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June 03, 2006

Music theory

Singing in the UMS Choral Union has exposed this island boi to some great classical music. On my mind lately, after hearing how composers (all men..not sure why ladies), real people like me and you, except for being geniuses, created works of art in times of great difficulty. Shostakovich used to wait out on the balcony of his apartment every night, so if that night he was arrested by the Russion Gestapo, at least his family would not have to be disturbed. Beethoven was deaf when he was composing his 9th Symphony (right?). Aside from these crazy circumstances, how do these composers know to have the 2nd and 3rd violinists pluck just so, and the basses come in when the harps have completed their 4th "twing"??? How could they create, in such fine and beautiful detail a composition that would speak to millions across time and space?? In my estimation, it takes a mind suited for that purpose as well as full of persistence and heed towards the task at hand. Indeed, the task would not be a "task"...it is a craft. When we start to speak of craft and art, we enter the realm where work and the man become one. Art is expression and representation. Representation is not just saying something, but also being that something.

This is also the case with theory and academe (at least as far as my limited experience has allowed me to see). Theorists compose, except their works of art are not media to be experienced physically. Yet, like all art, their products are felt, and represent some aspect of the human experience. The rigors of academia demand that we as scholars not only do our best to represent and explain the world in the present, but do so making reference to those who have come before us and what their work tells us about the world. We are challenged to pull together in a sort of bricolage the ideas and findings of those who have spent the time, energy and care to think, create and test- it is the purposeful bending of the will to this effort that defines us as scholars. Like musical composers we care about what goes into our products and what comes out- is it elegant? does it explain what it says it explains? is it general enough to explain several variations of the particular? finally, do people get it??? Yes, I think the best scholars, like the best composers, care if people "get it" (hence my apologies for my crazy "Civil War" posting- it was somewhat disrespectful of the sensibilities of the reader). I've realised I enjoy the composing, but struggle to return to the product, agonizing over whether its train of thought is actually logical and if the poor reader unfortunate enough to come upon my writing can come away with some insight they did not have before. Bold as it may sound, I do hope that our work evokes some sense of wonder or excitement...write now I'm just shooting for general interest and mild bemusement.

Posted by jpsteph at June 3, 2006 05:14 PM

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