Monday, January 3, 2011

CHUTZPAH Unregarded

I see I made it through last week without ever saying anything about a Chutzpah of the Week award.  Clearly, this has nothing to do with chutzpah going on a decline.  Rather, it is simply a matter of a shift in my attention.  Now that has changed policy to allow only explicitly local articles to appear on my SF Classical Music Examiner site, my Channel Manager has been generous enough to set up for me a “national” site, where I can write about matters of more general interest, including performances in cyberspace, recordings, and touring schedules of performers of interest.  This has led to a change in how I read my daily news feeds;  and, as a result, between what I now read and why I read it, I have had to retract by “chutzpah feelers.”

Because I shall continue to try to orient my articles around listening experiences, however, I shall continue to engage in active research over the nature of those experiences and how we communicate them, whether in the domain of listening or performing.  In keeping with the more research-oriented posts I have “rehearsed” on this site, I expect still to regard both performing and listening as behaviors that take place in the social world, which means that the domain of my overall research theme may probably best be called “the social world of music.”  If I ever have “world enough and time,” I may even be able to turn that theme into a book, for which my efforts may emerge as a major part of my “field work.”  This would amount to eating the dog food I cooked up when I took Harvey Sachs to task for being too much of a hagiographer and not enough of an anthropologist in his book The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824.  I summarized the primary ingredient of that dog food as follows:

The problem is that this book is top-heavy with adjectives of adulation and far to sparse when it comes to addressing the "work practices" (to appropriate the terminology of those anthropologists cited in the first paragraph) of a man with considerable musical skills, many of which could be attributed to a rich education and the rest to an equally rich body of "workplace experiences." Obviously, one cannot approach Beethoven as a workplace anthropologist, following him around at work day by day, capturing every activity with a handheld video camera and interviewing him to clarify what one observes; but there is an extensive historical record of documents by Beethoven and by those who worked with him. Sachs has been far to negligent of this record, perhaps because he wanted his book to appeal to a more "popular" readership or perhaps because he did not want to reproduce the scholarship of others. Whatever the reason, when it comes to trying to provide a sense of Beethoven as a "man at work," this book falls far short of what it could have been.

In terms of my current “field work,” I would note only that, in my pieces, I try to approach that sense of the “musician at work” in terms that make sense from the audience side.  I am less interested in “dishing the dirt” on what happens in rehearsals and conservatory studies and more interested in how listening can be informed simply by recognizing that there are “work practices” in performance that may help the mind to find order in the sensory signals coming in through the ear.

Needless to say, the connotation in that last sentence of Friedrich Hayek’s speculative investigations into the nature of “sensory order” was deliberate.  Listening to music engages as much of our faculties of consciousness as does reading a book.  It may even engage more of those faculties because the experience is far more time-dependent.  Thus, I anticipate that I shall continue to explore the nature of those faculties in a broader context on this site, just as I anticipate that I shall continue to engage disciplines such as philosophy and social theory in my general reading practices.  Hopefully, this will make for an interesting and informative journey, even if my aspirations for a book to make sense of it all are never fulfilled.

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