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It's All About that Bach

Music.  Have I discussed in the past this unshakeable feeling I have regarding both writing words and music, that I am attempting to do these things at a distance, but not actually doing them?  As though observing a war going on in the trenches safely from a helicopter?  By thinking about them in such a remote and consciously intellectual way, that I am kept from doing them in a pure way?  That, to trot out Hamlet, everything I do feels to be "sicklied o'r with the pale cast of thought" to the point that what should be revealed is hopelessly obscured?  Imagine, if you will, a color camera with a permanent yellow filter over the lens, or, someone who merely wishes to squeal with joy but instead produces several pages of Eco-like prose in their heads while rejecting the effort it would take to write it all down.  Or someone who believes art is like a rabid dog to be poked cautiously with a stick and then run from in terror.

Music. Listening to music without analysis comes close to describing how I think creation ought to feel. But it doesn't. There is a palpable physical activity in creation.  It is no secret to me that I prefer to be passive rather than active and that the act of creation takes me out of my comfort zone.  But music reaches up to me from below and beguiles me, cajoles, tempts me to engage.  And if I do engage, it teases, hides, is gone.  Music for me is the mystical voice that rides above the line-- the flying, broken, melodies that leap out of Chopin, or moments in the Ravel Quartet in F that defy my ability to find them in the notations.  Music analysis is not entirely useless, but it seems also that it falls short of finding the true music, and at best merely describes the conditions under which the music occurs.  True, with analysis I can learn to hear different things in the music, but I fear that adept knowledge might indeed damage the naive appreciation I had and make it impossible to find that ever again.  But my train of thought suggests to me that fearing such an outcome might be unfounded. I am certain that music contains aural illusions the same way that visual material creates optical illusions.  Knowing how to construct the illusion does not help one understand the experience of the illusion.  The experience of the illusion is more tied to the unknown hard-wiring of the brain and is inscrutible.  But that part is the true music to me.   So, perhaps I can live to a grand old age trying to ferret out what is happening in my brain when I listen to a Bach fugue, while gratefully failing to do so.  In the meantime I will have all the fun of trying.

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Cydonia photo: ESA

This is the journal of David Ross
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