Who is your enemy?

Some composers wage war against the Classical canon, seeing it as an obstacle to their own artistic fulfillment.

Others decry pop music for dominating the collective conscious with easy-to-swallow formulas.

Still others vent their spleens at complicated, cerebral music, for fostering a general mistrust of new work.

All of these stances are based on reasonable causes. Unfortunately, when we align ourselves with any of these causes, we can end up spending more time pointing fingers than finding solutions.

In a remarkably complex and beautiful essay called Hot Air Gods,* Curtis White described the challenge of “translating beliefs,” of finding commonalities in traditionally antagonistic parties. He cites the recent “turn of Christian evangelicals to a politics that includes environmentalism” — which they call “Creation Care.” In other words, previously antithetical belief systems – the religious right and the environmental left – have found a language through which they can achieve common objectives. Through “Creation Care,” as White notes, the world becomes “if not something holy, then something that ought to be the object of great and abiding Care.”

Can we imagine a similar approach to help us transcend adversarial stances in the music world? After all, all of us want the same thing – enhanced artistic experiences.

Finding the language to bridge these chasms is no easy task, though, and probably one that will take constant tweaking.

Making it even more difficult is our own seemingly boundless enthusiasm for pointing fingers. As White puts it, “Unhappily, we have very little interest in the challenge of translation, largely because we very much wish to remain cordially at one another’s throats.”

*Curtis White: Hot Air Gods, Harpers, Dec. 2007

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