though i try to enjoy my vacation, one thing or another pulls me out of it and makes me confront many of the academic questions posed to me in the cooler times of the year. recently i was (pleasantly) goaded into explaining my own musical convictions: why don’t i talk about the thing i have so openly devoted my life to?
there’s something about the power of verbalization. in that conversation, i realized that there’s a lot about academic music with which i am incredibly unhappy. unfortunately, i don’t think there’s a lot i can do about it. does that mean i have to roll up my sleeves and turn into a riot grrl? i don’t think so because here’s where verbalization comes in:
we have just barely moved out of our academese phase. you know, music is complicated, theoretical, organized, mathematical and not to be enjoyed but understood. we have schools, you know. schools that teach about music and we must fill our textbooks with well laid out plans that are impenetrable by student and teacher alike. i feel like i’m lucky because music has become living again, but just barely. classical music and academic music is the culture of the dead when it should be the culture of the living. it is emotional, social and personal. and as much as i would like to revere the great masters, the form (and those who make it) is flawed.
i understand how hard it is to accept these concepts. there’s nothing i’d like to believe more that the experience i have when listening to music is my gateway to the metaphysical. on a personal level, there’s nothing wrong with that. but as a musician-cum-public servant, i have to remember and acknowledge all of the ways in which my art, my field, my discipline is a part of the world-at-large. music can be the harbinger of very ugly things, it can be inexplicable, problematic and even common. the urge to retreat behind the gilded walls of theory, practice, and history is all too well known. so after the explosion of the early twentieth century we retreated beyond ourselves into the world of secret science and academia. if ever there was a way to make classical music look more elitist than before…that was it.
but now, rebellion! there is a new generation who not only sees but bathes in the irony of academic music. the meta has become ür-meta and many are trying to redefine what we think of theory, musicology and composition. i am pleased and look to be part of this generation. just slightly before me was the awakening and this new group of musicians seemed like they had to move as far away from what came before them as possible and it was a little radical. now maybe there’s a little more comfort and freedom but only time will tell.
so what does this all mean? we’re in a time of turbulence and only by looking ahead will we as musicians really figure out what we’re supposed to be doing. no more looking back – everyone’s dead back there. (except Elliott Carter)