Sunday 28 January 2024

Pierre, sung by Shannon Marie Harney

Pierre, sung by Shannon Marie Harney,

I am pleased to be able to announce that we have released another track, in our developing project...

Pierre, sung by Shannon Marie Harney - words and music by Patrick O'Sullivan - can now be seen, and heard, on YouTube, Apple, and Spotify... 



On Spotify

On Apple Music

On YouTube

And, in due course, on every streaming service...

My thanks to Shannon Marie Harney, and to Danny Yates, City  Sound Studios...

Pierre is the final song in my 2010 song lyric book, Love Death and Whiskey...


I - like (I think) many people - found 2023 an odd, hard year.  Yes, we were able to move about, but it seemed difficult to bring any endeavour to completion.  So many fractured networks, so much illness.  Sometimes all we could do was be dogged...

And sometimes 'It’s dogged as does it...'

And we did  it.

There are problems with dogged - keep development routes open, but do not over-promise.


Going to the café to meet Pierre...  Is the moment when, reading Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, we think, O, I get it.

There is by now something of a tradition of reading that moment in Being and Nothingness as Being about Being In Love.  That is how Andy Martin reads it, in his book...

Martin, Andy. The Boxer and The Goal Keeper: Sartre Versus Camus. Simon & Schuster UK, 2012.

We think, like Sam in Love Actually, of the 'total agony of being in love'.  Perhaps we think of the Second Date.  Anticipation, excitement.  A tryst?

In the background are my thoughts about song - like, maybe you do not need a long text to make a long song, with its own narrative and development.  And my thanks  to the performers who helped me work out those thoughts.


Of course, at that moment, in reading in Being and Nothingness, we do not actually get to meet Pierre.  He is not there.  As powerful in his absence as is Godot.

We should really read the name 'Pierre' in Being and Nothingness as simply a place holder in a philosopher's thought experiment - a very common name, any man, much like English-speaking philosophers talk of Tom, Dick and Harry.

(And they do.  They do.)

Later in Being and Nothingness we DO meet Pierre.  A lot.  Pierre, a hapless fellow, and not that interesting, wanders from predicament to predicament, from thought experiment to thought experiment.  I briefly considered, and immediately discarded, the notion of something about the further adventures of Sartre's Pierre.  Nah.


Then things get more complex than is strictly tolerable.

Evidently the first appearance of Pierre is something of a private joke - I am going to use that word 'joke' - between de Beauvoir and Sartre.  Those pages in Being and Nothingness meditate on a section of de Beauvoir's novel - L' Invitee/ She Came to Stay.  Which is itself a mediation on their complex love life, and just one ménage à trois.  (Actually, it is a ménage à quatre - but let us not get bogged down...)

My source here is a chapter by Edward Fullbrook and Kate Fullbrook...

Fullbrook, Edward, and Kate Fullbrook. “The Absence of Beauvoir.” In Feminist Interpretations of Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Julien S. Murphy, 45–63. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

See also

Fullbrook, Edward. “She Came to Stay and Being and Nothingness.” Hypatia 14, no. 4 (January 19, 1999): 50–69.

In the novel Elisabeth enters the room of her rival, Francoise - there is evidence of the recent presence of Francoise, and evidence of her absence.  Her stockings, her perfume.  There is a bust of Napoleon, there is an open volume of Shakespeare.

Also absent from the room is the errant husband - Pierre.

In Being and Nothingness Sartre signals his interest in de Beauvoir's novel, by developing the absence of Pierre.  From the café.  Also absent from the café are the Duke of Wellington and Paul Valery.

When I wrote my own mediation on Pierre, many years ago, I did not know then that de Beauvoir originally wrote 'Napoleon' and Sartre, jokingly, changed that to 'Wellington' - which I had changed to Napoleon.  But I am not at all surprised.

I should explain that 'Napoleon' is simply far more present in English-speaking story and song...

There used to be a pub, here in Bradford, Yorkshire, called The Napoleon...

While we are at it...  Pierre, of course, has his own history in song.  We could begin with You Never Can Tell, by Chuck Berry - 'You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle'.  Which becomes the track for the Twist Competition in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.  Which refers to the one-take 'Madison' sequence in Godard's Bande à Part...


I really do thank the performers and musicians who have allowed me to develop my thinking about song, and develop my practice - exploring pattern, repetition, structure.  Pierre is an example.

As I say, in this project, I especially thank Shannon Marie Harney, and Danny Yates, City  Sound Studios...

Now...  Back to my well wrought urns...

Patrick O'Sullivan

January 2024

Below, the page from Hazel Barnes' translation, in which Pierre, the Duke of Wellington and Paul Valery do not appear...

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