Sunday, November 26, 2006

poets vs. musicians

Many of you are painfully aware that I am a music composer. Since I hate most musicians, I call my works "noise concertos".

Musicians have never liked me. I violate all their prissy little rules, I upset their theories, I delight in taboo knob-twiddling. "Don't touch that dial," they shriek with shrill, girlish hysteria, as I spin away and turn the music world upside down.

When I go to classical music concerts, I leave after the tuning up of instruments, which to me is the only music that is made during such events. I have a whole slew of clever remarks designed to disconcert the musicianoids. They worry so much about "what is music?", "who is the King of Music?", "how can I protect my music?", and "playing in key", and all those other silly notions. No wonder all rock, rap, classical, techno, etc. music sounds exactly the same and remains frozen in a form for centuries.

One of my favorite poets has recently expressed an even more profound view.

From "Interview with Bill Knott" at BookSlut.


Does rock music interest you at all? If so, what kinds, bands, etc? If not, what music do you listen to?

I don't like music; I try to listen to as little of it as possible.

Anybody who reads poetry can see the ubiquitous self-doubts poets evince regarding the validity/value of their art.

Compare that to the eternally smug self-satisfied attitudes exhibited by the advocates and practitioners of music. They take it for granted that music is the highest art, the universal art, the only art that transcends all borders and babels. They never question that given assumption.

The arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable. They really believe Pater's dictum that all the other arts are inferior, that all the other arts "aspire towards the condition of music."

But every military that ever marched out to murder rape and destroy was led by what art: were those armies fronted by poets extemporizing verse -- by sculptors squeezing clay -- by painters wielding brushes -- actors posing soliloquies? No, the art that led those killers forth, the art whose urgent strident rhythms stirred and spurred their corresponding bloodlust, was the art to which they felt closest, the art that mirrored their evil egos.

That's why they have always put music up there at the vanguard of their war-ranks, because not only is it the emblem, the fore-thrust insignia of their purpose, it is their purpose: it is the condition to which they aspire.


Make your mind smarter. Improve your vocabulary. Buy and read a book of poetry today. Try John Ashbery, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Arthur Rimbaud, Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, John Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, James Tate, e.e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, Paul Valery, Rilke, Shelley, Milton, Blake, or Allen Ginsberg.

"Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken!
What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

No, at noonday in the bustle of man's work-time
Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
'Strive and thrive!', cry, 'Speed--fight on, fare ever
There as here!' "

--Robert Browning, from: Epilogue to Asolando


Humour and last laugh said...

The opening sentence of this blog is ironical and humourous.

steven edward streight said...

Yeah, I keep thinking about that "painfully aware" phrase and laughing, but it's considered bad form to laugh at one's own jokes, a sin many standup comics commit.

I owe you some reciprocal comments. Sorry I haven't dropped by your blog in a while.