Manchester City Council

Libraries Henry Watson Music library

An Equal Music - Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth, the internationally renowned writer, set part of his novel, An Equal Music (1999) in the city where its protagonist the violinist Michael grew up and attended college. In the course of his attempt to trace a musical score Michael phones the Henry Watson Music Library which he describes as:

"my second home when I was a student in Manchester - and, even more crucially, for three years between school and college when I had to earn a fitful living there. I could not afford scores and music in those days. If this library had not existed, I don't know how I could have held onto my dream of becoming a musician. I owe it so much..."

Michael says:

"as we speak, the curve of the walls comes to my mind, the light through the windows, the heavy mahogany shelving".

This older shelving has since been replaced with modern shelving and the character of this becomes the topic of an entertaining conversation between Michael and the librarian who answers the phone.

Later in the novel, Michael travels to Venice where he visits the church where Vivaldi taught, the Pieta. He is inspired to play the largo from Vivaldi's first Manchester Sonata (see Manuscripts and Rarities). He says:

"nothing lovelier has ever been written for the instrument, and my violin clearly feels it has been written personally for it - for it to play here. Where else, after all, should this be performed? It was on this spot that Vivaldi tutored the young girls from the orphanage, and made them the best musicians in Europe. And since the piece was discovered in manuscript just a few years ago in the very library in Manchester from which I learned much of my musicianship, I feel it has been written for me as well".

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