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The place where I will occasionally post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
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And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Solipsism; or: Music for a Sunday Afternoon

Halfway the afternoon, it stopped raining.

My son wanted to play football, so we put on our shoes and went to the lawn between the school and the church. We met some church-goers on the way. They greeted us friendly, we greeted back.

While we were playing football, the singing of psalms and hymns drifted  from the church faintly over the lawn. It reminded me of times long ago, when I occasionally visited church services because some of my friends were believers. For a moment I longed to be in the church, singing along in strong and uncomplicated belief. But I realised that probably that would be something reserved for a next life, not for this one. My life history is one that by now makes a 'strong and uncomplicated belief' (if such a thing exists - strong, yes, but uncomplicated?) unlikely to happen. The best I can hope for, I guess, is some peace of mind while temporarily quieting down the principles of rational doubt.

The moment of longing also made something else clear to me: that I would, in spite of all my efforts to understand what music means for other people, never even get close to the experiences of all those church-goers. I have my suspicions, my dreams about those experiences, I could gain more knowledge about it by reading, observing, asking, participating - but those suspicions and dreams and knowledge, eventually, would be my experiences, not theirs.

Solipsism sometimes seems an inescapable position. Specifically on Sunday afternoons.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Drive My Car - or: R.I.P., HSB

For a long time now I have been thinking I should write a blog entry on listening to music in the car. So here I go.

In the conversations I had in the past few years about music, one of the most musical places turned out to be the car. In the car people listen to their music; they copy CDs to do so, or have their favorite radio stations programmed in the presets of their car stereo. When they go on holiday by car, they sometimes sample a collection of 'holiday music' for the occasion - and that CD (or cassette, in earlier days) often stays a favorite for many years.

Et cetera.

With me it's the same: the car is an important place. When I am in the car with my complete family I don't often play music these days. But when I am in the car with one of the kids I often do, and we sometimes have a little chat about the music. (My youngest daughter used to ask for some time: "The Weatles?" whenever I played music in the car.)


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Waste of Talent?

Some time ago I was chairing a little symposium dedicated to the development of musical talent. It was organized by a well-known youth string orchestra from the region in honor of its 25th birthday.

The symposium was nice. We invited as a key note speaker the principal of a municipal music school which still manages to play a role in talent development, which is not straightforward. Many of those schools, traditionally considered as the key providers of instrumental music tuition in The Netherlands, are going through rough times. That is: if they manage to stay alive, because many of them close due to severe budget cuts by their municipalities. Many of them are funded by the local governement but less and less those governments consider it as a given that they should keep doing that. I am not going into that debate, apart from saying that the questions posed to music schools are sometimes not unrealistic, and the answers offered by music schools are sometimes not realistic. Having said that, I notice each and every music school that dies with regret.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Musical Other


For my inauguration as professor ('lector') New Audiences at the Prince Claus Conservatoire, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, a small video (about 6 minutes) was made on the theme 'The Musical Other'. If you haven't seen it, you may check it out here!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Art - A Possibility of Music

I seem to have made myself not completely clear.

That counts for most topics, I guess (a sociologist called Harold Garfinkel - brother of Simon N. Garfinkel, indeed - claims that social order is possible only because people are never completely clear in their intentions and their communications. The world exists because it is messy. I will explain this another time; after I have understood  Garfinkel's claim, that is). But especially for my frantic dislike of the idea that music is art; or even Art.

So let me try to be a bit more precise on that. I do not deny that music can be an artistic phenomenon. On the contrary; dependent on what exactly 'artistic' is (has it something to do with the realm of the beautiful? with the unattainable ideal? with the creative domain?) I would probably acknowledge that music for me is an artistic phenomenon.

I must say: music for me is also, sometimes, an artistic phenomenon. Because when I say music is not Art, I only mean to say that music is not exclusively, mainly, or essentially Art. Music, as I said in my inauguration speech (check the video belonging to that happening here, including a musical saw, an opera singer and a shanty choir) a couple of days ago, is never one thing. It is always many things at the same time. It is different things for different people in different places and in different times. It is always a lot of things at the same time, in an ever changing constellation. Its character changes over time. It is everything, always, and for everyone.

And being Art is just one of its many possibilities.

So please don't try to convince me that music may have a deeply artistic effect. Because I know that; it sometimes has that effect on me. And I love it for that.

But also don't try to convince me that saying that music may have a deeply artistic effect is a convincing description of what music is. Because music is so much more than that; and that 'more' is not essentially less musical, or less important to people. The fact that our dominant culture teaches us to look at music as Art is no excuse, really, but just a question of powerplay. And probably a form of powerplay which is not on the winning side, these days. We better get used to that.

Music is so much more than Art. That is why it is such a powerful humanizing medium. Let's try and see the beauty (or Beauty?) in that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Goodbye, Musicscape Groningen

A couple of years ago, when I started my PhD research, I decided it would be nice - me being an ethnomusicologist - to at least sketch the context of the persons I was interviewing for my dissertation. One of the things I wanted to outline was which opportunities they had to listen to live music. I thought such a description would be easy: just use some existing literature, some statistical data sets used in the world of culture policy.

To my surprise, I found out that actually no-one knew what was really going on in the province of Groningen - or in the city of Groningen - or in any other city in the Netherlands, for that matter. At least not in the broad sense I wanted to know it. Yes, there were figures about how the subsidized stages programmed music; but for the less- or not-at-all-subsidized stages there was only scattered and anecdotal information, if there was any information at all.

So I decided to gather the material myself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer is in the air - you can tell it by the booming basses

Last weekend there were two big open air concerts in the city of Groningen. A Dance Party, and a live music show which will be broadcast on television later. Both attracted a lot of listeners, who had great fun. Both attracted quite some officials with Decibel measuring equipment, to check whether the festivals stayed within the official norms. Both led to complaints from people living nearby. Both led to people living nearby fleeing their home for a night - something I would probably want to do.

Party for one, a nightmare for the other - music showing both its faces at once.