Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sometimes I sits and thinks, but mostly I just sits.

An interesting piece by Clare (of Boob Pencil) here, all about the supposed dichotomy between popular and literary fiction, and between popular and intellectual culture in general.

I posted a comment on Clare's article to the effect that I don't have a problem with approaching "intellectual" music in a compeletly non-intellectual way. I mean, while I'm perfectly capable of discussing how Holst achieves his orchestral effects in The Planets (and indeed of playing them), when I stick the CD on I just want to turn it up loud and be pinned to the back wall by the raw power of Mars. I enjoy listening to Stimmung by Karlheinz Stockhausen, which might be considered a fairly "difficult" work, just as pure sound. It doesn't have to be either/or: I can enjoy Iron Maiden intellectually and Mozart emotionally.

I suppose the crowds of people who used to faint at Dickens's readings of Nancy's death from Oliver Twist demonstrate that there is a kind of literary equivalent. Not only was what is now seen as "literary" then very much a part of popular culture, but people responded to it in a directly emotional manner.

I'm not saying that there aren't pieces of fiction or music where it really helps to be able to understand how they work. Georges Perec's A Void (with no letter E in the entire volume) is a case in point, or maybe the Berg Violin Concerto. But not many, certainly as far as music goes. It may add to one's enjoyment, but it's rarely essential.

What do other people think?

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