Thursday, May 19, 2005


We just had a really interesting research seminar about composition process, and creativity, and the various conversations had me thinking so much about my choir work, that I just had to write something down, before I forget completely. There was a lot of talk about listening to and responding to music, particularly about body, or movement responses, which made me think about teaching my own choir African music. When we first started, there was a lot of resistance to movement, particularly from the men in the choir, many of whom claimed they "can't move my mouth and feet at once." It just occured to me that dancing isn't about just moving feet, but that, for now, is beside the point. Lots of people in the seminar today expressed a desire to respond physically to the music. The composer, on the other hand, commented that she had wanted to "force people to listen", and called herself a "sound fascist." When I got my choir moving, as I expected, the music happened much more easily, their faces livened up, and in some ways, the rhythm took on a life of its own. It actually mutated into a nice swing, which I didn't notice untill we tried to practice with a CD.
another thing that came up today, that I guess was to be expected, was the question "why does the public respond badly to contemporary music?", and an expansion of that, "why does the public respond worse to music they don't like than to art they don't like?" On the latter, I have nothing of value to add, but a general observation for me was that at NYC, our 8 bars of 'African Noise' was disquieting in that it's difficult to respond physically or emotionally to something so unbounded. Without the rhythmic drive with which I am familiar, I could neither count the bars, nor make my body move comfortably. And yet, oddly enough, I tend to move more in response to contour and melody in music than to rhythm. I have a problem trying to understand what it is in music that I like, or dislike, mainly because my favourite music is almost exclusively music I associate with particular times and place, or music that I have sung, and therefore associate with the pleasurable act of singing. I'll admit, though with some trepidation, that I like all of the music we sang at NYC, including the pieces I'm obsessing about. When I found a recording of "Rainmaker" on the internet, I got tears in my eyes, and the base melody of "Mbube", which is running through my mind as I type, makes me smile indulgently. Is music all about metatext? I need to ask one of my choristers tonight what it is about renaissance madrigals that he likes so much, and what about other music he dislikes, or is neutral to.

Just completely on the side, I had a revalation the other day, concerning my writing. We were talking about making academic writing 'accessible,' and of course, the trend of the conversation was towards "dumbing down" the writing. That sort of conversation puts me terribly on edge, though, because it feels so patronizing. I got to thinking about why it is that I make this blog public, and continue to do so, despite the absolute lack of public engagement it receives. The thing is, this blog is about leaving an intellectual trail. I will write about Foucault and Butler (and heaven forbid! Adorno) in my final product, and the impression that a standard piece of literature will attempt to create is that I, as 'authority', understand Foucault and Butler (and heaven forbid!! Adorno). But the thing is, I don't. Or at least, I didn't when I started, and I might not when I write my paper. We have this thing in academia, particularly in social science, about leaving a research trail for whoever is unwise enough to attempt a restudy, or simply to alow the reader to make up their own mind, and yet there is an aversion to leaving a 'think trail', a path through the mine-field of intellectual activity over time that informs our thinking. Well, I want my work to be accessible, and complex, and academically sound all at once. So I'm going to attempt, rather that playing at being an authority, or playing at being a 'general public', to take my inteligent reader, academic, public, or otherwise, along my reading trail. And this blog will be my roadmap.

No comments: