A Glass of Chianti

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I've referenced it a few times

I wrote a post for this place that quickly turned into an essay. It concerns a certain composition for a chamber group (Oliver Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time) to which I was introduced sometime in my first year in college. My clarinet professor thought that I'd probably appreciate the story (short version here) that was behind the composition of the piece and the fact that Messiaen was an unapologetic Catholic artist. He was right. I did, indeed find the story surrounding the composition of this piece to be incredibly inspirational and I think about it often when I'm trying to explain what it is that music does with the soul. I also have grown very fond of stories about the composer and greatly admire his faith and his life. I'm not able to, however, admire the piece. I can't grasp it. I get what it's trying to say. I completely want it to say it, but I feel like I'm having to fill in the gaps to get it to say what it's supposed to be saying. It just doesn't work for me, even though I'm sympathetic.

In any case, the essay is moderately long, uses some technical descriptions and assumes a familiarity (though not a close familiarity, by any means) which makes it a bad fit for this medium. I don't have a ton of readers, and the readers I do (with a notable couple of exceptions) aren't musicians. It's been a struggle for me to balance what I'm wanting to say with the vocabulary I have and what I can explain without derailing the piece. So, the essay is a success, but not a public one. It has, however, raised a couple of issues that I will use as fodder for posting until Wednesday. The first is the easiest one to address in a short manner: Does knowing the story (or, in some cases, politics) of an artist change my evaluation of a work?

The answer for me: Incredibly rarely and under specific circumstances.

A post on that issue comes Tuesday afternoon-ish.
A post concerning the greatness of an artist vs.(?) his body of work will come on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday there will be a final entry in this series.

Music posts with the intended audience of non-musicians is the order of the week, but it's really not limited to music, and the audience isn't limited to non-musicians. I think it will be fun. Really.