One lesson I never quite learned was the importance of surfaces. Appearing to be something can carry so much more weight actually being it in life. Some how I got cued in early to this. But found that “being” and “content” ended up being what interested me.
This probably began as childish naiveté but turned into my approach to life. Appearing a certain way always seemed the easier way out. It helped to be a white, male who wasn’t poor.
But I developed a taste for hidden content, looking beyond the surface of people to search for what and who they were. It didn’t occur to me that others were often more interested in the appearance not content.
For example, Henry Cowell started his academic life as a janitor in a music department of a college. Or at least that’s the story I remember. Someone figured out that on the inside he was a composer.
I always liked that story. It’s most probably apocryphal but I still like it.
I never quite learned the lesson that to go along was to get along. I had too many questions at least inside my head even if I didn’t say them to people.
Last night I dreamed I was teaching a music theory class. It was dream like of course. Sometimes the room was dark, the chalk was fuzzy as I tried to explain things to the class. The content was clear to me in the dream as it is on waking. I understand music theory.
At one point I went around and put up little signs at Hope College about tutoring music theory. My motivation wasn’t so much the remuneration but talking to somebody about something I like. It seems like I had at least one person respond interested in getting some help. All I can remember is that after I taught them the differences between the types of augmented sixths (German, French, Italian), they lost interest.
I can still remember how to teach that. My point here is that I didn’t really learn the lesson about appearances. I figured since I had the knowledge and skill that was enough. Silly me.
For me an academic degree now has aspects of appearances divorced from content. Not all degrees are like that, but I continue to be amazed as I ponder my life how often my content was missed by others because the package (my appearance or lack of degree/certification) was wrong.
This may be one of the biggest lessons Holland had to teach me. There were a few people who seem to get tha I had something to offer. But in retrospect it seems so very naive of me to miss that fitting in is so important.
But no matter. Toujours gai, archy!
This relates in my head to the determinative nature of appearances in current popular culture. I only notice because I am often bored by it. But style, presentation, and manufactured personality ARE content when considering popular music and the arts.
I cling to my antiquated notion that the way music sounds is the most important thing about it, whether it be popular or academic. This preoccupation with sound keeps me interested in music, both new and old.
It feels lucky especially since appearances are sometimes so important.
I finished a second read of Kunzru’s Gods Before Men. As I got further into the book a second read didn’t seem so important once I had drawn some connections that I missed the first time in the first half of the book. But I finished it anyway. I started Red Pill which is Kunzru’s latest. Weirdly it reminds a little bit of Thomas Mann. What’s up with that? I am enjoying it.