Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the poem in the link is just too funny!

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=869

I'm sorry, I just couldn't help but laugh out loud reading this most awesome take-down of an author I'd often heard about but could never understand or appreciate. Maybe it's because I'm some kind of supralapsarian amillenial partial preterist TULIP with an affinity for Anglicans and Lutherans and Pentecostals? Meh, it's bedtime anyway.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

music and writing

I've been not doing a ton of music writing but have been doing a lot of editing, editing, editing. Maybe fifty-five pages last weekend and twenty-one pages this weekend and all to the end of creating work that reads cleanly and neatly and makes sense.

This is the part about being a musician or composer that's least glamorous. There's just nothing cool about combing through every note and every articulation marking and every dynamic marking and every string indication and every stacatto or tenuto marking and every fingering indication for the left hand or the right hand, let alone dastardly ossia segments. But it's the stuff that needs to be done to make the score clear and sensible. One of my professors said to me that the most important thing for an artist is not to be understood but to ensure there is no misunderstanding. If a musician doesn't like my music that should be because the score makes sense, is easy to read, and the musician just doesn't dig it. If a musician doesn't understand what the score asks of him or her then the problem is all mine because they might really like my music if they could only read it clearly.

But it's something I've learned to appreciate not as an end unto itself but as a part of the process. I didn't have any significant formal music training as a kid. I was shown some basics of music and it just seemed silly to me when I was eight years old. I wasn't sure what the deal was with the notational conventions. In fact why public schools in my home town had music education almost seems like some nebulous pre ballot measure 5 Oregon for some reason. Maybe there's more music education out there than I've imagined.

Well, anyway, I have been thinking lately about art and perception lately, particularly after coming across this article:

http://www.slate.com/id/2175311/pagenum/all/#page_start

I think that Tom Wolfe was right to snipe that if he didn't have a theory of seeing he couldn't even see a painting, but Wolfe also didn't understand, perhaps, that he was justifiably making fun of that half of the truth taken too far but failing to grasp that that point was still half of the truth about art. Art is never just about the artist but the connection between the artist and audience. If you have no audience then there's no need to kowtow to them. But if you have no audience then who are you communicating to? God? Cool. Yourself, not quite so cool but still perfectly justifiable. Your husband or wife? Sure.

The old battle of aesthetic schools never goes away because each of them has part of what I consider to be the truth. There is such a thing as beauty that can be measured and defined in the world around us but there is variance, there are too many ways in which the world is ugly and beautiful for us to find one paradigm that exhausts all that beauty.

I suppose what I'm most thinking of when conservative Christians bemoan modernism in the art it's that they're only half right. They don't understand that artistic excellence is not JUST about aesthetic standards but about the cognitive moment of perception itself. Is art something you see out there or something you see from within yourself? It's pretty obviously both. If you don't look at the world around you, both the natural and man-made, and see beauty in that then the problem is not that there is no art around you but that you've done nothing to cultivate a perception of art in your mind.

In this respect it's easy for people to stop thinking like artists because they decide it's all been done, a la Ecclesiastes, and there's nothing new under the sun so stick with what works. That's why being finite and fallible is fun, because it means we can continually discover things WE haven't seen or heard or sensed or thought before. A principle can be expounded and expanded in all kinds of ways. If the old were intrinsically beneath enjoyment and if the old had no promise of new, as yet unexplored possibilities no one would stay married, ever, no one would keep in touch with their kids or parents to keep learning. The old renews itself and the new can meet us with the marks of familiarity.

I don't think we live in a time when the arts are at a loss because of consumerism or lack of aesthetic standard. I don't wish to live at any time earlier than where i am at now. I am grateful the Lord has given me the time and place to be a composer, a musician, even if I'm not in any way making a living at it. I am glad, though, to be able to write my music and blog a bit once in a while and have a sense of appreciation that things may sometimes be difficult or horrifying, even, but that Koholeth was right to say that a living dog is better than a dead lion because the dog is alive. It is better to stop a moment and recognize that all is a puff of air, a breath. Sure, I spent hours editing a bunch of music this weekend but that makes it fun to sit back and just lazily blog about it, too. It will be even more fun if someone likes my music enough to play it, let along record it or publish it. I'll just have to see how that goes.