Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guido d'Arezzo Continuo

Most of me would like to get on with the 'creative recollections', as I have been pretty much jack- booted into labeling them for the managing editor of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine. It had occurred to one of my agents, in the course of some back and forth with Tara Cunningham over the precise academic designation of my kind of writing, that Tara might have thought my stories had been made up out of thin air, or at least a severe proportional preference for imagination over historical fact. So, not wanting to have this particular agent upset, as this might disturb my eating habits, I leapt to the Net to inform Tara that, for the moment at least, as I have been severely severed from Contemplatives for some weeks, I am not writing what is ordinarily thought of as pure fiction, but rather autobiography with a twist that changes names and respects the fact that no one can remember the dialogue precisely as it went. In this reporting came the inspiration for the classification, which took me back half-a-century, to when the Lord said I would eventually have to step off the fiction trail and rattle on about his part in my life specifically. This was rather nice, because it has not always been easy to make fictional moments of times and events which already had an enormous amount going for them. I really wanted to simply tell it as it was, so pleased as I was for how things worked out and the people who made them do so.
But, like the juggler, I have to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. And, I have been noticing on Sitemeter that it is no longer true that most of my out-of-family-circle hits are from persons looking for information on Tai Chi and dojo shoes. I think I have mentioned Socrates' declarations about the education of the guardians, that it began with phys ed and music? There has been much searching on my blog for the phys ed, or gymnastics, as the Athenians would have it, but now the scientific curiosity about music is catching up. In only a few days, I've had a preponderance of hits looking for Guido d'Arezzo, the monk, initially much abused by fellow monks, who thought up the music staff as we know it, more or less, and solfege. And the last of these was even about Guido for kids, which of course got swiftly to the ticker.This is encouraging, as sometimes the culture seems brain dead on this question, especially at a moment when it seems possible that the film industry might, finally, start to catch on to the significance.
Or not. It doesn't really matter to me. The blog lets the philosopher do his job, that is, put his thoughts down on electronic paper as no one else is given the grace to do, as original thinking is what the philosopher, and only the philosopher, is all about. And of course, nowadays, except in countries ruled by imbeciles who are even stupider about poets than Plato was, the philosopher gets to think all around the world, so the cultures can all take turns laughing at each other for dropping the ball, simply by failing to read.
Yes. What is being, really, and what is truth?
Can they be found in art, and if not, why not?
Is the artist simply a half-wit? Yes, more often than we would often like to think. It's always interesting to watch artists attack politicians and then make, in terms of real being, and real truth, precisely the same mistakes. Or perhaps even worse mistakes.
Which takes us back to Guido and the principles of music instruction, and the plethora and plague of errors, conscious or unconscious, that have been created and sustained by those who ignore or pervert what he accomplished, even in the process of trying to keep alive the traditions of the best liturgical music, that is, chant. That the Catholics have done this here and there goes without saying, and the Anglicans also. But both have made and promoted profound pedagogical errors. Miss Glover and the other one, Curwen, in England started jiggeting about with movable doh, which destroys voices as well as science and math, and the Church educators allowed, aided, and abetted the nunnish reduction of mathematics as the ruler of music by making numbers behave like the letters and the solfa syllables.
The teacher, of course, is known by his students. My excellent guitar student, having been both an expert business man and an expert construction worker of many skills, has come to understand the common sense of the modes, and applies to them a concentration and appreciation of them for their own sake that would shame a Benedictine abbot. With the numbers under his belt, as well as in his brains and hands, he now begins to take on the solfege.
At Monday's lesson I sketched out on paper the d mode, authentic and plagal, with solfa, numbers and letters, just because it comes first, the protus, but when it came to the playing and singing part, we fired up the e mode, that being the sixth string of the guitar and an easily accessible drone when it's boogie time. Being a low-voiced coot like me, Tim is at this point only responsible for the plagal scale, B to b.
And with all this good order and discipline safely under way now, on the Monday evening after we watched the final part of an Adam Dalgliesh episode, the still, small, voice led me to the piano and the solfege vocalization, big time now, of Bach's Two Part Inventions.
That, let me tell you, makes most of Wagner simply a lot of mindless racket.
Interesting, is it not, that Providence should have me winding up precisely this post on the feast of John the Baptist?

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