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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000176.txt from 2005/05

From: Tony Pay <tony.p@-----.org>
Subj: [kl] "On Bullshit" by Harry G Frankfurt
Date: Mon, 09 May 2005 13:15:06 -0400

http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/7929.html

I've been reading this little book with great delight. You can't do better
than buying it, but here's a short review (the book itself is very short,
80 very small pages):

http://slate.msn.com/id/2114268/

The review is politically slanted, but the argument in the book is quite
general, and applies very well, I think, to music.

The essential bit that we can use is Frankfurt's characterisation of the
difference between someone who lies and someone who bullshits.

Liars say something that 'isn't the truth', and are therefore operating in
the world of the truth, or at least in a world where the truth is recognised
to have a place.

Bullshitters, however, aren't concerned with the truth, but with how they
doing in some larger game, such as looking good, or winning the argument.
They may even speak the truth, and still be bullshitting, because what makes
something count as bullshit is to do with how and why it's produced, not what
it actually is.

I immediately thought to myself: it's possible to notice bullshit in music.
There are some players who are obviously concerned to present themselves as
'virtuoso instrumentalists', instead of concerning themselves with the job of
bringing the music to life in an appropriate way. There are some players who
think that the only 'truth' is whatever they 'feel moved' to present.

Musical truth is of course much more difficult to characterise than some
other sorts of truth. It's essence, though, seems to have something to do
with a concern for something outside the performer, and that the performer
has to strive towards; so that there is a sense of something greater than the
mere personality of the executant built in right at the start.

By the way, Frankfurt's book is much more good-humoured than the review
suggests. There is discussion of the related terms 'bull session' and 'hen
session', in which participants say things not wholly seriously, in order
perhaps to try out what it feels like to say them, and to see how others
react without feeling they will be held to those things. I think similar
musical experiments can generate some sorts of music, and may be a useful
stepping stone to better sorts of music.

Tony
--
_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd tony.p@-----.org
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE http://classicalplus.gmn.com/artists
tel/fax 01865 553339

... My haystack had no needle!

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