The Amorist rushed to find her headphones after composer Dominic Crawford Collins called to tell her about his project to create ‘an immersive erotic audio experience’ out of the controversial Victorian sex memoir, My Secret Life.
Even ten minutes of listening to a sample chapter was enough to convince her that Dominic’s original music, with his own voice as narrator, has added depth and nuance to the work, originally published in 1888.
‘Walter’, the pseudonymous author of this 11-volume marathon of sex, is regarded by many as a misogynist and violator of young women. The explicit content, in a journal detailing 40 years of his life, includes dalliances with prostitutes, shop girls and married women, entailing a variety of sexual acts and, in the case of a trip to a Parisian revue, watching a performance of bestiality.
But Dominic, who’s better known for composing the music the family-oriented TV series Ballykissangel, says that he finds the priapic writer and book collector a sympathetic character, not least because he’s honest about his shortcomings.
‘This is flesh and blood and human frailty - someone who’s brave enough to bare his soul to the world’, he explains. ‘He had an unhappy marriage and there are poignant, painful descriptions of how miserable he is at home. A lot of the writing exposes very embarrassing moments.’
However, Dominic has excised one or two controversial scenes, leaving the music to speak in its place. Does he judge Walter for his seduction of a young girl? ‘I’m not in a position to be judgmental, otherwise I couldn’t score the material,’ he says. ‘It’s a gift for a composer to score something so dramatic,’ even if it’s also sometimes shocking.
Although many readers suspect that at least some of the memoir is fantasy, Dominic remains loyal to the writer's declarations of authenticity, and believes he was a sexual obsessive. As for the misogyny, he says the text shows that Walter was ‘hopelessly dependent on women for emotional sustenance.’ He comes across as a lonely character, who always stayed to chat after sex, wanting to find out more about the lives of his brief lovers.
Dominic is creating a different score for every chapter of the memoir, reflecting the different mood of each one. He reckons it will take over ten years to complete all 184. He has just released Volume 3, chapter 1, which details Walter's night-time pegregrinations in the now-destroyed Lowther Arcade on The Strand in London. It can be purchased from his website.
I want a red dress. I want it flimsy and cheap, I want it too tight, I want to wear it until someone tears it off me.