Friday, September 22, 2006

Response to Prof. DeBollox

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to take this opportunity to publicly address some of the comments one reader has left on Classical Pontifications. By taking readers’ comments out of the comment boxes and into the professional blogosphere, I realize I am exposing what has, up until now, been discussed privately. Nevertheless, I feel it is important to raise the curtain on what might be mistaken as interfaculty bickering.

Prof. I.O.U. DeBollox F.E.M.A. provides comments on my post, Academic Welfare. He was happy to inform me that his students would be writing dissertations on my music. I advised Prof. DeBollox that his students would not be allowed to write a dissertation on my music because that privilege is reserved for my students only. I suggested that I might be able to make an exception for a small fee. This statement must have caused Prof. DeBollox to go into a physical state much like a dog in heat, a state in which his intellect succumbed to a primal desire to “mount” another Professor. He has accused me of being unethical, and of indirectly supporting a kind of musical terrorism. I quote, at length, from his original comments:

I was quite discouraged to read your reply. Not at all because of your rejection of my student’s offer; to the contrary! I was horrified at your hint that something as pedestrian as money – or “a small fee,” as you so basely referred to it – would change your mind. Will no one in this gloomy, glutted day and age hold fast to their ethical principles? I have long considered you to be a scholar and gentleman (in that order) of irreproachable and undenigratable dignity, and then – after insisting fervently that only your students have access to cite your work – you backpedal in the most slavish and greedy of ways by indicating that you would accept…a bribe! Yes, let’s call it what it is; a bribe! So in the end, you too are ruled by the free market. I had idolized you as a purist who composed not for the vulgar pleasure of hearing your work performed, but for the beauty of the structure, the ultimate inaudibility of that which is truly musical. Now I fear you resemble the rest of the great unwashed, a pawn of the capitalist system which defaces creation even as it thrusts art forward into the glaring spotlight of the public eye, ear, nose, and throat.
Professor, I implore you: we live in a day of true musical terrorism; those out to destroy our way of life are willing to use any means – rejection, hostility, even parody – to wipe the most exquisitely complex music from the face of the Earth. We must be vigilant; we must be guarded. We must watch what we do, say, and eat. If we begin in the least to betray our principles and veer from the path of absolute certainty, we shall lose the very God-given freedom for which our predecessors fought: the freedom to adhere to a strict empirical system from which we never deviate. Such a fate would make it hardly be worth having tenure any more. Imagine Webern altering the retrograde inversion of a twelve-tone row for “a small fee.” Imagine Ferneyhough disturbing a hierarchy of perfectly nested tuplets for the sake of “a small fee.” Professor: it is a slippery slope; let us remain at the pinnacle, true to our values, blessed in our self-righteousness, a small and proud contingent, comfortably cognizant of our collective wisdom.

Before the next commentator lapses into a similar reactionary state, I should explain exactly why my request of a “fee” was necessary. If students other than my own were to dissertate about my music, they would need to engage me in what surely would amount to hours of monologues in which I explain my compositional techniques. Most dissertations are written while consulting published documents. Sadly, very few serious articles have been written (in this country) about my work. Those that have are only available in the PDF format, hardly suitable for a serious researcher. This will soon change, as The New Yorker magazine plans to publish a five-part “Profile” piece on me and my work starting in late 2007, when I use the Hotel Cadillac’s Genius Grant to travel to the impoverished drumming circles of West Africa and introduce the natives to a more expressive form of music, such as the Concerto. At any rate, even a five-installment profile piece will not be enough material to use to create an original dissertation. Therefore, my “fee” that Prof. DeBollox finds so objectionable is merely what I would be paid to teach my own students about my work. It is not a bribe; it is a salary for my willingness to educate Dr. DeBollox’s students where he cannot.

Of course, I welcome comments from all of my literate readers, including Prof. DeBollox, but I have absolutely no patience for impatience, and my TANDYtracker lets me know when comments are left hastily. Please be sure to leave only the final draft of your comments, and do not burden the regular readers of this blog with ill-considered nonsense.


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