Music’s Debt to Others, and Our Debt to Music

Eden Mills pic for Sep 23rd Blog entry

Village of Eden Mills

When you finally do something you’ve long meant to you do it as the person you have become, not the person that initially wanted the experience, nor the one who has said year after year, “I must do that…” but never does.  You are, in a sense, someone new.  The person I have become this September is the author of this new blog, IAM – Ideas About Music… a project I’ve had in mind for some years, and which now becomes real (at least as ‘real’ as anything on the Internet is).

I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy a now-30-year career I love as a musician who thinks a lot about music.  For almost half of that career I have lived a 20-minute drive from the beautiful village of Eden Mills, which has for even longer, 25 years, been home to the Eden Mills Writers Festival, which annually welcomes celebrated Canadian and international authors and poets, publishers and hundreds of ‘literati’ of all ages for readings, workshops, and a general celebration of the printed page.   In 2014 it finally welcomed me and my family.

Though I spent much of the dull Sunday afternoon in the children’s area hearing wonderful books and a magic show with our six-year-old I was able to take in one adult event, a reading and interview with Governor General’s Award winning Kate Pullinger.  Ms. Pullinger is author most recently of “Landing Gear”, the story of a Pakistani man who buys into the myth that one can stow away in the landing gear of international jetliners, and who unlike most who attempt this actually survived until being dropped into a grocery store parking lot on the plane’s final approach into Heathrow when the landing gear deployed.  The other protagonist is the London woman upon whose car the stowaway lands.

Ms. Pullinger, like many authors talks about ‘living with’ her characters over months or years of creation.  A Canadian living in London, she could easily have imagined the second character and lived her life; but the character of the Pakistani man must have been deeply speculative. The story, and both characters, are strictly fictional – but I began wondering whether authors in a sense ‘owe’ anything to fictional characters in creating their narratives – and if so, what.

Musicians frequently think about ‘owing’ others in some way for the music we create – real people such as composers, poets, performers who have come before; we also often dedicate compositions and performances to the honour of others, or to causes.  We also feel we owe allegiance to more abstract constructions such as history, performance practice, even perhaps our own ‘muses’ and dieties.

But HERE’S THE IDEA – as in Pullinger’s “Landing Gear” we as creators may either know fully or not know at all those people and things to whom our music is in whatever sense owed, and rather than wondering whether or not some stakeholder or other is paid his or her due I believe we owe more of a debt to music itself which can be paid only in the craft, care and beauty with which we bring them into our work.  Our knowledge of others, historical, contemporary or even archetypal can never be sufficient to pay the debts – but perhaps beauty can.

What do you think?

Welcome to IAM – Ideas About Music.

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