In a vivid dream, I took my son to a new day-care center. (In waking life, he’s a 27-year-old rock star on his way back today from a gig in Denmark.) I stayed around to observe the class, and was appalled at how simplistic the musical activities were. I was carrying around a large metal can, like a lidded watering can, in which I kept all the knowledge of music I go around disseminating, but it was unwieldy, and I kept bumping people with it. I ran into Alex Ross, who sympathized and explained to me that one could never draw from the general culture any pleasure concerning the field one is an expert in, because extreme specialization isolates us from the general population in just that area of life we enjoy most. By way of illustration, he showed me a fake New Yorker article he’d written and pasted up for me in New Yorker format, full of musical diagrams and detailed and arcane references to rare pieces that I know well (Wolpe, Busoni, Johnston). It was indeed the music journalism of my dreams, but he said he obviously couldn’t publish it, because the number of people capable of reading it would fit in a small bus. I woke up and ran into Alex at an outdoor concert where some big modernist concerto was being performed, told him about the dream I’d had, and he was just delighted. I promised him I’d blog about it. Then I woke up again, of course, found myself in my bed with my wife gone to work and my little dog snoring at my feet, and Alex presumably off wherever he is when he’s working on a book.
I used to write about extremely obscure music in a widely-read newspaper. Now I’m writing a highly technical book about a famous piece of music. So I guess these issues of whom I’m writing for and why – and, consequently, what my connections to the rest of the world are going to be for the rest of my life – are much on my mind.