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Subject: Re: 'An Element of Falsity'
From: donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 2 Mar 2017 11:44:58 -0500

text/plain (137 lines)

The first music appreciation "classes" I can recall from about the seventh
were not a required part of the curriculum, were not graded, and were
inflicted upon a captive audience of pre-teens who, most of them, would
just as soon be
having their teeth drilled.   In those far off days, a list of "Music
Memory" selections  with a supply of corresponding 78 rpm records was
distributed to
N Y City elementary schools where they could be used, or not, in whatever
the teaching staff saw fit to do. Among those discs were prominent
selections from the works of Wagner, Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Gounod.  Thus
did a very few, like me, not only hear brief "classics" for the first time,
but fell for the sound of them: an epiphany I think  it's called.   So I
must agree with your dismissal of those three self serving musicologists.
If, according to one of them, Nigel Farage is the Nicholas Cook of
musicology; maybe we want to read more Nicholas Cook.

Back to your "greatest Composer" posting: I still ponder the hypothesis
that the title might reasonably be bestowed on Schubert, if only on the
grounds of what he had composed before his untimely death.

"Music hath here entombed a rich possession, but ever fairer hopes".


On Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 2:17 AM, Genevieve Castle Room <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I would agree with pretty much everything in this segment from Nicholas
> Cook's book 'Music, Imagination & Culture'. I hadn't thought much about the
> point that it is also possible to play music without understanding it, so
> that is an interesting angle to consider.... At the bottom there are
> 'angry' responses from three anonymous musicologists which reminded me how
> members of that profession have a built-in need to rally for the importance
> of what they do within the academic system so that they can survive within
> it.
> ====Begin====
> >I have tried to suggest some reasons for being suspicious of the whole
> concept of 'music appreciation' as a matter of principle. And in practice
> there is little hard evidence that programmed instruction in music leads to
> an enhanced enjoyment of it, over and above the undoubted effects of
> repeated hearings. (I am not, of course, denying that people may derive
> lasting pleasure from their exposure to music as a result of music
> appreciation classes; what I am questioning is the role of the instruction
> that is offered in them.) For every empirical study that seems to show a
> clear positive effect of instruction upon aesthetic enjoyment, it is
> possible to cite one that suggests that it has little or no effect. Indeed,
> there are indications that instruction can actually have a negative
> effect [....] There is also an element of falsity in the relationship
> between the musician and the general public. For, as Bruno Nettl says, 'The
> fruits of music, like science, are enjoyed daily by practically all of the
> population, but the academic musical establishment has made the lay public
> feel that without understanding the technicalities of musical construction,
> without knowledge of notation and theory, one cannot properly comprehend or
> deal with music.'
> >Even the musician, however, might begin to wonder what it means properly
> to comprehend or deal with music when he reads Leonard B. Meyer's statement
> that 'neither memorization nor performance necessarily entail
> understanding. It is possible to read, memorize and perform music that one
> DOES NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND.' One wants to add: and to compose, listen to,
> and write about too!..... For, with these additions, Meyer's statement
> takes on a new meaning. Music is, as John Blacking says, 'too deeply
> concerned with human feelings and experiences in society for it to be
> subject to arbitrary rules, like the rules of a game'; that is why symbols
> and images of music can never fully embody the coherence and quiddity of a
> piece of music.
> ====End====
> >FIRST MUSICOLOGIST: What depressing waffle!! We can indeed react to music
> somatically (with our body), but a greater involvement, as Bertrand Russell
> would have said, involves both sensibility and learning. I endorse that:
> the trio of Mind-Body-Spirit is indestructible, music needs patience and
> attention. Nicholas Cook is, alas, the Nigel Farage (=Donald Trump) of
> musicology, the populist who enters the system mainly to argue against it.
> I haven't read this book, and given the flaccidity of style, will go out of
> my way to avoid it!
> >SECOND MUSICOLOGIST: As far as I'm concerned, Nicholas Cook is a nutcase.
> My experience suggests the opposite. Only idiots teach "appreciation." We
> as musicologists are teaching about major artworks and there are many
> levels on which "instruction" can enhance the experience. To say otherwise
> is hogwash!
> >THIRD MUSICOLOGIST: So my nigh on forty years of teaching music -- and the
> countless talks I have given to continuing-education classes, community
> groups, etc., etc. -- have been a total waste of time? Ah well.... Nicholas
> Cook is a postmodern iconoclast: he also takes a fat salary from the
> University of Cambridge for a job he evidently doesn't believe in.... Bruno
> Nettl is an ethnomusicologist who thinks that "World Music" is the best
> thing since sliced bread, while anyone studying the Western art-music canon
> is by definition an elitist pig.... John Blacking is another
> ethnomusicologist with the same prejudices. He may be right: to take the
> obvious analogy, I don't need to understand basketball to gain some
> pleasure from watching Duke play Indiana. But those who do understand the
> game with all its nuances no doubt have a much better time of it. As for
> me, I'm quite happy spending my life trying to understand the rules of a
> composer's game, which are not at all arbitrary. And yes, I can even teach
> most of those rules to a "general public."
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