21 December 2012

Keep Digging

It's winter break and I've spent substantial portions of the last 5 afternoons in the library doing research for an upcoming writing project. The library is of little use for most of what's required of me here and I haven't spent nearly as much time there as I thought I might when I arrived. Perhaps that's part of why I've enjoyed it so much this week, but I don't think that's the only reason. Academics are in my blood by both nature and nurture, but research didn't take: there were no more dreaded words the first twenty or so years of my life than "primary source," and most all my memories of libraries from that stretch of time are veritably traumatic ones, of long bus rides downtown, freezing weather, complete exhaustion, of navigating the minefields of library cataloging, lost books, borrowing privileges, and most of all an utter lack of interest in the topic I'd been assigned and a failure to understand why it was so important to suffer through all of this year after year.

By the time I was 22, I was devouring Schoenberg's Style and Idea between security patrols and had begun to aspire to something as a writer of words as well as notes, but I still found research per se difficult (and usually fruitless). Perhaps it was ambition which got me over the hump, a realization that knowledge really is power, even (especially?) within the rarefied confines of art music culture; actually, I think I was always smart, always curious, and most certainly ambitious from the start, but that school simply crushed my soul. That's the only explanation I could muster today as I sat before one of those bland library computers hurriedly scrawling notes on Liszt, a composer I simply revile but whose career bears heavily on the project at hand. It was both a physical sensation and type of subject matter which I unmistakably associate with the aimless torture of high school research papers, but somehow made not only tolerable but downright invigorating by its relevance to what I've decided to do with my life. The only downer here is the resentment I've developed towards The System in the form of my former schoolteachers, who surely operated under the assumption that they were both awakening these impulses in me and preparing me to make good on them. I'm afraid that by no real fault of their own it was quite opposite, and I've carried no small amount of regret with me since I realized this was the case.


Anonymous said...

Why do you revile Liszt?

Stefan Kac said...

Too saccharine, too extramusically inclined, and a careerist to boot.

Was that the right answer?