Adrian Allan wrote: ↑
Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:16 am
.... What I am saying is that many people in the guitar world are scared of questioning the assumption of the Nocturnal being a masterpiece for fear of being shot down in flames.
It is almost beyond worthy debate to question its greatness. As I have said, this sort of assumption is worrying an unhealthy. It used to exist with the view that "Segovia is the greatest player" and that was also a very unhealthy automatic and unquestioned assumption. Just look at the controversy that John Williams caused by even debating the issue and finding fault with Segovia.
Art should never be about such absolutes. It should be a place of free speech and opinion without the risk of being labelled an ignoramus.
Well you are making your first statement above as though it is unquestionably true, whereas my argument would be that such a statement cannot reasonably be made because you cannot know other people's minds to that extent. I also assert that whereas a few might feel they are in that situation, they are not that many; and if one were able to understand where they are coming from, they are perhaps having a bigger a problem with how they feel about their musicianship, their musical appreciation and knowledge, their artistic breadth, than the rest of the world is having with the fact that they don't like the Nocturnal
I also am assuming that by 'many people' you mean a high proportion, perhaps a large minority? But do you have any actual real evidence to back your first assertion up?
We also need to tease out the point that many young college students may find themselves in a situation where their professors are assuming they will appreciate and want to learn the Nocturnal
yet perhaps they are either not yet ready for it, or perhaps never will be, but will understandably may feel unable to express that. They may well in time grow into the piece, or they may not, but I doubt one can include them in your 'many' because they are in a particular situation. It would take a very self-possessed young person to tell tutor what they thought - depending on the character of the latter of course.
Here is another issue; we are talking about an artistic discipline, but are there objective standards within it? The answer, to me, is undoubtedly yes. For example, not everybody likes or rates highly, JS Bach, and yet I would argue that, objectively, he is one of the great composers. It doesn't actually matter to me whether one likes or rates him highly, but if a classical musician were to say to me, JS Bach is not a great composer, I would have to conclude they really have no idea what they are talking about. They may be beginners, or badly misinformed somehow or other, but as far as I am concerned they are objectively wrong, and if they were my educational responsibility I would want to do something about it.
If on the other hand a random (but completely not musicianly) person in the street says Bach is the worst composer in history, it means nothing; they are perfectly entitled to their viewpoint, but it is objectively incorrect.
Now, Britten is not Bach, but is he objectively a great composer?
Is it possible to determine whether the Nocturnal
is a great work of art ? - (within our terms, as has been wisely noted, it doesn't get much attention within his wider oeuvre).
How, in fact, do we think about 'experts' - obviously not with the political connotation of last year's damning of experts, do we have a right to question them?
Do such (guitar related) experts describe the Nocturnal
as a great guitar piece?
Do we have a right to find we don't actually like
something even though an expert has told us it is 'great'?
Would one of those experts expect us to pretend to like something just because they say it is 'great'?
Would they care if we don't, and would they think we are "an ignoramus"?
I just realised I've been doing the one thing I detest when people are interviewed and they ask as question and then give the answer! Uuuurrgghh. Well there was a reason for it, which in these cases, the point is to raise that we can ask these questions, given the subject of the thread we should raise them, and answer them - so here are my answers. I am categorically not an expert, but I know a few and in my understanding;
i.Yes Britten is a great composer.
ii. Yes the art and science of musical analysis are able to determine and conclude whether the Nocturnal
is a great work of art.
iii. Experts in music have earned the right to be respected, not that they get everything right all the time (real experts would acknowledge that they don't)....
iv. ... and therefore we always have a right to question them.
v. Yes Nocturnal
is held to be a great guitar piece by people who have respected positions of expertise in the area.
vi. Yes we
can dislike something for our own reasons, while still acknowledging that it has great artistic worth to other people
vii. Nobody likes or respects dissembling.
viii. They might care if they felt we were missing out on something they value deeply, but if they are properly comfortable in their own being they should be able to allow somebody to go with answer vi.
A word on experts; people who know a massive amount more about music than the great majority of us do, who have much better aural acuity, much better musical memory, in many but not all cases much finer players, who have studied for years with people of similar attributes. Yes its about art not science, if they are any good they know that and take it into account, but it does not mean that there are no objective matters, insofar as that is meaningful; after all, in science, everything could change in a twinkling, its just that it takes a huge event for it to do so.
Other thoughts have been running around my brain, Adrian...
Do you possess a copy of the score? I really would never wish to come to a negative conclusion about a complicated modern work without consulting the score, which may just be me, but for a literate musician so much more can be understood by following the score with a recording. Its not a problem that one might think the only way to appreciate a piece is to follow the score, but for somebody who is struggling with it, its a good way to make progress.
So if you have no copy, I'd go ahead and get yourself one, and arm yourself with Sean Shibe's new CD, and listen to it really
following the score, once a day for a fortnight. I thought I had two copies and was going to send you one, but I've not.
The Nocturnal is even older than me (slightly); if in all that time people really thought it was a case of Emperor's new clothes, or similar, we would know that by now.
The Segovia thing kind of proves the point. The position has changed with time. It was
an unhealthy situation when he was on a pedestal and was virtually worshipped. We
can respect his achievement without thinking he is the only way to go about things. Personally, I could not admire him more, but I cannot stand listening to him.
If, deep down where you don't like to look, you feel its a problem that you don't like this piece and you fear that others have a problem with this fact, let it go; nobody minds, honestly. Just allow others their own confidence in it.