named Henry James?
TR (NEW ENGLAND): My granddaddy’s name was Henry James. But he was a novelist of some sort.
GK: Ever read his novels?
TR (NEW ENGLAND): Nope. Never got around to it.
GK: His novels are all about dirt bike racing.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): Is that right?
GK: I don’t know if it’s right, but it’s so. He wrote one about dirt bike maintenance, called The Turn of the Screw. Portrait of A Lady, that was about his dirt bike he called Daisy Miller. The Wings of The Dove, that was about motocross and bike jumping. He loved to jump bikes. So did she.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): Grandma raced bikes, too? Huh. I never knew that.
GK: The Mount was where he and Edith kept their motorcycles. That’s where the name comes from. The Mount. They thought of them as horses. Their mounts. And then one day he mounted her and had your daddy.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): You know all about me, then.
GK: You probably didn’t know that Edith and Henry set a world record for a two-motorcycle jump while holding hands---- Set the record right there at The Mount. Went off a jump and sailed one hundred fifty-seven feet, holding hands with their white silk scarves flying out behind them. (BRIDGE)
GK: It was a pack of lies, of course, and it was a dirty rotten thing to do but I told him about that world-record jump on twin motorcycles at The Mount and Jimmy James got all excited.
TR (NEW ENGLAND): That settles it then. I’m taking my bike over to The Mount, which is my rightful estate, and I’m going to do a jump in honor of grandpa.
GK: I felt very strange. A feeling of unreliability, as if I could not now even trust myself and my own version of events, and then suddenly----- (TR SWEDISH, SS SWEDISH, FN SWEDISH) ---- what’s going on? Oh no. I’m not in a Guy Noir story anymore ---- I’m in a Stieg Larsson mystery. The Girl Who Played With Fire.
SS (SWEDISH, PLAYFUL): (TWIRLING FIRE BATONS)
GK: I’m in Sweden. Goteborg. How did that happen? Am I still the narrator? Are you Mikael Blomqvist?
SS: No, I’m a girl with a dragon tattoo.
GK: I meant him.
GK: Get me out of here. Get me out of here. Get me out of here. (TIME CHANGE CHORDS)
TR (NEW ENGLAND): You hang on there, Mr. Noir.
GK: Mr. James----
TR: Call me Jimmy. Just hold my hand.
GK: Hold your hand??? (BIKES REV) ----- I was on a motorcycle alongside Jimmy James and we were at the top of the J at the Mount and we were going to go down that J like it was a jump and fly up into the air and he wanted me to hold his hand----
TR: This one’s for the record books, Mr. Noir-----
GK: I don’t know, Jimmy.
TR: Here we go------ (MOTORCYCLES REV AND SPEED DOWNWARD AND FLY)
GK: And we flew off the curve of the J and into the air with our capes and white silk scarves flying behind us (SFX) and we flew over The Mount and over Lenox, the wind took us up and up and up and down below was Tanglewood and we made our descent slowly toward the stage where a band was playing (SLOW VIENNESE WALTZ), a number of gentlemen in white tuxedos and we landed on top of them ----- (BIG CRASH, CRASH CHORDS, WOOD BREAKAGE, GLASS, AND SPINNING HUBCAP) ----- and the music stopped but it was a moment that everyone who was there will remember, at least I did, and if you don’t like that story, then you can make up your own. (THEME)
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions……Guy Noir, Private Eye.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).