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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000379.txt from 1995/03

From: Neil Leupold <Neil_Leupold@-----.COM>
Subj: Terminology debate
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 1995 14:57:03 -0500

Terminology debate
Okay, we've gone back & forth now on whether or not it makes any sense to use
such nebulous terms as light and dark, triumphant or brown, when talking about
music or the qualities thereof. I've seen two examples on this list so far of
orchestral experiences where the conductor used a metaphor or analogy of some
kind to convey his understanding of the music, in response to which he was
promptly rebuffed by some indignant string or brass player (no mention of
woodwinds yet, I notice) who demanded that he express his intentions in terms
they could immediately grasp in a concrete fashion.

First, I would argue that language is not merely some mechanical vehicle used
to communicate tangible and/or concrete concepts from one human being to
another. For those of you who understand linguistics and its relationship to
anthropology, you know that language is a primary factor in the definition of a
given culture, reflecting how the members of that culture understand the world
around them and what it means to them, both subjectively as well as
epistemologically. With this in mind, I think it's reasonable to say that the
art of classical music has within it many subcultures which operate on the same
principles, wherein exists a specific universe of discourse and which is never
defined specifically in terms of "black and white" (which are themselves
relativistic terms, contingent upon how one perceives color).

When we express our understanding of reality, including how we perceive the
quality of another clarinetist's sound, we are drawing not only upon objective
Webster-dictionary-defined data points. We are drawing equally upon very
personal and subjective impressions which are the product of, and are very much
"colored" by, our life experiences. To suggest that we refrain from using
terms which include those subjective life influences is to ask that we block
out a very important, very natural part of who we are. I'm not interested in
being "exact". I feel that the point of music and discussions on the subject
of music are, at the root level, to express oneself however _that person_ feels
it is necessary and adequate to do so. If that means that there are others who
may not understand me, then I can rest assured that there are others again who
_do_. When we have a dialogue with another person, regardless of the subject,
there is an _assumption_ between the participants that the other has a frame of
reference on which to draw in interpreting the first person's language. This
assumption is not always correct, and therefore we encounter this phenomenon of
less-than-exact language in our everyday lives, as well as in our own
clarinetists' universe of discourse.

Secondly, dove-tailing with the above, I think we've had a healthy spread of
communication on our views of what constitutes "appropriate" use of language
when talking about the subjective qualities of music. It's not a discussion
that will ever "arrive", but will rather go on ad nauseam until we all keel
over and RIP. So while I disagree with Dan's suggestion that we censor our use
of language for the sake of an exact understanding, I DO agree that the subject
has run its course and that the SUBJECT should R.I.P. instead. Let's give it a
rest, shall we?


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