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Subject: 'A Deplorable Misunderstanding'
From: Genevieve Castle Room <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Genevieve Castle Room <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 5 May 2017 00:30:45 -0400

text/plain (46 lines)

I like this comment by Max Paddison. It contains a refreshing approach and
there isn't that touch of arrogance we see in the writings of many
musicologists, and there is the acknowledgment (confession?) of this
esoteric foreign otherness that music at times exhibits.

>I think that the most deplorable misunderstanding that seems to accompany
all systematic and disciplinary attempts to interpret art (and music in
particular) is a failure to grasp that the truly defining feature of all
art is its built-in resistance to interpretation. Pierre Boulez, speaking
as a composer, has said that there is an “impenetrable kernel of darkness” (*un
noyau infracassable de nuit*) at the heart of the activity of composition,
and I suggest that this also characterizes our experience of music as
listeners [....] The most difficult thing to grasp about music (and indeed
about any artwork) is that there always remains something that resists our
attempt to comprehend it fully, if by the word 'm' you mean to discover the
correct answer, or the solution to a problem. We might think we’ve
understood all there is to understand about a piece, especially as
musicologists or philosophers, or indeed even as performers and
interpreters, but if we’re honest, when we turn back to the piece *we
realize with some trepidation that we have not really understood or
explained anything substantial about it at all*. The piece appears before
us as if we had never really heard it before [....] It seems to me that
‘musical understanding’ (as opposed to ‘understanding music’) is a
constantly expanding process through an accumulation of experience (which
is, of course, partly cultural, but also partly an accumulation of personal
experiences). In a very real sense, therefore, we ‘learn’ how to listen to
music as an open-ended and continuing process. If our experience remains
open to change, how can we ever feel that we have fully comprehended a
piece of music?

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