So it will gratify some of you to know that I am now listening to Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for the second time this evening – if only to nettle the less mature Kyle Gann of two days ago. I was dogmatic in my youth, but at some point many years ago I started a campaign to cultivate flexibility, and I still surprise myself.
It is certainly no original insight of mine that writing is a process of self-discovery. Like many compulsive writers, I often write in order to find out what I think. I started out my essay “The Complexity Issue” with a number of points to make, some of which got in and some didn’t, but I mainly started with the first two propositions and attempted to see what would logically follow. I didn’t anticipate mentioning Aaron Copland, though he became the article’s lynchpin; I had some hogwash in mind about the composer’s ethical attitude toward society, but it turned out to be superfluous, so I only included the hogwash I needed. The connection I drew between complex music and grad school surprised me, as did the fact that the article (which I thought would be mostly about complex music) became largely a meditation on how our tastes change with age. When people react negatively to something I say in these long thumbsuckers, I want to react with, “Why look at me? I was as surprised as you are!” My articles in this blog are not policy pronouncements ex cathedra, but a kind of thinking out loud in public. In fact, I said something to that effect in the post with which I initiated this blog, so I hope you were all reading carefully. What I came up with in this case was a phenomenologically accurate explanation for why I haven’t paid much attention to Grisey, Lachenmann, and their ilk in recent years, but it wasn’t a promise that I would never pay attention to them, and the mere act of focusing on them roused my curiosity.