05 January 2007

The Room Gets Smarter...(or not)

I finally got the bug that is going around, so I've been holed up the last few days trying to recover. Out of sheer frustraton, I actually turned on classical public radio, which normally bores me to tears. Alas, they were playing opera. My distaste for opera is so intense that I used to literally leave the opera sections of my music history exams blank and take a B- because I could not bear to study it; BUT, without any frame of reference or even being able to determine the language, I made an educated guess within a couple of minutes that the composer was Puccini. And I was right.

I've done this before. I'd like to brag about it, but I'm really more embarrassed that it has come to this. I am a hardcore music junkie, yet it seems like there is so much out there that it is still difficult to have a conversation with anyone else without being embarrassed at my own lack of knowledge. Depending on who you're talking to, "20th century Classical" might include Puccini, or it might not; "contemporary jazz" might mean Cecil Taylor or it might mean Kenny G. I feel like such an idiot savant most of the time, but that's because you don't hear the music that I do know on the radio at all (or really anywhere, come to think of it). Even among like-minded and thoroughgoing friends and collarborators, our breadth of knowledge does not always overlap.

It's frustrating, but it's reality. Despite the occasional embarrassing moment, I will continue to eschew impressive knowledge in favor of what I deem to beuseful knowledge. In a way, I'm envious of the musicologist types who can talk intelligently about damn near anything, but I think its always more important to consider knowledge as a means to an end rather than an end unto itself (not necessarily saying they are guilty of this). My ignorance of Puccini isn't particularly handicapping to my performing or compositional endeavors; on the other hand, it would be practical that my near total ignorance of Cecil Taylor be addressed sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day, and decisions like this must be made all the time if one is to accomplish anything meaningful in the allotted time.

Although I don't plan on putting forth any more effort than I already have towards mending my relationship wih either the local classical station or opera (other than finally obtaining a DVD of Wozzeck, which holds the most promise on the latter count), I guess there's still a glimmer of hope, for in my invalid half-sleep state, I almost enjoyed listening to Act III of Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West" (purely as abstract sound, of course). Now if they would just play more Ligeti...

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