Saturday, January 21, 2006

BS of the day award

Though the mountains of BS we as a species create each day make it difficult to choose, today this seems like a winner to me:

His work appears on the surface to be something very simple, but at the same time it’s very complex," Wilson said. [editor's note: ugh.] "That’s something that fascinates me in the work of Mozart. Secondly, the body of the work is the light that he creates, the mental light, the mental landscape, and one could say the virtual light. That’s very different from Wagner, Puccini. It’s a special light I associate with the music, with the Requiem, the Magic Flute.


Only an opera person (he says, gingerly) would place Mozart in the context of Wagner, and Puccini, and I must say it is very perceptive of him to notice that the music of Mozart is indeed quite different from either of those two LATE-ROMANTIC COMPOSERS. I'd like to take this moment to perceptively and brilliantly observe that I find the mood of Jane Austen quite different from that of Kafka.

As to the whole mishmosh of "mental light, mental landscape, virtual light": give me a break. I mean I get it, he's putting it in the terms of his art, but some specificity would avert my encroaching nausea. And: "the work is the light," but later "It's a special light I associate with the music." And wandering around in circles like this we could spend days and days learning nothing.

Read the whole article for yourself here; this man has redecorated Mozart's birthplace, and I have to admit, after all that snark, that it looks pretty cool.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone else who recognizes this kind of utter crap! Thanks, Jeremy, I don't feel so alone now.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Let's be honest. Most bloggers peddle "crap". Let's not throw stones lest our glass ouse cracks.
As for "learning" something, do we have to always "learn"? How about feeling for a change.Analysis is useful, even fun but not sacred. So what if Wilson is inarticulate. his work is sometimes brilliant. Denk's playing is brilliant too, so what if the analysis sometimes goes on and on and on and n. I forgive you.

Jeremy Denk said...

Thanks so much for forgiving me, anonymous. I dispute your dualism learning vs. feeling, which are both often overlapping ways of interacting with the world. Also I am sorry you feel my analyses go on and on... A lot of my favorite composers and writers tend to go on and on as well, and I forgive them in the same spirit.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the 'special light' that he associates with BOTH the Requiem and Zauberfloete. I cannot imagine 2 works being in so diametrically opposed and different emotional realms. Singspiel associated WITH Mass for the dead?

Qais Al-Awqati said...

I think you are being a little harsh here Jeremy. Writing about music so that it makes sense to a musician is impossible; I think it was Aristotle who said that music is about itself (I have to find out where this is written, now that I am asserting it by Aristotle). Words after all, belong to a different medium. Similarly, architects, I think work with the visual aspects of the environment and it is not possible for them to describe the effects that buidlings have on people in terms other than architectural; notice how Wilson is as inarticulate about describing what he has done as he was about what Mozart means to him. Yet you thought that what he did was cool, hardly a term full of architectural insight or learning. But we should be grateful for the fact that some aspects of a different medium are accessible to all of us in terms of generation of pleasure; you dont have to be a musician to be moved by Mozart nor do you have to be an archtect to be moved by Wilson. LET A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM, I say!

Jeremy Denk said...

Wow, I thought I went out of my way to be nice to Wilson after my snark and yet clearly people are on my case. Let me put it this way: if somebody was talking about DNA, for example, and I was a biologist and I knew it to be a meaningless statement, I would be perfectly within my rights to point that out in journals, a blog, wherever. But as a musician, I'm supposed to stand idly by while all sorts of nonsense is spoken about music? Because music is "universal," anybody can say anything and I shouldn't get on their case? Qais, I just disagree with you there, I guess... Also I disagree that writing about music so that it makes sense to a musician "is impossible;" I can give lots of examples of writing about music that make total sense to me (Kundera, Testaments Betrayed, Mann Doctor Faustus, Jarrell Pictures from an Institution, Barthes Image/Music/Text, etc.) Therefore: not impossible. Also, my remark "pretty cool": I thought it would have been pretty clearly read as a tossed-off remark, not any kind of justification for an artistic conception (such as Wilson's explanation of his redecoration of Mozart's birthplace)... so to compare what I said to what Wilson said seems a bit of apples and oranges? Anyway I stand by that too: Wilson's work seems "cool" but not necessarily, as far as I can tell from this distance, anything to do with Mozart particularly.

Qais Al-Awqati said...

You are perfectly within your right to say this, and obviously the comment was bs. My point is that you were as I said a little harsh. My point is that to say something intelligent about music requires some kind of formal musical education. In the same way that to say something about DNA that is intelligent requires some kind of scientific education. When I said it is impossible to say something intelligent about music without formal education, you brought in the example of Thomas Mann. He was well versed in music and like all educated people of his generation in Germany had a formal musical education; I had discussed this specific point with his grand daughter who like myself is a cell biologist and she assured me of his deep knowledge of music. I do not have primary information about Jarrell, Kundera et al., but I would be very surprised if they did not have formal musical education too. So we are not really disagreeing about your right to say what you think (after all, why do you think we bother to read what you write); rather, I just thought you were a little harsh. No offense meant, I assure you.

Anonymous said...

It is of no service to the so called "serious" music to be presented as something that needs erudite analysis to be "understood". We all have fallen in love with Art (in general) before it was "explained", historicised(?sp)
dissected until no pleasure was left in it.Agree with qais in his main points. agree with Jeremy that Wilson was BSing. I guess what set me off was the "opera person" jibe. It is possible to like Opera AND appreciate "other music. I have noticed a general lack of appreciation of Opera among chamber musicians or soloists and I know Jeremy appreciates Opera, so his comment came as a surprise to me.
"Salut, Denk, demeure chaste et pur" (Faust)

Anonymous #2

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jeremy. You're being cranky and ungenerous lately. Please go back to the tortured self-absorbed navel-gazing that your regular readers (like me) are so hooked on.

Amy said...

Jeremy, be yourself. That is all you can ask.

Lynn said...

This is why I hesitate to write about music. All I know about it is how I feel. The only way I can write about it is to use metaphors that probably sound silly and to relate music to non-musical things - like light, for instance. If this is the way you feel please don't read my blog.

grace said...

Jeremy, your comment was hilarious and right on the money. Thanks for the great laugh.

MikeZ said...

"Writing about music so that it makes sense to a musician is impossible; ..."

I would say rather that it is unnecessary. Writing about it so that it makes sense to a non-musician may well be impossible; but still, music almost always does speak for itself.

There are certainly things we can explain by writing about them, but can we really expect to explain a rose by writing about it? We can explain form and structure (like sonata, or counterpoint, or I-IV-I, stuff like that), but how many words would it take to really explain the g-minor symphony or the Requiem (for example)?

I wonder if Mr Wilson was thinking about Mozart's "light operas".

Jeremy Denk said...

Unnecessary? I disagree entirely; we place everything we do in contact with language at some point or another and it seems to be a necessary part of our lives... and anyway, there are lot of things out there that are not absolutely necessary but which I would rather not forgo, including art in general.

Anonymous said...

Denk does have a point here. I don't know how many even established and renowned musicians I've met that don't know how to articulate musical ideas in a convincing manner which has at least some semantic connection to the music per se. Perhaps it's that musicians spend their whole lives locked in practice rooms at these conservatories where study of useful things like science or even music theory aren't taken seriously so that they don't develop these analytical skills or learn to distinguish between objective/subjective categories. Or perhaps there are very few musicians today who are deeply musical and have a highly developed musical intuition given the way music is marketed today as some sort of athletic event for prodigies.
My friend who was a grad student of the great Franco Guili told me that Guili said that the musical world was very different 60 years ago, meaning it was actually an intellectual activity as opposed to an athletic one.

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