Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

Yesterday, after finishing the day's Hume post, I spent several very pleasant hours watching [on my computer, courtesy of Netflix] a 2009 documentary about the life and music of Beethoven. I actually knew very little of the details of Beethoven's life, which were instructive, but it was the music that captivated me. There were extended close-ups of a variety of very accomplished pianists, violinists, cellists, and singers performing extended selections from the entire corpus of Beethoven's work [and also some enchanting moments with Emmanuel Ax at the piano discussing Beethoven's technique and innovations.]

As an amateur violist, I am keenly aware of the simply enormous amount of intense, focused work that is required to achieve a technique sufficient even to raise questions of musical interpretation. A first-rate concert performer does things on a daily basis that are so much harder than anything I have ever done, so much more impressive than anything that a political commentator does, that I am in a condition of perpetual awe and admiration for the men and women who have mastered a classical instrument. The nonsense that one hears on American Idol or at a Rock concert pales into insignificance.

Becoming a Yo-Yo Ma is undoubtedly not open to all of us, but becoming an accomplished professional musician pretty much is, if one is willing to spend six, eight, or ten hours a day for years practicing. Writing a doctoral dissertation is child's play by comparison.

Since moving to Chapel Hill, I have stopped playing. I could not find people to play string quartets with, and simply practicing each day seemed pointless. But there was a time, several years ago, when I could do a creditable job of the viola part in a Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven quartet. It took me eight years of steady practice and lessons to reach that point [only an hour a day of practice, a mere warm up for a real musician], and I imagine that by now those skills have atrophied. But I did it, and for a while, I really was, in some manner or other, a musician. Writing books is a lot easier, trust me.

7 comments:

Eggs Maledict said...

It seems a little strange to just write off 'rock' musicians like that, given that many of them are also classically trained and spend an equivalent amount of time practising in order to master their skill. A great pianist can do amazing things, but then so can a great guitarist (who, additionally, is writing their own music, which is a further skill that has to be honed).

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Yeah, I know. Just write it off to an old guy's prejudices. As my son, Patrick, the chess grandmaster, said to me when he was a teenager, "Dad, you have to respect a person's music." I should have listened to him.

Chris said...

What's the title of the documentary?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It is called "In search of Beethoven"

Scott said...

I too have a great admiration for professional classical musicians but one cannot help but notice that many of them lack originality or creativity. Conservatory musicians are often awkward or uncomfortable when told to improvise in a jam session.

I shudder to think of how many potentially creative musicians had their imaginations crushed by their Amy Chua-like tiger parents and ended up becoming nothing more than really efficient robots.

Michael said...

As somebody who plays rock music, I have to admit that Patrick's comment is priceless.

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