Friday, June 23, 2006

bothered by historicism

I believe that the vast majority of classically trained musicians, or musicians who have an understanding of the music, are required to one degree or another to understand the historical context of the music- without it they couldnt possibly play chopin like chopin or bach like bach. Classically trained musicians, then, are to one degree or another, rooted to the past- they understand that they work with is relatively old material, they have to.

Many musicians have a kind of historical anchor- the music that impassioned them or brought them to the history and to the training. For example, my anchor is in the music of Debussy (and later Ravel). That music was my first love so to speak* and it later brought me to listening to mozart and beethoven and bach, but it was through Debussy that my musical foundations were set. Im sure this is true for many others- and like a moored boat i can never float too far away from my anchor in the material i was trained with. Stravinsky felt the same way and explained it to his critics- he never abandoned his foundations in russian rimsky training, he applied it in new ways and with new musical materials, but his background was still there, sometimes more obscured, sometimes less.

So if this is true, if that a musicians training will stick through disparate styles and that one may find it very difficult simply to uproot themselves from their training, then what value is there in historicism at all? If we as musicians already know that history, if we've explored it and have it as our anchor, why would one sink into a historical** style as a mode of expression? is there a fear of de-valuing the history or disrespecting the music? of defying the artists that we respect so highly? That clearly cant be the case so long as we keep the training in one form or another- it'll always be there. We can even take up that old french tradition of writing homages (i was always partial to this) just to show our respect to that history.

And thats just one argument against historicism ( and not a particularly strong one, either). Im just waiting for the time to write some sprawling thing on my other argument about historical relevance and its continuing importance and blah blah blah. One problem though is that the postmodern argument of "incredulity towards metanarritives and blah blah blah" might be used to prop-up historicism, but only weakly (in my opinion). Maybe i just need to read more lyotard...

... Or maybe I need to just stop being an ass.

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*i knew beethoven and bach and mozart, even shumann and others vaguely at that point through my brother's piano playing, and i liked that music, but it didnt excite my imagination like the Debussy on first hearing.

** i dont CARE how many college professors at harvard and oxford write and say "an historical" thats bullshit by me. In english H is not a vowel, hence the hhhhhhh sound we produce when we say the word (if the h in historical were silent, then by all means, but its not). This tendency appears to be an imitation of French (where h's are often muet), and as an almost soon-t0-be-francophone i find that kind of imitation really, really pathetic.

1 comment:

Guthry Trojan said...

I'm not sure that you've made a 'onest and 'olistic appraisal of this subject!