Thursday, October 14, 2010
Musicspeak: Bach and Iron Maiden, part IIc
The original post of this series segued from a discussion of one person's definition of art music to whether the definition worked for fiction.
The second post examined the assumptions and provided examples of how labels might be useful.
In the third post, I asked for your responses to different genres.
In this, the last post of the series, I am revisiting the question of whether the definition given by John Steinmetz to art music--art music is the type of music that rewards knowledge, experience, and attention. (again, paraphrase mine)--works for fiction.
I don't think it works as well.
The reason is that the language of music is not something we use regularly. I don't argue with my husband in arias. I don't play the piano to my friends over the phone to invite them over
for dinner. (Hmm, but doesn't that sound like a cool premise for a story?)
But English is something I use all the time. I do argue with my husband in English, and I do invite people to come to dinner by speaking English. People, with the exception of musical geniuses, have a stronger grasp of their primary language than they do the language of music. Therefore it is easier to read books that carry deep messages than it is to comprehend musical compositions that do the same thing.
I've read books that are easy to read that have touched me deeply. I have read many that rewarded me only after many hours of mindful reading. Then there are those books that are easy to read and easy to forget, as well as those that are difficult to read but offer no reward. This is probably true of most readers' experiences.
I will say, however, a large majority of the books that made me work hard have been worth the time and effort.
I suspect that this is the case with me because the "difficult" books that I didn't give up on had something that drew me in, even when I preferred to be lazy and give up on them. With whatever little bit that I'd read, I became aware of something deeper, something worthwhile; and I became convinced that a more engaged reading would allow me discover it. And so I was willing to pay my dues. By reading with a great deal more attention, these experiences became much richer.
Some books don't require much attention at all, and not being a brain scientist (Livia, if you are reading this, I'd love to hear you chime in) I can't say if this type of fast, almost skimming type of reading, in fact, doesn't engage as much of the brain, and therefore can leave only minimal impact.
Now before you start protesting, I want to state here that I am fully aware that some writing is smooth and is easy to read because of the skill and talent of the authors. I am *not* making a stand that says all difficult books are good and all easy books are fluff.
Anyway, I am approaching brain-fatigue point for this discussion. I hope you aren't. But if you are, I'd like to make it up to you by sharing these clips of music.
This first one is an example of how musical groups previously considered unrelated can in fact, share a lot of commonality: (Thanks, John, for sharing this link.)
Vivaldi and At Vance
If you've taken piano lessons, you may have played this piece, but I'll bet you've not heard it performed like this:
CPE Bach's Solfegietto
A classically trained violinist and a metal guitarist exhibiting high levels of technique:
Violinist and metal guitarist