Sunday, September 06, 2009

Music Appreciation For Philistines--No. 1

It has for some months been a secret ambition of mine to launch a separate high-toned music blog under a different, and much suaver identity; however, as I had to confess to myself that a) I know almost nothing about music, and b) I could not expect to post on this other blog more than once every month or so, and c) I cannot convincingly pull off an identity superior to the one it is my fate to bear, that I might as well keep such of these productions as I produce here, where they will anyway be consistent with the character of the rest of the writing.

Having nearly reached middle age without any professional level knowledge or abilities in anything that is of interest to other people, I find myself pretty much excluded from all serious and intelligent conversation with adults. I am not talking even of participating in such conversations--I was never able to do that even when I might have had the opportunity--but just of listening in on them. Professionals however I have noticed prefer increasingly to limit all discourse on their areas of expertise to their fellows of the same fraternity, and this across all fields. It is not merely doctors and lawyers who truck no patience with the eavesdropping of laymen these days, but geologists, actors, English professors and musical people as well have largely adopted this policy. Of this group, however, I have determined, perhaps counter-intuitively given the skill level required to be considered moderately proficient in this area, that the musical people would be the easiest group to infiltrate socially. They seem to be more open to intellectual friendship with people at a more basic level of knowledge in their field of expertise than most the other professions. These can tell right away by your demeanor and general manner of speech whether you are one of them or not, and give unsubtle hints and looks to you that you need to seek other company, but with musicians I find I am usually not exposed until the talk gets technical and someone solicits my opinion on the merits of so-and-so's third movement versus such-and-such's fifth, at this point, it is true, someone will frequently express exasperation. I was at a lunch once at the house of a musical acquaintance of mine one of whose had come all the way from New York with the intent of discussing questions about the fingering on the piano in the Emperor Symphony who found my ignorant presence, however silent, to be frustrating his ability to pursue the subject with the intensity he wanted. Seeing the way things lay--that I was neither going to be able to win him over by any personal charm, nor coax him to relax his tenacity on the subject, I soon excused myself from the room. Still, the camaraderie which these genuine musical people evinced was of a much warmer and pleasanter nature than that which I found among other expert castes, and wanting to be better able to someday imagine myself partaking in similiar high-spirited scenes, I set myself a task to at least write about music once in a while; for writing, like music, is an alternative, and sometimes better, form of raw reality.

As I have not developed the faculty to adequately express myself in purely musical terms however, and do not foresee that I ever will, this will have to be done with me in compositional prose, which is the nearest approximation to music at my disposal. I am going to start on very simple grounds, by taking a single compilation recording--I have chosen The Very Best of Maria Callas, because it is the only music album on my list of recommendations from (selected because I had purchased The Anatomy of Melancholy), and it features a number of the greatest moments and most important composers in the history of opera, as well as one of the most famous singers of the last century--and trying to get at what any of this could possibly ever mean or have to say to someone in my condition, which I still believe should be something. Looking at the reviews and commentary on this single album by real music lovers is to be reminded that I am not even inhabiting the same mental planet as such people. There is evidently no common ground between me and them. It is my modest goal in the course of this project to try to come upon some.

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