[ by Charles Cameron ]
[ note: all links are to youtube videos ]
The pianist Glenn Gould is celebrated for his ability to bring the different and at times positively oppositional voices in a fugue by Bach to our attention, so that we follow each one separately while hearing all at the same time as a single whole. What is less known is that he liked to sit at a table in a truck stop and listen to the different conversations at the other tables and booths, mentally braiding their pale or brightly colored threads of human together into an analogous tapestry — one voice harmonizing with or conflicting against another, here a new subject introduced, there an echo of an earlier idea heard in a fresh context, with the murmurings of waitresses punctuated by the kaching! of the cash register, the hydraulic hiss of a door closing — conversation as counterpoint.
Organizations and individual alike, we all have different and at times dissonant voices, and strive to bring them to some kind of resolution. The many stakeholders debating an issue in town halls, blogs or letters to the editor, the many drives within each one of us, idealistic, hopeful, defeated, paralytic, angry, evasive, sluggish, vengeful, curious, alert, defiant, all have voices, all constitute an experience of polyphony, a “music of many voices”, in point counter point.
One of my interests is to find a way to score these many fugues, these musics of meaning.
My DoubleQuotes, then, can be considered as two-part inventions, attempts to show the multiple tracking of the mind — whether of a single individual, as in this case, or of a group, a community, a world divided – so that something of the music begins to be visible, and some of the dissonances can move towards necessary resolution.
I believe there is unresolved irony between these two statements, made on the same day by Philip J Crowley, the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs – but each has its reasons, and there are arguments to be made for both transparency and opacity, diplomacy and publicity, secrets and revelations.
Between them lies the possibility I think of as a virtual music of ideas.
Bach published a series of two-part inventions, BWV 772–801, and wrote of them that he intended to offer them as an honest method
by which the amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts correctly and well; and along with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style in playing and at the same time acquire a strong foretaste of composition…
Later comes the Art of Fugue.