Enrique Vila-Matas at Music and Literature:
I have come to talk to you about the future. The future of the novel, I suppose, though possibly just the future of this speech. I’m going to describe to you the future as for years I imagined it would be. Put yourselves in 1948, the year I was born, on the August afternoon when music stations in Maryland began to play the sounds of a strange, all but noiseless disc, soon spreading all along the East Coast, leaving a trail of perplexity in anyone who happened to hear them. What was it? Nothing of the kind had ever been heard before, so it still didn’t have a name, but it was—we now know—the first Rock n’ Roll song in history. Whoever heard it was suddenly pitched into the future. The music of that disc seemed to come from the ether and to literally float on the airwaves of Maryland. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the arrival of Rock n’ Roll, and it came with the deep unhurriedness of that which is truly unexpected. The song was called It’s Too Soon to Know, and it was the first recording by The Orioles, five musicians from Baltimore. It sounded strange—which isn’t so strange, bearing in mind that it was the first sign that something was changing.
What thoughts might have crossed the mind of the first person who, hearing Radio Maryland that morning, comprehended that it was the start of a new era? It’s so, went the song, in the halting whispered delivery of singer Sonny Til, it’s too soon, way too soon to know.
I have come to talk to you about the future, which was for years something I thought of as arriving in the same way that Rock music arrived in the year I was born, with the deep unhurriedness of that which is truly unexpected.