01. November 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Preface: Oh I am in a odd mood. Must be the change of time … but I’m so glad to have daylight savings time gone and I just wish we’d stick to one time, thank you very much. So excuse this silly ramble. Or skip it. Or something! :-)

I just read in interesting, if somewhat rambling or disjointed, (takes one to know one), in my opinion, article that talks about whether knowing more about a work helps us when listening (or seeing, or reading).

Fitzgerald posed the latest riveting example of a question that has long been central to society and to belief: How much should we know? Whether in terms of national security, our personal health or religion, we can never be sure exactly where to draw the line. We may fear the danger of too much knowledge (especially when it is poorly understood), but we also fear the motives of those who withhold such knowledge.

This has long been true in the arts as well. Do you understand a piece of music better if you know its secrets, or does illumination destroy mystery just as explaining a joke defuses its humor? Might audiences at classical music concerts be more receptive, not less, if they didn’t read program notes? Is there a reason why so many people who profess to believe in the Bible haven’t actually read it?

I’m going to ponder this a while, I think. I like to know about works. But I also love mystery. I honesty don’t think knowing more ruins anything for me with music; it often, in fact, adds to its splendor or wonder or power.

I’ve often wondered about the music of Ives; so many people don’t know they hymns he quoted, and I suspect the folk tunes are dying out too. We sang a lot of the tunes he used when I was in elementary school, but kids don’t have music books like we did. We used to have a music time where we actually opened a book that had songs … notes, music, the whole thing! They don’t have that anymore, or at least my kids didn’t have that when they were in elementary school, although I believe they did a wee bit of music. (AARGH! Now I’m sounding quite old. I hate when I do that! “Back in MY day … when life was perfect and everyone was always happy …”. Sigh.) I also grew up singing hymns (four part harmony, thank you very much. With hymnals. And notes, rather than just words,) so I know most of the hymn quotes, but will listening to his works change as these hymns die out?

But I think people like to be “in the know”.

At Symphony Silicon Valley concerts we have talks prior to the concerts, give by a cellist in our orchestra. A good number of people attend. I went to hear Peter Sellars talk about Dr. Atomic before the San Francisco Opera performance. Opera San José has pre-performance talks as well. Obviously a lot of us want to know more before listening, and this is especially true with new music. I find it very helpful much of the time.

Later the writer also says:

He valued clarity and color but couldn’t help mooning over certain lush chords as nearly all organists do (although not Messiaen).

I was talking to my family about a singer This person has a lovely voice and is quite talented. I am bothered, though, when the singer spends a bit too much time in “voice caressing” … being so busy loving every note, stretching things out so much to embrace each note, that I think the music gets lost. I would rather that the singer sing the line and let me do the embracing I guess. I’m not saying that the person shouldn’t be expressive, and sometimes that does take stretching and “playing around” a bit with things, but it sometimes goes over the top. Still … maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way. Maybe I’m not making any sense at all. Maybe it’s just me. (Since this blog is “just me” I can say these things, yes?)

And now I’ve managed to ramble a good (bad?) bit. Guess the article I linked to got me in the mood. (Although I’m guessing everyone else who reads the linked article will say I am nuts and the article wasn’t rambling at all! Since I admit freely that I am nuts, this is no problem. Hmmm. If a person says she is nuts, can she really be nuts? I wonder. Feel free not to answer that however.)
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