Oh No He Didn't

After a beautifully written piece on Elliott Carter at Tanglewood, Jeremy Eichler of the Boston Globe takes the usual low road by painting Elliott as a difficult, senile centenarian.

When Carter took his bows from the stage, aided only by a cane, he was beaming.

"These pieces of music," he said in a public interview, "if they spoke English instead of notes, they would be very grateful."

I mean, he could have omitted it. Instead, there it is in plain view for everyone to see. Because, as we all know, pieces can’t speak—they’re just black dots, after all. Sheesh.

You should read the article.

And a happy three-hundredth post to us!


[Edit 8/8/8]

I neglected to mention Soho the Dog's awesome eight-part series, Magna Carter, on the same very subject. In fact, it came first. And it's better. Well, it's more in depth and not all "I wrote this for the Globe and I have glasses so it must be good and there are a lot of big words in it. So there." You should check out Magna Carter. Good job Matthew.


Sator Arepo said...

I dunno, E. It was really a great piece that celebrated the possibility of modernity *finally* entering the canon, or at least public consciousness.

I understand your sentiment, but I don't think it was intended to undermine his wider argument.

Not that I don't get you. Or Eichler (whom we like). Anyway. Just chimin' in.

And I promise to post something, soon.

Empiricus said...

No dude, one-hundred percent sarcasm. I just wanted people to check out the awesome article. Beep.

Sator Arepo said...

Ah, In that case, you got me. Checking irony meter in 3...2..1..

David Ocker said...

You wrote "Because, as we all know, pieces can’t speak—they’re just black dots, after all. Sheesh."

"Sheesh" means you said that tongue-in-cheek, right? But I'm not completely sure that what you meant - so I'm here to say that music is NOT black dots - or dots of any color.

Music is ... you know this ... vibrating air, preferably vibrating air with perceptible organization (although there have been composers who seem to go with only vibrating air).

There's nothing wrong with music created or propagated by means of black dots. Dots are a valuable tool for people who perform and study music. The trade of putting those dots where they belong is how I make my living. But dots are only a means to an end - like a blueprint is to a building - not an art form themselves. Don't forget all the wonderful music which requires no dots at all.

And (in my opinion) pieces of music DO speak; they speak to people who care to listen - especially to those familiar with the musical vocabulary and syntax.

End of rant, he said, disappearing into a wormhole of the network .....

Sator Arepo said...


1) "Poof, you're a pimp" amused me greatly.

2) I think it was tongue-in-cheek...

3) The degree to which a piece of music speaks depends entirely on the listener (as well as the music of course). The Goldberg Variations (+1 billion on the ABBA scale, apparently) mean little to a farmer from Bali, no?

4) Greetings and thanks for comments.


Anonymous said...

In honor of your 300th post I wrote you guys a poem:

Where have we
Ended up after years of
Even the small child
Runs but knows
Not where she goes.

Was there ever
A time when actions
Sought the balance between

Armistice and genocide?

Nine and a half hours
At the petting
Zoo is all
I can stand.

Empiricus said...

You're right docker, it was tongue-in-cheek. I was just trying to problematize Eichler's article, which of course I was unable to do (your rant did a good job of explaining that). So instead of defending statement, I urge people to read the article. It's super good.

And if anyone hasn't already done so, go check out Soho the Dog's (aka Matthew Guerrieri) eight-part series, Magna Carter, on the same subject. They actually came before Eichler's Globe piece and are more fun/informative (blog format and all)

David Ocker said...

Tell me more about this farmer from Bali -

Has he ever watched Silence of the Lambs (which features a bit of Goldberg)?

Does he listen to the Proms broadcasts on the BBC?

Has he ever danced to the Tielman brothers?

He might know more about Western music than we assume. (When I want to talk about someone with no musical background to draw from I usually refer to "people from Mars" - but by now they probably get the BBC there too - over the Internet.)

Sator Arepo said...

Thanks for the poem, anon. Good work. Petting zoos can indeed be tiresome.