Thursday, October 16, 2008

Open books, open ears

I've just submitted my first draft of a dissertation proposal, which is a significant relief. It's a funny little process. In one way, it's a summation of your work so far—I drew on books I've read for class, books I read in undergrad, books I felt I had to read, books I read for art history classes. It has a way of nicely tying together several of the strands I've been pondering for a good time. But at the same time, it opens up all these new roads. And while it's satisfying to feel like ideas have come together and spur more speculation, it's also a little scary. As it stands, I haven't nailed down the layout. I have too many ideas, so that's the next step.

But having something concrete, I'm resurfacing here. In other news...

I'm still enthralled with musical color. I've had the treat of hearing Brahms's rich, shimmering clarinet quintet and Bartok's 5th Quartet, with those gorgeous transcendent slow movements, little insect noises, eerily displaced howls, and calm triads. And the orchestra played Petrouschka the next day, which on rehearing seems like the perfect blend of Rite's churning ostinatos and the dorky tunes of his neoclassical stuff.

These concerts may not get the dissertation written, but it's a similar tale revisiting favorite musics and some beloved texts. The problem is with listening, my mind is freer to wander, to find new things. The dissertation (as much as I'd like sometime) probably shouldn't wander as much as my post-concert conversations tend to. And therein lies, I think, the hardest part: how to rein in the wandering without losing the energy I feel after hearing a good performance (or reading a good piece of writing).


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