We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Alas, kiddies, just when we thought is safe to return to the placid waters of classical CD liner notes, dorsal fins appear. Fins of the faux intelligentsia, the cultural vangaurd or the people I just find so amusing.
No, wait! The correct term for these jokers is "programme annotators." You can't make this stuff up. At the end of the notes, it says "Bernard Jacobson is programme annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra."
To begin your "essay" with this little cowpatty, "Less saturnine in utterance then the Sixth Symphony" is akin to putting up a red neon forty foot sign stating "I am writing for other writers." Saturnine? I am not the foremost literate person in the world, but I can not recall the last time I ever heard anyone use this word. Then there's "utterance." That's a fav among these classico word gorillas.
More gems: "cosmopolitan milieu" "Shostakovich's more direct introversion" and my favorite "...and banana-skin harmonic sideslips" WHA? Come again? Sorry, during my years of study this term never came up. Must have missed that day. Banana-skin harmonic sideslips?
What about "apple core kinesthetic lyricism?" Or "Indeed, the composer's sheer transcendent utterances mimic the post-Viennese pear-shape slipshod chromaticism of Nigel Tufnel." When do the fruit metaphors end? When programme annotators get real, baby.
I am not anti-intellectual, against analysis of music or any other art form, not by a long shot. Analysing a piece of music to discover its hidden structures and organizational designs is great fun, but therein lies a danger. The danger is, and I could name names, that the person falls into this state of academic stasis wherein all experiences use "education" (or the preordained opinions of colleagues) as a defense mechanism against the musical experience. The person, being so full of knowledge, never truly allows their humanity to surface long enough to truly experience music's message which transcends the intellect. This is not to suggest that music is merely an emotional experience. That's like saying Schindler's List is a nice movie with great cinematography. You missed a bunch of stuff, yes?
At the university, I can always tell when students are "full of it." Their little brains overflowing with theoretical ideas and facts. Like little puffer fish, they are swollen and bloated with newly found facts. Hurrah! But, I pray that they reach the next level and truly make music their own and not have it remain a distant, dry ("as wind in dry grass"), academic idea given to them by others.
There are many with "headpiece filled with straw." They occupy not only classical quarters, but in all forms of music with the exception being funk. It's impossible to be funky and be dead to the music. Bootsy (pictured) should teach at a university. It'd be the best goddam thing to ever happen. And when he does, sign me up. I'll be the old guy in the front row, trying desperately to get my groove on.