I'm a teacher librarian & recently started a community based blog for getting boys to read - http://GettingBoysToRead.com. Please send me a friend request if you'd like to network, share ideas, and learn more about getting boys to read.
I didn’t mention Venuti because I thought the reference might be a little obscure. I’m glad to see that it wouldn’t have been. (I ran across him through his partnership with the guitarist Eddie Lang when I was going through my Django Reinhardt/Charlie Christian early electric guitar phase.) Good stuff! I love the historical stuff, too. Yazoo Records has done an outstanding job of making some great historical recordings available.
As for the musical purists, believe it or not, I can actually sympathize with them. Mortimer Adler does a great job of explaining the difference between “enjoyable beauty” and “admirable beauty” in his book Six Great Ideas, and I think that difference is what we’re addressing here. (I highly recommend this book. It did a lot to shape my critical thinking.) Enjoyable beauty is the stuff that we enjoy not necessarily because of any of its formal properties, but because it just plain appeals to some (sometimes inexplicable) part of us. We just plain enjoy it. It’s subjectively beautiful to us. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say. Admirable beauty is the stuff that deserves our admiration because it’s objectively good. It’s the stuff most of us will agree is truly beautiful. Classical music fits easily in this category while something like Punk doesn’t; some folks might enjoy Punk, but very few of them would actually try to argue that it’s beautiful. (And as much as I rail against the early Punk stuff, I readily admit to enjoying plenty of music that has transformed that original high level of negative energy into something much more positive. It’s all about the intention as far as I’m concerned; it’s about the spirit of the music. Take that, musical purists!) The question that plagues me is whether or not we should adjust our musical tastes as we become more enlightened about what is truly beautiful.
I haven’t had the opportunity to grok for a while. Thanks!
I’m stuck with myself 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m trapped I tell you! Music is one of the best ways to get me to focus on something besides myself; I guess I could say it acts as a kind of ego inhibitor. The last thing I want from music is for it to refer me back to myself. And I wouldn’t confuse my intensity with profundity if I were you. :)
I read something recently that said that reading was one of the best ways to get outside of our self, and that getting outside of our self in the right way helps us to become our truest and best self. I agree with that and feel that music provides us with the same type of opportunity and the same type of benefits; I think it’s a great way to help us move towards a better self.
Unfortunately, it also has the potential for being used as a sort of junk food to replace something of a higher value. There’s nothing wrong with a little snack once in a while, but if our diet consists of more junk food than healthy stuff, that’s a bad sign. And if my musical preferences aren’t becoming healthier, if they remain stagnant, chances are I’m not growing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think musical taste is actually a good indicator of a person’s general frame of mind and development.
How important is music, really? That’s such a great question to consider! I say that if it’s powerful enough to move us towards what’s true and good, it’s worth honoring. If, on the other hand, it’s just an excuse for self indulgence and moves us away from what’s true and good, it’s not worth much at all. I wonder if we’re saying something similar from two different angles.
Tell me about your interest in jazz violin. Is it a Stéphane Grappelli type thing?
I’ll have to check out Mary Oliver. Thanks for the suggestion.
And if you’re interested in natural sound, check out Bernie Krause’s book Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World. The included CD has clips of Krause’s recordings of what he calls our world’s “acoustic ecology” that are a great introduction to his other recorded works (which are definitely worth a listen).
I tend to be pretty even keeled in the mood department, so I hardly ever use music to alter or support my mood. For me one of the greatest attractions of music is that it makes me aware of my connection to the big everything; my response to it helps me to know that I am truly a part of this deep, crazy, profound, beautiful wildness we call reality. I believe music is so powerful that it borders on the sacred and that I should treat it as such. As hokey as it sounds, I believe that it’s something that’s so important that it should be honored rather than junked up and cheapened (especially by those who create it).
I’ll bet that that’s not quite the response you were expecting. :)
And, although I love poetry (big surprise from a guy with a degree in creative writing, right?), I would in no way consider myself a poet.
If you enjoy poetry, I’d suggest you check out Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 by Linda Pastan. She’s my favorite poet. Her poetry is infused with uncommon clarity, and she has a way of making what appears to be mundane utterly luminous.
You should also check out the two wonderful anthologies that Billy Collins edited - Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday. Collins himself is a marvelous poet, so you might want to look into his stuff, too.
My favorite poem of all time is As the Ruin Falls by C.S. Lewis.