beauty, manners, competence, Martins


Yesterday I played a huge funeral. I played Bach and Mozart in the prelude. Bach on the organ and Mozart on piano.

As I ponder the mystery of performing music, I sometimes see myself as whispering beauty over the heads of people without knowing if any of it is reaching them. Part of this is the set up at my church. I play to people’s backs since the organ, piano and choir are in the back of the church. It’s kind of weird that way.

This probably contributes to my feelings of invisibility and eccentricity.

I think of the great flute player Rampal.

I remember a story that he was playing a concert in a church where applause was forbidden. After finishing his last piece he retreated from the performing stage to silence. When someone urged him to do an encore, he demurred, saying something about not knowing if the audience liked what he had done (due to the silence I guess).

If Rampal wondered about this, it makes sense that someone of my meager skills would entertain such a thought.

Later I was drawn to the organ bench yesterday despite weariness and lack of time in my schedule. I decided to continue to practice the Bach trio I performed Sunday and try to learn it more thoroughly.

Today I hope to put some musical ideas into Finale or on paper.

In my fall schedule, Tuesday is a good day to compose. At the least I want to write out the choral parts to my new Gloria. But we’ll see. I need to take some time and goof off.

W. H. Auden  (the poet) has quoted Valery’s idea of how poems are never finished, only abandoned. I get this. After inspiration comes the working of filling out the piece, editing it. This process rarely feels completed. But one must stop at some point.

Auden also has this to say about bad manners.

In art as in life, bad manners, not to be confused with a deliberate intention to cause offence, are the consequence of an over-concern with one’s own ego and a lack of consideration for (and knowledge of) others.

This puts me in mind of a concept I ran across yesterday: the Dunning-Kruger effect which is

a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.

This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.


Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”

Both of these quotes come from the Wikipedia entry.

A more succinct way to say this might be that

the truly incompetent can’t even recognize their own incompetence

This last phrase came from a NYT article by Paul Krugman called “The Boehner Bunglers” where I ran across the concept.

This morning I took an interesting side trip into history and etymology beginning with St. Martin of Tours.

He and his communities are recognized as one of the first expressions of  Western Monasticism.

You will notice he is handing a cloak to a poor person in the above painting.

This is significant because the word, chapel, comes from the story of Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar. This cloak then becomes significant as a relic and is housed in chapels and taken care of by chaplains. Neat.


On St. Martin’s feast day in 1483, Martin Luther was born.

Martin Luther the namesake of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There you have it.

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