Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Enjoying it isn't enough

Betrayal: I do it all the time.

I read books, watch movies, observe paintings, hear music and often I’m moved and impressed. What’s my next step? Not beholden to any Mystical Presence I feel I must – repeat must - honour human achievement since creating stuff is far harder than simply consuming it. Which means if I’m honest and care to do my bit I must broadcast my experiences. A duty for which writers, directors, actors, painters, composers and instrumentalists are entitled to demand my best efforts.

Alas, I tend to betray my heroes - mainly by omission. I say nothing. On rare occasions I do communicate what I know but fail again. Defective technique, defective passion. Very very rarely (ten times in a lifetime) I succeed. This can be exhilarating since I benefit too.

Music’s the hardest. It’s time-dependant and requires a language I only dimly understand. Many people share my dimness. So, is it worth the effort? Yes, it is. Music moves me more than anything else.

Yesterday I was writing as usual. A Haydn string quartet was playing, the one which includes the German national anthem melody in a spare, stately, slow form quite different from that when Sebastian Vettel wins a grand prix. It’s a simple tune and I was able to pick it out on my keyboard in the right key as the Borodin played it. This isn’t usually what music’s about but it was musical and pleased me. The best music seems to fit something in us which we already know, creating harmony between hearer and what is heard. A heavenly state marked by a gentle fizz. I fizzed and went on writing.

Probably another betrayal. But I have to try; in the end other people are what matter.


Anne said...

Well said and true. The best thing about humans is that they care about each other. Acknowledgement of and praise for excellence and beauty in art is a way of caring about other humans.

Lucy said...

I think we should all be readier with our positive responses. My road to blogging hell is paved with intended reviews of books which I never get around to posting, finishing or even writing. I fear I have to much to say but that I lack the critical judgement and acumen and the courage of my convictions to say it, and, like you, I often have a strong sense that I have let down the person who has brought me such joy by their creative act.

Often, in the case of someone so established and dead that they don't really need me to bang the drum for them this probably doesn't matter too much, but I suspect there are perhaps people whom I admire making things that I love now, for whom a forthright word in their praise might make something of a difference, if only to their morale. Yet I don't say it.

Alas. There is no health in me.

Plutarch said...

Do you find music generally a help when you are writing? Does it inspire? Or disturb? Distract or help to develope a train of thought? I am not sure if you have touched on this before?

Barrett Bonden said...

Anne: To put it another way, do we "owe" a debt to those who have touched us. I say yes, that it is proof of a civilised outlook and that caring for others extends beyond simply ensuring they are fed and watered (although these matters must of course come first). Others would disagree; saying that feeling this way is neurotic.

Lucy: I think you are downplaying your judgement, acumen, etc, but even if that were the case mightn't the aim be to at least improve these abilities? There's a sort of religious argument creeping in here, based on intent rather than achievement. To the outside secular world intent means very little, to the person faced with this dilemma intent becomes the first step taken or not taken.

Your second paragraph depends on whether this obligation is seen purely as a debt to the author or as a wider gesture to other "consumers". No drum banging in the first instance, yes to drum banging in the second. There are after all people out there who have never heard of Colm Toíbin.

But thou Oh lord have mercy upon us miserable offenders, Spare thou them that confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent... Just to show I can usually pick up your clues if not your abbreviations. And, just in case you're poking fun at my self-flagellatory tendencies, let me suggest S-F isn't a rue you wear satisfactorily.

The responses to this post have given me a brainwave which not only meets the obligation but will be fun to execute. Serendipity in fact.

Plutarch: How sharp of you to notice that. I was in fact trying out the Haydn since I have a huge amount of music now stored on the computer and I wanted to see if playing it as I correct the novel (a) is or isn't a distraction and (b) whether it helps. The jury is still out on (b) but I have discovered that any kind of vocal music is a no-no.

Lucy said...

I've been meaning to try Com Toibin for a while now. Yours may be all the spur I need to do so. You see, it didn't take much did it?

Julia said...

There is something incredibly satisfying about picking out a tune you're listening to at the same time and in the same key as the recording. It's humming times ten.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Only stuck his name in because he has this crazy accent on one of the is. I enjoyed the one about Henry James.

Julia: First time I've ever tried it. Thrilling. Should have taken note of the key. Wish I'd got space for a Bösendorfer.

Rouchswalwe said...

"gentle fizz" ... oh, I like that! Rings true.