Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Recursive writing

As I started writing up a proposal on blogging in the music theory classroom, the topic altered underneath my words. The focus was no longer on the technical benefits of blogging, but on the reasons to encourage writing about music in the first place. In other words, my critical writing led me to a thesis about critical writing. I believe the title will be "Critical Writing in the Music Theory Classroom: Blogs and Listening Journals," since any good title has to have a colon. Plus the inclusion of "blogs" in the title makes the paper hip and trendy.

In other news, I see that ACD has called for an end to the debate about theater. I didn't really see a debate in the first place, since ACD refused to respond to any points made by others. He claims they ignored his question ("Why should live theater survive as an art form today when film seems better able to do a play justice?") while claiming that any discussion of the relative merits of film and stage are not relevant answers. He falls back on his tried-n-true argument of the "artwork itself," seemingly ignoring the possibility that the realization of a given artwork can define a distinct art form. So why should live theater survive? Because it provides a form of realization that film does not, as George Hunka ably shows. The artwork itself is not just a script, but the way it is realized by the actors, directors, and the technologies of stage or screen. Art forms that are dynamic – drama, music, dance – are inherently collaborative efforts. Someone decides what should be done: the author, composer, or choreographer. Someone else does the actual art: the actor, musician, or dancer. If many performers are involved, another layer of collaboration is added with the director and/or conductor. The two or three sets of artists work together, even across centuries, to produce a given artwork. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is a lovely abstract concept, but the actual artwork is a collaboration between Beethoven and the London Symphony with Pierre Monteux, or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Berenboim, each a separate artwork to be evaluated on its own terms. It can also be a collaboration between Beethoven and myself, as I read through the score and perform the symphony in my head. Beethoven makes suggestions on pitches, rhythms, and timbres, but I decide how fast to replay it, what actual frequencies to imagine, and what the strings and timpani should sound like. As any good theory goes, this one has exceptions that prove the rule. A free improviser is sole creator of a work, deciding and realizing all in one go. A playwright can perform his/her own monologue, though I still would argue that this is a collaboration between different aspects of that person's creative persona.

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