Dear CR, Marsha, Peter, Ken, and Nancy,
I was very worried after hearing about the email problems Listers were having with the attachment, and I felt the whole episode of posting the recording had badly backfired on me: Instead of bringing enjoyment to the List, I had caused a lot of problems. Again, I sincerely apologize for having caused those problems.
Having said that, it is also good to know that you (and others) were able to receive the Eliot recording and enjoy it. That, of course, was the whole point of what I was trying to do.
Ken mentioned my telling the story of getting the license to post the MP3 file and mentioned my success with Faber and Faber. I think part of what helped with Faber was the email from Ms. Christina Davis, the curator of the Woodberry Reading Center at Harvard. She had ended her email by saying posting the MP3 file to the Eliot List was a "worthy undertaking", and I noticed that the Faber Permissions Controller echoed back that same language, citing Ms. Davis. If the Permissions Controller was wavering about granting permission, the positive feedback from Ms. Davis may have tipped the scales. But mostly, I think getting permission was the luck of the draw, the chance of getting that particular Permissions Controller who was sympathetic to my request.
One interesting part of the story that I didn't mention on Sunday was that after the negotiations were wrapped up, the Permissions Controller asked if I could send him a copy of the MP3 file. He didn't want a copy for legal reasons, he wanted to hear Eliot read "Fragment of an Agon"! It hadn't occurred to me until that moment that, unlike the people at Harvard who deal with recordings all the time at the Woodberry Center, the people at Faber were dealing with the Eliot material strictly as a piece of property that they were managing. They hadn't even heard the recording on which they were deciding permissions. I sent the file, and the controller wrote back about how much "we at Faber" enjoyed listening to it. Since I don't think he was using the "royal we", I think a bunch of Eliot fans at Faber in England got to hear the Eliot recording for the first time, 60+ years after TSE recorded it in the United States. Strange world, isn't it?
By the way, now that you've heard the recording, you might be interested in the passage from the book on Sweeney Agonistes that originally pointed me in the direction of Harvard's release of the cassette tapes called "The Poet's Voice" from 1978:
From "The American Play, 1787-200" by Marc Robinson (p 230 and footnote)
The best education in the play's purposefully unsettled and open-ended dramaturgy is Eliot's recitation of "Fragment of an Agon," recorded in 1947. (***) The cool, urbane voice, easy in its acquired English accent, is deliberately at odds with the subject matter, lulling us so to catch us off guard. Soon, Eliot is adjusting his pacing and volume to darken the scene. Repeated words and phrases that at first sound singsong now turn taunting, nowhere more so than in the petulant line "That's all, that's all, that's all, that's all" - nails hammered into the coffin Doris fears. The same progress characterizes Eliot's rendition of two popular songs that, deceptively, promise an escape from the narrative. He turns the chorus of "Under the Bamboo Tree" ("Under the bam / Under the boo / Under the bamboo tree") into a low, unnaturally steady threnody. After the death knells of the next song, "My Little Island Girl" - "Morning / Evening / Noontime / Night" - he delivers the play's remaining lines to an ominous marching beat, getting louder and more forceful in the final chorus, the "Hoo's" sounding first like a car horn, then like a footballer's grunts; the "Knock's" getting more desperate and implacable, until he stops short to allow horrible silences to answer back between his last three repetitions of the word. The spaces separating each knock seem impenetrable, hollow, dead at last.
*** The recording, made in 1947 for the Poetry Room of the Harvard College Library and distributed by Harvard Vocarium Records, was reissued as part of the "Poet's Voice" series, ed. Stratis Haviaris (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978). Hugh Kenner in The Invisible Poet calls it "a finer performance ... than any cast on a stage is likely to manage".
-- Tom --