Enigmas of Mastery – or Arts Challenges Academia

A side remark – isn’t all this blog-epistle a side remark, personal reflections on various issues in which personal, social and societal issues conflate?

So then a short note on dialogue. There is perhaps a reason for talking about the master and bachelor in ARTS that we should not push aside without reflection – as social scientists in particular we are part of a complex social structure – its history in past, present and future. And though we are not independent, we are part of a process that we may consider as symphonic piece of war and peace (borrowing the title from Tolstoi). Monumental and complex, full of contradictions and thoroughly determined by our readiness to truly engage in looking for collective solutions. Yesterday I have had the opportunity to attend an exciting concert here in Munich – exciting not least as it presented a tensional line from Bach’s 5th Brandenburgische Concert, passing Schubert’s 4th Symphony (‘The Tragic’), leading to Strauss ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’. Being confronted with the latter, consequently with the highly problematic oeuvre by Wagner provoked to move further moving beyond the smooth integrity of the Court Society, overcoming the tragedy and crossing the borderline of nihilism – not by denying it but by looking for a synthesis, for instance offered in the magnificent masterpiece provided by Shostakovich in the Symphony No.12 in D minor, Op.112 ‘The Year 1917’ – Admittedly something one has to learn listening – Barenboim once had been teaching me to admire Shostakovich’s work. And admittedly revolutionary processes and ‘results of revolutions’ (which, of course, will always be processes themselves) have to be learned. And looking at processes of learning the words by Albert Schweitzer on Bach’s work gave to come to mind:

It is not about alternating between the Tutti and the Concertino. ; the different bodies are related to each other in an intrinsic tension, penetrate, differentiate and conflate for another time – and all this emerges from an unfathomable necessity, inherent in the art. … One gets the impression to really face what philosophy throughout all times presented as a higher occurrence, the unfolding of an idea, creating its contradiction in order to overcome it, creates from here a new contradiction, overcoming it again and so forth, until it returns to itself, after it went through all stages of life. It is the same impression of unfathomable necessity and enigmatic satisfaction while listening to these concerts, following the subject matter as it first presents itself in the Tutti, then being subject to enigmatic divisive powers, finally returning in the final Tutti again to its inner entity, coherence.

(quoted in Wolfgang Stähr, 2003: Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit – Konzerte von Arcangelo Corelli bis Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Berliner Philharmony Programmheft Nr. 25 zum 21.12.2003)

Wouldn’t this be a matter we should revive in academic culture? A Sunday visit in the Alte Pinakothek paradoxically confirmed this when I joined a new format of arts education: Cicerone. As much as it is about the utilisation of great speeches the visit showed so much that all this is about dialogue, with the paintings, even between the paintings, between the presenters and not least by including the visitors.

Yes, academic life, if it takes itself serious is about the mystery of mastery of arts.


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