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 o
f 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


Samantha Vérant said...

Just like music books have to suit your mood. Sometimes you want a quick read. Sometimes you want to be transported. Sometimes you want to learn.

lotusgirl said...

Cool samples. I played Solfegietto in high school. This version was fun. I agree with Samantha. Our reading suits our mood.

C. N. Nevets said...

I'm pondering pretty closely, Yat-Yee. I feel like there's something I want to say, but I can't quite get my head around it.

It sort of feels like Rhapsody in Blue or Brandford Marsalis' version of Crepuscule with Nellie, though.

Yat-Yee said...

Samantha: Welcome to my blog! And yes, mood definitely plays into our choices.

Lotusgirl: I knew there would be at least one pianist who would remember it! It's a wonderful piece, and I only wish my students could have played with the same technical competence and vibrant energy.

Nevets: What feels like Rhapsody is Blue? Your pondering? I hope you come back to put your thoughts down. I know that feeling of wanting to say something but the thoughts are still in the oven, baking.

C. N. Nevets said...

I'm not entirely sure, but I think this is what I'm trying to think of. (Surely you fellow artists can appreciate the experience of trying to think of what you're trying to think of.)

I think it comes down to what element you're considering to be language. It seems natural to say that the language of writing is English (or the language in which it is written). That seems almost obvious.

However, I'm not sure that's the language of literature, or craft writing, or verbal art or however you prefer to think of writing that is more than utilitarian.

I think the language of literature is structure, form, and symbolism. It is idiom and reference and implication. It is the meaning behind, beneath, and beyond the words that is the true language of literature.

Yes, this is inseparable from the linguistic expression, just as the language of music is not really notes and rests -- but that makes them tied, not inseparable.

I think it's at this higher level of language that one encounters art writing, just as art music.