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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Music Notes

Doing a major scholarly project on music allows me to use parts of the "scholarly base" that I didn't even know I had. Those 7,000 "songs" on computer, for one thing. (Or 7,000 things). I put that in scare quotes because a song might be a movement of a string quarter or a symphony. All the thinking about music I've ever done my whole life. Instead of viewing my lack of musicological expertise as a great obstacle, I'm now seeing that letting this limited expertise into my scholarship on Lorca is like opening up a floodgate.  Other clichés that come to mind are "pay dirt" and "the mother lode."  There is nothing like tapping into something that profound. And instead of being a pure ego thing (though the ego is there too), it is more like knowing that my life is not wasted by listening and thinking through music. It is a profound connection. I think I needed to start playing and composing to really get there, that listening alone was not enough. Or listening with the score in hand.

I'm playing sections of an extended series of compositions called "Música callada" by the Catalan composer Federico Mompou, an homage to San Juan de la Cruz. It is very beautiful, and the access to that through one's own fingers provides a different kind of understanding, even though my piano playing is worse than mediocre. Just getting to an 80% tolerable version of a very simple piece is tremendously satisfying. As is singing the "Tres morillas de Jaén."

I cannot use my own taste as a guide for a scholarly project like this.  I am just one guy and the amount of musical intelligence and feeling in all the music dedicated to Lorca is enormous. Charles Rosen, reviewing Taruskin, says something like: he writes better about the music he loves.  Well, yes, there is that. I also don't need to denigrate anything, or privilege one kind of musical understanding over another. I'm not in it for some culture wars pay-off.    

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