Tuesday, August 16, 2005

ArtsJournal: PostClassic

ArtsJournal: PostClassic I was hoping to post a comment to Kyle Gann's "Aspiring to the Condition of Music?" No Way at the link above, but as he doesn't appear to have a comments page, I will post my thoughts here instead. Read his post first to understand.

Wits Music School is also part of a relatively (and increasingly) interdisciplinary program that gives us the opportunity to interact with students and academics from other disciplines on a regular basis. Recently (and with great success) a series of seminars open to the whole school of the arts were established, and have provided an incredible seminar for interdisciplinary interaction. Every now and again, a film is shown, or a work discussed, which I and my familiae just don't get. It happens. We converse among ourselves, and move on. More often than not, though, when a seminar with a music emphasis is presented, the other disciplines don't bother to show, or when they do, refrain from commenting, or apologise for their lack of knowledge about music, before commenting. There are occasional forays from other disciplines into ours: scholars with little or no experience writing and speaking about music, who publish papers, or even books, on some aspect of music or music scholarship. And some of them are surprisingly capable. Those who fail do so for lack of academic rigour, rather than lack of prior knowledge. But by and large, non-music scholars, and even some of us trained within the discipline of music, are terrified to engage with music. There is a notion out there that music, and particularly "classical" music, requires a level of expertise in order to be engaged with. And yet, if you ask people in informal settings for comments on music, most will be more than ready with an (often strongly-held) oppinion. By shutting ourselves off from interdisciplinary interactions, we set music up as an inaccessible, unintelligible form of creative production to be only passively consumed by anyone with less than a Phd in music. And we lose out on the potential to understand the way in which our art functions in the real world, among real people. I'm convinced that the reason music has lagged so far behind other disciplines in engaging literary/critical theory, for example, or making use of technology like blogging to facilitate academic dialogue and conversation, is that we are unwilling to make the effort to engage in interdisciplinary interactions that would both demistify our work and potentially offer us new perspectives.
I am not suggesting, of course, that there is no place for expertise within music scholarship; only that we should bring our experts, and their dialogues and discourses, into broader conversations.

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