Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Anti-Musician


“Flow is the backbone of the musical experience. The way one note tumbles into the next, the way the music heads unimpeded toward climax with its unique set of tensions and releases, is the great drama that keeps us listening. Once a piece begins, we may or may not wholly like the sounds, may prefer one theme over another, may not wholly understand the grammar and syntax of the choices, but still can be carried by the flow of it all. The one intolerable thing is to be interrupted—by the ringing cell phone, the sudden failure of the sound system, the music blown off the music stands in the outdoor concert. Nothing is more disturbing to our nervous system…”


-       Doug Goodkin: Teach Like It’s Music, pp 10-11


So begins my thesis on how to teach music more musically. How to follow the contours of the way our nervous system is actually put together and fully enjoy a music education that is musical every step of the way. 


But throughout the book, I expand beyond the narrow band of music education to suggestion that all of education should aspire to the condition of music, be taught with a more musical flow and enjoyed with a more musical pleasure. And then widen it yet further to suggest that all of life aspire to a condition of music, get our lives into a rhythmic groove that gives focus and energy, learn to harmonize with others, listen and respond, connect body and soul. 


Now about that Presidential debate. I believe that everyone who witnessed that came away feeling sick. I think it was the absolute perfect example of what an anti-musical experience does to our body and mind. As I said above: 


“The one intolerable thing is to be interrupted… Nothing is more disturbing to our nervous system…”


Naturally, I and just about everyone I know, was upset (though not surprised) by the content of the Toddle-in-Chief— the blatant lies with no accountability, the insults, the incoherent thought processes, the refusal to critique white supremacy and so on. But here let’s focus on the process. 

In a real debate, one may not like the tone of a candidate (comparable to the sounds in music), the content of their believes (the themes), the unintelligible logic of their argument (grammar and syntax of the choices) and we may come out of it angry or disappointed or happy with how our candidate handled it, but all of that is within the proper bounds of a civil discourse. But when one person repeatedly interrupts and assaults and halts the flow, it hits us, like music, below the belt at the visceral level. The Devil is sometimes called the Anti-Christ and in this case, we can call him the Anti-Musician. Not a very musical ring to the term, but the meaning should be clear—someone who runs his fingers on the blackboard of our very Soul and leaves 73 million people watching TV feeling physically sick. That’s powerful!


I will be using this in future teaching as an example of the extreme effect of anti-musicality. I’ll also perform a piece this Thursday with two other musicians trying to imitate the quality of that debate, minus the words. Then when we actually come together in time and tone, how beautiful that music will sound by contrast. (Would that those 90 minutes had been followed by Bach’s Air on G String! That would have helped.)


The list of transgressions against the Constitution, the office of the President, the American people by Mr. D.T. is simply too long to comprehend—and one of the strategies to make us all numb and constantly dumfounded so it’s difficult to act on any one of them. (The revelation about his taxes alone should have been enough to whisk him way a month before the election). But now I’m adding one more. The inability to respect the most simple and basic guidelines of human discourse— letting one person finish a thought before interrupting—is now added to that long, long list. 


Will he ever be held accountable to any of it? Time will tell. Now he is having a conversation with a virus he denied and he may be in the midst of the greatest accountability of all. I believe that this opponent will not stand for any interruption.


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