by carl wilson

Conversants Rather than Inductees

I haven't had time yet to catch up on what seems like a vital discussion (based at but not limited to ArtsJournal) on the present and future of music that's been going on among the web's 'classical' bloggers.

But I was so struck by this excerpt from Alex Ross's part of the debate that I had to post it. What he says (or quotes? the context's a bit unclear) about music as a social activity strikes me as perfectly reflective of what happens in a healthy music scene of any kind, such as the Torontopia scene right now. At the same time, the final remark in it seems to indicate the downside of that art-as-sociality model:

“I think the most beautiful thing about composing now, as opposed to then, is that there is the option to ‘hang out’ in the crazy network of music that is available. Writing music feels like I'm having a conversation or writing an e-mail or making a phone call rather than writing an essay. It has to do with the way people talk with their friends – a little language begins to develop, little nuances and half-truths and leitmotifs. … Wise young composers are eating everything up in their path, devouring all the available musics and building a family made up of Conversants, rather than Inductees....The Future, which I'll define here as representing a movement from Bad Attitude to Good Attitude, operates, like evolution, on the level of the individual, not on the level of the institution. If you see writing as a form of social engagement, you soon realize that it doesn't make any sense to be undiplomatic, ever....”

Surely we want art to be "undiplomatic" - straight shooting, what-the-fuck, not caring about our feelings - a lot of the time. Is Beethoven diplomatic? (A brief pause while I try to figure if I can wedge the tag "Beet-hova" into this post. No, I decide.) Is Coetzee, for instance, diplomatic? No and no and for so many other greats, no again.

I've noticed a lot of rumblings locally about the pressure to play too nice. It's one thing to be supportive, another to slacken all standards and accept whatever yourself and your friends do as great because it's been done by yourself and your friends. Sometimes this objection codes as "I want to act like an asshole because it makes me free [ie. secretly powerful]," but on other occasions the conversation leads toward, "What can we do to challenge ourselves further, and how can the existence of this network become a resource for better art?" There are some specific ideas floating around about that, and I'll report on them when they develop.

Nevertheless I think that jazz-like notion of art as contribution to a conversation is busting out all over - the blogosphere, sampling, etc. - and constitutes a massive step forward from modernist anomie, which still traps and mires so many artists here... in... jun... gle... land.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 05 at 5:27 PM | Linking Posts




Zoilus by Carl Wilson