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CLASSICAL  April 2007

CLASSICAL April 2007

Subject:

Re: The Man Who Knew Too Much

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 16 Apr 2007 09:21:41 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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James Tobin responds to me: 

>Force feeding is not a good idea for general audiences.  Maybe for
>trained musicians.

I guess I am looking to create "trained" listeners.

>I am reminded of my piano teacher who insisted on my learning everything
>the hard way and did not seem pleased with my success in playing a
>particular piece (Bizet) which I played well just because I had known
>it intimately by acquaintance since early childhood.

What was your teacher's notion of learning it the hard way?

I wrote...

>>I am reminded of some great music writers that, after hearing a > work
>>once, were able to comment on it intelligently.
>
>This reinforces my point: great music writers...

I believe that it is valuable to try to educate an audience on how to
listen.  For me, there is not only a potential for profound content in
music, but I believe that music has the potential to open one's mind to
profound thinking.

>>It seems to me that we often judge too much by comparison
>
>I am strongly inclined to believe that all judgment is a matter of
>comparison, odious or otherwise.  Without comparisons, what basis for
>judgment have you got?

As I recall, my reference had to do with the way in which a late work
of Rachmaninoff was judged not on how well it was constructed and its
rhetoric on its own terms, versus how it fit in with the stylistic trends
of the time.  One can have "standards" and that one of the standards can
indeed be stylistic, however, my thinking is more Schoebergian in that
I look for the "idea" and that the idea or nucleus of any expression,
and how one stays true to that, is closer to the fundamental standard.
Indeed, that notion itself is comparative, in that I have chosen one set
of values over another.

For me, that leads to the more fundamental questions of having any
objective standard for the evaluation of art.  For me, if there is any
such standard, it is that consistency to the "idea." "To thine own self
be true," might be a good axiom.  Is one self "better" than another...then
the question of comparison is present.  Is one more true to oneself than
another, that is also comparison.  Yet is not an individual's ability
to be true to themselves inherent within them?..."he is doing the best
he can..." How we judge that is comparative based upon our own ability
to understand the "idea" and its manifestations.  Yet, is this not what
we should try to accomplish?  For me, music is our attempt to look for
that fundamental truth and that fundamental truth is unique to each
"idea."

>For me, listening without having advanced information as to the name
>of composer or the performer, might lead listeners to being less passive
>and more involved in the process of the music.
>
>>One would hope so, but I fear that the requirement to do this would
>>more likely result simply in more empty seats at concerts.  It is all
>>performance groups can do to get an audience for unfamiliar music at
>>all.  So much so that some orchestras, to my intense irritation, lose
>>their nerve and advertise only the warhorses on programs, even though
>>some of us attend mainly to hear the works not mentioned.

I can see how it might result in some seats vacated by those who look
for the familiar.  Also, I certainly don't believe that one is likely
to have them filled completely by those seeking the unknown, but some
would come who look for the less familiar.

In this hypothetical situation, of the concert without programs, do you
think the audience might consist of those who listen more actively?

As an aside, I am reminded that many concert notices have the performer
as the focus and the repertoire is listed somewhere in the fine print.
So what might it be like if you had an orchestra concert and didn't
announce who the soloist would be and have that soloist disguised...was
it Memorex or Joyce Hatto?

You mention your interest in less familiar repertoire.  Why is this of
interest to you?

>My early experiences with "music appreciation" tended to make me feel
>both frustrated and stupid, because they stressed nothing but thematic
>development, which is only one element of music, however important to
>some musical styles, particularly the classical style.  The music that
>appealed to me, though, strongly tended to have notable rhythms,
>instrumental color, and interesting harmonies that undoubtedly departed
>from the "rules." Melodies were all very well but they often more easily
>became boring than other elements--and it was all these elements together
>that gave lasting satisfaction.

For me, music on its own terms is simply how one's mind makes connections
to the "idea" of a work.

I also have huge problems for what passes as music "appreciation." I
believe the difficulty comes when translating music into words.  When
we do that, we quantify it, make it a measurable and do the quantification
in a "foreign" language. I think of the thousands of writers who have
tried to capture the essence of music in words.  My thinking refers to
a previous thread I posted; the question, if our thoughts must always
be tied into measurable quantities.  I believe this can be true, but I
wonder if the quantities measured in music cannot be translated into the
measurable quantities produced by words or chord symbols.  Which leads
me to another of my pet peeves, namely, how music has suffered by the
way it is often presented in the University environment.  I am all for
it being there, I just have a problem with the means brought to its
quantification...so it can be evaluated by a measurable which would be
"understood" by the body politic of the University.

Karl

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