The Secret Handshake
One day while I was wandering around fellow composers’ sites, I came across Michael G. Breece’s Myspace page. I contacted Michael via email to discuss the topic of academia. We both decided why not post our conversation to our respective blogs. Here you go:
Combs: Enjoyable read concerning academia. It is a touchy subject for me (only attended a year of community college) as after something of 6 years of piano lessons since age 5, basic theory, I spent considerable time teaching myself more advanced theory, counterpoint, etc. Certain things helped, especially the “rules” regarding notation say with choral works. I have never and will never (most likely) compose a choral but the rules made sense. However, I quit abiding musical rules long ago as I think the ear and mind, spirit, whatever, guide very well independently of dos and donts a professor might instruct.
Now getting back to my original point. It seems as if many people first off when learning of a composer’s works inquire what university for the arts they attended and if none is listed, perhaps write off the composer or perhaps don’t give the composer a listen simply due to this. I consider this a sort of academia prejudice.
Something funny which you probably already know. Satie was labelled as untalented by the professors at the Paris Conservatoire and sent home for 2-1/2 years. This while he was inventing different structures of composition and many known works had already been composed. He returned to school as he wanted to smooth out the edges so to speak as his music was criticized as being too erratic.
Breece mgb.home.pipeline.com/: Here’s my take, coming from someone who has absolutely nothing AT ALL (don’t mean to scream, but rather emphasize) to do with academia, who’s only connection to anything with academia has come in the form of an ex-girlfriend and now my wife, who’s friends and family all have had nothing to do with academia, etc. The thing I’ve noticed is, that while the younger generation of “classical/art music” academics are at least trying not to be so open-and-shut in regards to being academic prejudice…I still find and/or believe that even they still do subscribe to “the secret silent hand-shake”.What I mean by this is, if you take (for instance) a 30-something year old academic’s music – say an academic listens to his music, downloads both of our RAR’s or full albums worth, then listens to my music, I’m talking about without even personal taste preference (ie: this one sounds “better” than that one) – I believe that they will have a more immediate understanding, thus appreciation, for his music due to this “secret hand-shake” where they can hear those things that they’ve been taught to think of as being “good music”. Whereas, when they listen to my music…none of those elements exist, so now they are left to their own devices (aka: ears and musical minds) and…frankly, people (academics most certainly included) aren’t all that independent of thought and…I do believe this does make a difference with an academic hearing my music versus music of a fellow academic – the other problem comes into play when a non-academic hears my (or that academic example from above, his) music is that…of course, they just think that it sounds either like “weird, crazy, scary, horror movie shit” or…just…like “shit”, because they have no idea about such a concept as “art music” thus can’t appreciate it on virtually ANY level (I’d really like to somehow change this one day, but…realistically, likely never will and certainly is nowhere near being there now).And it is in this regard that I feel that there is a prejudice. Beyond that, I’m sure most of the older generations fall into the category that you speak of, but…essentially, I’m saying that the younger ones do to, they have just been taught (via years of “political correctness” and whatnot – ie: lying) to hide this and so their prejudices come to fruition less blatantly.Well, that’s my take at least, something that I’ve felt forced to consider. Because honestly, I truly don’t see my work as being more or less than most that I hear coming from academia (or academics) involved in classical and/or serious art music, so…they leave me no choice….connected though somewhat separate…I don’t know shit from shit in regards to academia and their process. I firmly believe that art is art, no more/no less. Which is to say, that it’s impossible to teach art or create an artist, that art and the artist entirely comes from within – rendering formal education (in regards to the – any – arts) futile. The theory of “knowing the rules to break them” I find to be nothing more than pure bullshit, a tool that academia uses in order to rope in the youngins and whatnot to their way of thinking etc.”One of us! One of us! One of us!”Of course most of the music that has influenced me was produced by academics. Which means that I, myself, have in turn indirectly been “taught” certain academic procedures by default, but…you know. What’s a brotha to do.As far as I’m concerned, I hope to never again walk into a college or onto a campus for the rest of my life – unless I’m giving some sort of lecture (ie: shitting upon the very institution that their parents just wasted thousands of dollars on)….Satie…But yea, I know about Satie and his history (including the fact that he was a super-freak as a human being – supposedly only taking in “white foods” as quoted: “I eat only white foods: eggs, sugar, grated bones, the fat of dead animals; veal, salt, coconut, chicken cooked in white water; fruit mold, rice, turnips; camphorated sausage, dough, cheese (white), cotton salad, and certain fish (skinless).” then again, Satie was quite the comedian, so…who knows what was the truth with him, that wacky titty bar playing scoundrel). I came to him early on in my classical “studies” (ie: trips to the public library) when I was 19 and was just starting out with it all. I was into Debussy first, then I came to find that Debussy and Satie were buds, took me to Satie and his music, and so on.I used to follow the links OLD SCHOOL – now…these lazy rotten miserable kids can just sit there at their little computers with all this information and sounds and video and simply…click…there way around it all. Back when (as you know full well), we had to divert eyes away from sick pervs laying around outside in the courtyard with their fucking nutsacks hanging out their tiny jogging shorts before having to walk up concrete and marble steps for floors on end (and that shit right there WEARS! YOU! OUT! you feeeel the burrrrn on those calves), we had to get all up in those shitty smelly mildewed stacks of books and records and sticky cassette tapes, had to catch colds touching shit that the homeless had coughed on or fingered fecal matter across, had to…I’ll stop now. But yes, Debussy (and his dream-like Impressionistic ways – especially his usage of floating flutes) was or is a direct influence on what I do. Whereas Satie is not at all a direct influence on me as a composer or artist, but rather more as a human being and/or spirit (if that makes sense) – same with GG Allin (that one really trips people up, I’ve found = hey, the guy had virtually no talent and a tiny dick, YET! Pushed onward continuously flashing that bumble-bee prick nonetheless LITERALLY with a shit eating grin plastered upon his scabby face = and THAT…is why I find him strangely inspirational, the fact that he completely bucked the trend that only the “talented” should do anything in life – similar in some, much more guttural, ways to Satie at the Paris Conservatoire).
Scorecard: Debussy, in music. Satie, in spirit.