Friday, June 25, 2010

Bring Me the Head of Richard Taruskin

So Ive been following The Taruskin Challenge, wherein two grad students blog their way through the most monumental musicological work in generations Richard Taruskins 6-volume, 4,154-page Oxford History of Western Music. The grad students behind it, Mark Samples and Zach Wallmark, write engaging, open entries loaded with handy YouTube clips to make points about a work Im never in this lifetime going to read.

They did get me to read though Taruskin
s new On Russian Music, where he says something about Chaikovsky thats almost exactly what I think Ive been trying to say here about poetry. (He’s defending Yevgeny Onegin from Nabokov’s charge that the opera insults Pushkin’s story):
To express the passions and spontaneous reactions of the characters by means of stereotyped melodic and harmonic figures, however freshly and virtuousically recombined, makes exactly the same point Pushkin makes in his novel: feelings are never truly spontaneous but always mediated by the conventions and constraints, as often learned from literature as from “life,” to which we have adapted. Therein lie both the tragedy (the constraints) and the salvation (the adaptation) of human society.

—from Richard Taruskin, Chaikovsky and the Literary Folk: A Study in Misplaced Derision


David Wolach said...

This is excellent. Thanks for the link & quote.

Jordan said...

OH man! You GOTTA read Taruskin!

Well, or that's what the books say to me every morning when I see them upon waking. (Damn you, 70% off sale!)