When Hobbies Get Out of Hand

Next week I’ll have a short residency at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. Of public interest is that on Friday, Feb. 8, at 3:30 I’m giving the Rey M. Longyear Musicology Lecture, in honor of a well-known scholar in Classical and Romantic music, endowed by his widow. That’s at the Niles Gallery of the Lucille Little Fine Arts Library. Later that evening at 7:30, there will be a concert of my music organized by grad-student percussionist Andy Bliss. He’s premiering a vibraphone solo I wrote for him titled Olana, and his group will play my Snake Dance No. 2, Last Chance Sonata, and On Reading Emerson. I may play a couple of tunes myself.

Longyear was author of the first music history textbook I read in college, and I get a big kick out of being asked to give this lecture. Aside from close association with my medieval history professor Ted Karp in grad school, and an admittedly fanatical interest in historical minutiae, I don’t have any musicological training. I escaped taking the required bibliography course. Wiley Hitchcock kidded me about the number of footnotes in my American Music history that read, “Communication to author” – meaning that, instead of sourcing reference works, I just called up composers for the information I needed. I find it humorous and generous that so many musicologists have been willing to consider me one of their ilk, and even quote me in their books – especially given how many composers have not wanted to consider me a composer. I was even hired at Bard as a musicologist. You train for something your whole life, and you have all this ambition and anxiety about “making it,” and meanwhile you pick up a hobby, in which, were you to fail abjectly, you would simply shrug; and then the hobby takes off, and it’s a very funny feeling. And so in honor of the occasion this amateur, “Sunday” musicologist will, for the first time, give a lecture about musicology itself. What a blast.

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