There’s been some lively conversation going on here, considering that these are the dog days of summer (which last 2 or 3 times longer for academics than for everybody else). All the talk about Dvorák and Garrison Keillor has brought me to the realization that I enjoy both, in small amounts. Like Dvorák, Keillor manages to come up with enough zingers to keep me listening on the relatively rare occasions that I tune in. One of them was the observation that everybody in the upper Midwest is Lutheran. The Lutherans are Lutheran, of course, but the Catholics are also Lutheran, and the Methodists are Lutheran, and even the atheists are Lutheran, because the God that they don’t believe in is a Lutheran God. (In the South, of course, substitute Baptist for Lutheran and the same holds true.) Everybody who doesn’t believe in God, he’s saying, really doesn’t believe in some version of God that has loomed particularly large in their own experience. Whichever version it is, there’s a lot of God left.
Where I’m going with this is that I suspect the limitations of most people’s musical tastes, including my own, are ineluctably shaped by a dulled sensibility for the vastness of what is out there. Robertson Davies, who is one of my favorite authors, once suggested that an appreciation for what is good in the work of the minor, also-ran composers is one of the marks of artistic maturity. (Read his novel _A Mixture of Frailties_ if you want the context for this. It also contains Davies’s observation that “music is like wine; the less people know about it, the sweeter they like it.”)
I can honestly say that the moments when I love music the most are those when I realize that there is simply no end to it. If I really thought I had discovered everything that was any good, or even come close to discovering it, I just might stop listening for a while. But then I happen upon the odd piece by Boccherini, or the obscure Biber sonata or Gottschalk polka that makes my day, and sends me back to Beethoven with renewed curiosity. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Does anybody else know what I’m talking about? If so, what are the Kleinmeister works that have brought you to such points, and what are their particular virtues? If Davies’s premise in _The Lyre of Orpheus_, his other music-centered novel, is correct, you just might be redeeming somebody from limbo by laying it out on the line.