November 29, 2004

Why Artists Should Not Write

Today I had a revelation. As it turns out, I've been having those quite often lately. This time it was about musicologists. Where these people get off calling themselves scientific, I'll never know; I think they're really a bunch of artists experiencing a personality crisis because of modern scientific culture.


Musicologists shouldn't write papers. It's plain and simple as that. This applies to all literature (with the exception of poetry and political discourse, since nobody understands either of them anyway), because all written word is really one form of paper or another; this includes papers, theses, books, articles, periodicals, and every other kind of written word in which they express their opinion about the history of music.

They just can't do it.

Their opinion matters to me, of course. Obviously they have a unique understanding of what happened. But man, write a song about it or something! Their textbooks are rambling of thoughts which can only graciously be called run-on sentences with accompanying musical examples and shiny covers.

I hate my textbook - it's what inspired this rant.

With all due respect to Mr. Atlas and Mr. Yudkin, I feel like these people are trying to be scientific about their field, but failing miserably. When you write a textbook, you don't interject your own opinions on things - you say "this is what happened" and then leave it to those of us who aren't total artists to care about such things as "interpretation" and so forth.

Artists are fun people. I'm an artist, or try to be. But I also have that pesky background in neurobiology to contend with too. Yes, I feel like my mind is always arguing (creative vs. logical) about something or another (do I follow the recipe or add lots more cheese?), but it has its advantages. 1) I can communicate between both worlds: arts and sciences. 2) I like to study both worlds and even participate in discussion about them. The downside is that I have to listen to people from either world not-understand the opposite.

Oh well.

Should you care, Jonah Goldberg wrote a fantastic article on this very subject ... or at least, one like it.

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