I’ve been invited to make some guest posts for the summer, so I’ll start by introducing myself. Unlike Phil, I’m in Texas for the duration, which right now means mid-90s every day and very little rain (it’ll be mid-100s by August). Lawn-watering is a major occupation. I teach at the extremely Baptist Baylor University.
Musicology is in my blood. I had a family member in the profession, which means that (unlike, I’ve come to realize, practically everybody else) I grew up with “musicologist” as a professional career option, somewhere in there with “doctor” and “nuclear physicist” and decidedly above “lawyer” in terms of desirability.
When I started teaching in 1984, I was a discontented young soul. I was interested in writing about meaning and spiritual values in music, and I was impatient with watermarks and archives. Over the next ten years or so, I watched the field (my family heritage, remember!) change course dramatically. The result was that I was now impatient with gender studies and politics. Not enough people were getting IT.
What IT is is hard to define, but that’s what I’m here for, so I’ll try. Music is a human product./Music is a medium of the spirit. Music is a concrete language of human emotions./Music expresses the inexpressible. Music is earthy./Music is divine. Music is a reflection of society and its values./Music can serve as the basis for philosophical inquiry in its own right.
Each of these pairs of statements may seem to contradict each other. They don’t. That’s IT.
In recent years, the middle ground has been re-emerging, much like a sunken batholith from beneath a continental shelf. It’s slow, but it’s rock solid. It may contain precious crystals. As Oscar Wilde said: “I don’t ask for much. Just the very best of everything, and there’s so very little of that.”
I remain concerned, though, because the zeitgeist in academia is still against the discussion of the universal elements that form the crystals within the rock: against, in fact, the very idea that such crystals are there at all, or that we would want them if they were. So I would welcome responses along the lines of: “What have been my experiences of IT in music?” “What are the moments when I have known that IT was there?” Surely you know what I’m talking about. These moments may be politically incorrect and hard to describe, but I bet you’ve all had them, and would like to talk about them.
Consider this an invitation.