Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Where have all the nuances gone?


That evocative photo shows Wolfgang Zuckermann (right) with fellow harpsichord artisan Marc Ducornet. It was taken in Paris around 1978 and Marc sent it to me in response to my tribute to Wolfgang Zuckermann who has died at the age of 96. In that tribute I touched on the pivotal difference between passive engagement online and active engagement in the real world, and on the website of his Paris atelier Marc develops that theme:
As an instrument builder, I am not very sensitive to contact through the Internet. For those who love to touch wood and other natural materials, to hear a sound, a voice, for those whose daily life is composed of nuances, sensitivity, and—it must be confessed—subjectivity, the screen seems cold, anonymous and even arrogant by its pretension to serve everything to us at home or work. What is more, to try to describe our own particular activity would be to limit it. Each instrument is a unique creation and we are continually researching historic and new materials, designing new models, and engaging in projects, restorations, repairs, or supplying instruments for major music festivals, concerts and recordings…
As Marc points out, nuances are a crucial integrant of great music's gene pool. But online communication, and social media in particular, does not do nuances, yet alone sensitivity. To perpetuate its gene pool, classical music demands that breathtaking sums are spent on new concert halls that perfectly communicate sonic nuances. Yet the art form is also proactively reinventing itself as native to the cold, anonymous and, yes, arrogant online world. There are very few people in classical music who, like Marc Ducornet, dare question this infatuation with the Internet's parallel universe. But they are worth listening to. Here is a quote from another dissenting voice, the Indonesian composer Ananda Sukarlan writing in an article titled Is Classical Music Really Dying and Social Media Its Murderer?
Everyone has three lives: the public, the private and the secret ones. Do not let the social media erase the lines that separated those three lives. When you let it happen, then you have pushed the self-destruction button. And, not only you will be destroyed, but the whole ship that travels with you.
Not surprisingly my social media accounts are deleted. But new Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

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