Robert Peters replies to me:
>I once listening to one of Liszts dreadful organ pieces. It was meant
>to reenact the storm which tossed the boat with the sleeping Jesus and
>the hysterical disciples. Liszt couldnt resist the temptation to show
>the waves by endless organ chords. Again and again and again. Boring
>and pointless. Someone with more economy would have resisted this
>temptation. But Liszt, vain and proud of his virtuosity, did the Hollywood
>thing. Just one example for which I will have to justify again...
Much of this is a far cry from the original claim that Liszt's music is
"vain and self-centred." Pointless, boring, indulgent, unrestrained,
excessive, flashy, flabby, and the like, make sense and convey something
meaningful. They're valid, if controversial, observations, and you might
concieveably persuade another with such views.
Why? Because they're aesthetic, about the anatomy of the music, and not
about its presumed psychology. To defend such views &/or persuade others
one might cite passages, suggest excisions, make comparisons, etc. All
of which is sensible discourse about the music.
But saying that those sounds reveal vanity is quite another thing. For
one, that would suggest one could cite works showing modesty, humility,
self-loathing, etc. But what would these sound like?!
As with vain vs. humble, the same holds for conceited vs. unself-confident.
How about cruel vs. kind, or prudent vs. rash? Blue-eyed, penny-pinching,
generous, even a gay or a woman composer? How does one derive any of
these inferences from the available evidence, which, let's always remember,
is a set of sounds arrayed over time, or musical notes on a page?
One must leap beyond such empirical data and read biography to show
that Lizst was vain and self-centred (or not), that Tchaikovsky was gay,
that Hildegard von Bingen was a woman, that Stravinsky was careful, even
pathological about money. As far as I know, their music doesn't reveal
these traits. How come Liszt's is so transparent about his?
>>Say Furtwangler held that Celso Garrido-Lecca's Cello Concerto struck
>>him as polka-dotted, having the smell of lemons, and had a certain
>>Thursday feel to it. Would you defend his right to his tastes?
>Yes since this sounds so totally dadaistic that I would want to kiss old
>Furtwanglers forehead for such refreshing words.
Refreshing, dadaistic, cute? Yes, maybe.
Sensible, illuminating, instructive about the music, communicative? No.
>But music is the most emotional art, often leaving logic (or the simple
>act of writing down notes in a certain order) behind.
Equivocation again. The experience of music *obviously* ranges beyond
logic: it involves our inner selves, imaginative landscapes, emotions,
your catalogue of rememberances and mine, and other internal phenomena,
most of it maybe can't be articulated. But when we talk to one another
about it, we try to make sense. Once that stops, we cease to communicate.