Deep Thoughts for a Shallow Endeavor, or How I Spent My Holiday Vacation

A degree in philosophy is the best training for a position in academia, not because it provides the analytical tools or research skills of a scholar, but because it lends itself to the type of idle thinking best left to a week off during the holidays. This holiday break I reflected on just how selfish this blog is.

The nature, or stereotype, of blogging, is that it is by definition a self-oriented pursuit. Yet Aesthetic, Not Anesthetic was never intended to be a blog about ‘me’ (as one friend and respected blogger puts it, a “blog about eating a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today”). It was intended to be a blog about music. Of course it’s one person’s subjective views on music. It mostly covers music I like, explaining why I like it in an effort to introduce others to that music without browbeating them. If I dislike something, I rarely bring it up, but it’s always by way of reinforcing the second part of the word “distaste.”

Yet why write about music at all, especially music which, when it does get any attention, only appeals to a small group of specialists, scholars, aficionados, and collectors?

There are many other, better music writers out there. That’s not fishing for a compliment; it’s an honest assessment of their education, experience, resources and talent. In fact those are the people who inspire me, people like Ted Gioia, Marc Myers, Ricky Riccardi, Lloyd Schwartz and Michael Steinman, as well as academics such as Charles Rosen and Gunther Schuller, not to mention the performers who promote this repertoire like Vince Giordano, Leslie Kwan, Josh Duffee, Musicians of the Old Post Road and other working musicians who don’t see obscurities but simply hear music.

I don’t have any of these peoples’ training or credentials (though I do verify everything printed here and any mistakes are immediately noted and corrected). There’s also no revenue attached to this blog. I actually have a very rewarding full time job that supports music education and has nothing to do with the music covered on ANA.

So without any advanced credentials, and without making a dime from it, in fact with having to keep it up alongside career, family and continuing education, why do I do it? Do I even have any right to do it? With all of those talented minds out there,  I could easily go home after work and just listen without saying a thing (which many musicians argue is the best path for anyone, including me).

The problem is that I would still be thinking things about the music. For example, why is Sacchini declared an inferior composer in the Grove Dictionary of Music when his beautiful, elegant Oedipe a Colone still fascinates me centuries after he died? Why is unusual instrumentation a sign of creativity in contemporary jazz musicians, yet Louis Armstrong’s Hawaiian guitars and strings written off as shameless novelty? Why does some music make it to the top of the historical heap while so much more languishes in obscurity, even when it’s all worth hearing at least once? Is there anything more to be said about Min Leibrook beyond the personnel listings and faded photographs?

It’s not war in the Middle East or the Kardashians’ grocery list, and no one is forcing me to write about these topics, but somehow it feels like they need to be covered, based on nothing else than an itch in my brain.

Like I said, selfish. More selfish than any blog about grilled cheese.

It’s also vain. Even for full-time writers, there are only so many hours in a day, so I assume responsibility for the Georgians, Woody Walder and George Stafford, as well as Cimarosa and J.B. Bach (the famous Bach’s older cousin). The truth is I’d love to see Downbeat cover the jazzier side of Ted Lewis’ band, or Rinaldo Alessandrini discuss all of Vivaldi’s concertos one at a time. Yet there is a lot of music by living musicians to cover, and more importantly to be played, so in the meantime, and with your patience, these musicians are stuck with me.

Even without formal training (and again without looking for comments to the contrary), I am certain that this music deserves better. Volunteers welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts for a Shallow Endeavor, or How I Spent My Holiday Vacation

  1. jazzlives says:

    You are so selfish and vain. Such a bad person! Why am I wasting my keystrokes on you at all? Excuse me, my grilled cheese is burning. . . . I must go.

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