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The Music Column

To Begin With

In response to numerous entreaties, private demand, and the obligations incurred by untold knowledge, I have reluctantly agreed to undertake this Music Column; and I will only continue to inscribe it as long as those three particular conditions remain in full force.  Yet I do not conceive The Music Column to be self-preoccupied—rather, it addresses an Everything and is addressed to Everyone as only an individual can experience those fullnesses.  For music is a way of knowing history and perceiving culture, and often the most memorable way.  Music is necessary, unavoidable, and vulnerable, as well as transparent.  And it is a register of where we have been—and when—and where we are and are not, now.

So the first thing I want to insist on in The Music Column is that a healthy eclecticism is necessary.  I would not want to say that any pleasure taken in music is illegitimate.  Culture is a matter of levels, and the supercilious attitude is not the only possible response.  The highbrow implies the low, and great composers have incorporated humble elements in their works, as we know.  There is a story that more than seven decades ago, the virtuoso pianists Rachmaninoff and Horowitz went into nightclubs to hear the jazz pianist Art Tatum—they had technical and musical interests, and they were most impressed.  I like this story, and I think it...

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