Sunday, February 4, 2018

How My Particular Form of Bricolage in Musicology Came About...

Strangely, it was not a musician who was the primary influence in creating my ways of dealing with the mystery we call Music, in terms intellectual.
My experiences, as a student, with great musical thinkers as Jerome Diamond during my days at Eastman, or John Hasson of Boston University, can never be taken away from me, when it comes to the issues such as interpretation  and instrumental methodology connected with the piano - these men were not only 'second fathers,' but great practitioners,  when it dealt with the confrontational issues germane to performance.
However; when it deals with the ways, as a messenger, of eliciting answers pertaining to the countless issues dealing with this arcane language, I unhesitatingly doff my hat and bow to two historians.
I knew one of these gentlemen; the other, I have never met.
Charles Arthur and I met whenever we could, both socially and between teaching hours.
What caught my attention about him, firstly, was his approach to teaching. He never had notes, never used a text book, always spoke directly to his students. He, of course, constantly spewed forth titles of  great numbers of books to read and articles to digest. In essence, the student would create his own text book from the classes attended.
It was his book (his PHD thesis) on the remaking of the British Navy between 1795 and about 1805 by Admiral St. Vincent, who transformed a corruption-laden group of officers and men into a force which was instrumental in the ultimate defeat of Napoleon.
I was simply overwhelmed in the make-up of process during that decade that Charles Arthur so magnificently assembled, and how the veritably Byzantine nature of that process resulted in such vital  historical realities.
He and I discussed his book many times, and the way his mind worked led me into questioning
my own approach to things historical; primarily, how to deal with a better form of dissection of historical issues.
Then one day, after smilingly expressing discomfort to me by saying, "you know;  you possess more knowledge about things historical than I know about things musical, and it distresses me."
Arthur  then, looking straight into my eyes,  asked "please tell me why Beethoven's music sounds the way it does."
I gaped at him, looking for a way to answer. Nothing further was said.
About a week or two  later, it occurred to me that I should ask him a counter-question, which I did; namely, something like "are you requesting that I look further into The Enlightenment in order  to better understand where Beethoven came from?"
His answer, with a smile, was "bingo."
From that point on, the issue of History has been my companion in the Arts.
The other historian is Mason Drukman.
His book  "Community and Purpose in America" absolutely mesmerized me, pretty much in the same way that Arthur's treatise did.
Drukman's specificity in the issues of such items as Determinism and Individualism, especially in early America, is  without parallel, and it brought me to look further into the elemental dangers and powers still threatening a rather tender young America.
And so; when I think of, say, Chopin -  in a number of his Mazurkas, I think of the Chopin who played hundreds of times in the great homes in and around Paris, but no more than thirty times that we know of in the great public halls - Artur Rubinstein, when playing Chopin, used the 'trick' of choosing a  lady member of the audience  sitting in the first three rows, whenever he first came  on stage  - that young lady, whoever she was, was never made aware that he was playing for her only.
Rubinstein divulged that 'trick' eventually, stating that it was during his playing of the more intimate Chopin - was Rubinstein, in his own mind,  replicating the days of Chopin playing for small groups, or, perhaps, even one person?  To be sure,  certain  Mazurkas are wonderfully personal atmospherically.
Do be assured that my examination of issues surrounding music and/or musicians is not merely  a pursuit of hypothesis -some of the answers I seek are directly attached to a reality concerning real issues germane to the chosen subject.



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