Friday, March 23, 2012

Beware of classical music information loops

In recent years, political writers have made note of a phenomenon they call "epistemic closure". The term refers to the ease with which people become caught in an information loop that offers a fully satisfying explanation of the way things are and presents no challenges to that perspective. The great practical advantage of free speech and a robust media, it has been said, lies in the way they enable a continual testing of propositions and ideas. But the Internet and social networking, which some tout as mainly a force for good, also allows people to confine themselves to a Möbius strip of the like-minded. Evangelicals and gay activists, Tea Partiers and jihadists, anarchists and Marines - any group can exist within an information membrane of its own devising, unchallenged by outside sources. The consequences for civility and public discourse are becoming all too clear.
To that list of evangelicals, gay activists, Tea Partiers, jihadists, anarchists and Marines, can be added classical music practicioners. The quote comes from liberal Catholic author Cullen Murphy's newly published book God's Jury which is based on the proposition that the impact of the Catholic Inquisition extends forward from history into contemporary events. Responses from a traditionalist critic of an "unscholarly take on a complex historical subject" and from "America's leading Catholic pastoral magazine" of "shrug instead of buying this book" are evidence of the book's success in challenging current perspectives.

In a recent predictably overlooked think piece about classical music information loops Gavin Plumley asked "Where are the gramophone horns for new thought and criticism?" And staying with heresy, my soundtrack is music for cittern by the 17th century Mexican composer Sebastián de Aguirre played by Los Otros, with a guest appearance by Jordi Savall regular Pedro Estevan. In his CD notes Los Otros founder and born to be wild early musician Lee Santana writes "We should also thank the Spanish Inquisition for keeping such accurate records of all the dances and songs which they forbade for being obscene and heretical".

On An Overgrown Path guests Hans Küng and Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre make cameo appearances in God's Jury. But I do not expect to find it being read aloud in the refectory when next I visit my friends at L'Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux. And I do not anticipate many retweets of this post.

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3 comments:

Roger Evans said...

Good point about epistemic closure in classical music practitioners (as in every other intensively specialized field on earth), but since when is the radically right-wing Homiletic and Pastoral Review "America's leading pastoral magazine"? What kind of epistemic closure produced that hilarious statement about a electronic-only publication that is on the fringe of a fringe, and which probably two percent of American Catholics have even heard of?

Pliable said...

Roger, the description "America's leading Catholic pastoral magazine" actually comes from a headline on the Homiletic & Pastoral Review website, which is linked from my post.

http://www.hprweb.com/about/

But you make a fair point, so I have added quotation marks.

Pliable said...

Retha-Louise comments via Facebook - "'epistemic closure' is what so many academic music / visual art faculties suffered from until recent years. today, with the help of internet, there is no excuse for not embracing more genres / modes of expression and for not engaging students in debates on various aspects of creation and production"