Dancing About Architecture
It isn’t easy to put the experience of music into words. As Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Martin Mull, Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Thelonious Monk, John Cage, and Woody Allen have all observed (nobody knows who observed it first), writing about music is like dancing about architecture. But that is not to say that either feat is impossible. Dancing and architecture are closely related: the one defines space through movement, the other defines movement through space. Maybe you can dance about architecture—in which case, writing about music might not be such a bad idea either.
In this issue, performers, composers, and scholars—all alumni or faculty of Tufts—rise to the challenge. They show that there are plenty of interesting things to say about music without veering off into pirouettes around cloud castles. The very question of where music comes from—where it lives in the brain and why it hits us in the solar plexus—is one that can be approached scientifically and concretely. I, a lifelong student of music, learned much from Jamshed Bharucha’s and Ray Jackendoff’s explorations of these topics.
Similarly, Joseph Auner’s essay on Schoenberg and our dialogue between the composers T.J. Anderson and John McDonald have led me to question my own biases about the nature of art. I always took it for granted that calculation ruled: the more one sweated and revised, the better the art; spontaneous, off-the-cuff work was never as good. But those essays have opened my ears to the possibility that improvisation and laborious composition arise from the same psychic depths. I am beginning to hear jazz differently. I hope you, too, will find something in these pages that changes the way you listen. When an essay does that, it gives the lie to the idea that writing about music is futile. Of course, the current essays were occasioned by a building, the new Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center. As we add our voices to the jamboree, it becomes clear that we are not really writing about music. No, we are dancing about architecture.
Wedding photos. Speaking of learning. When we announced our intention to migrate Jumbo wedding photos out of the magazine and onto our website, you let us know two things: appearing in print is special, and witnessing your classmates’ rites of passage is part of what connects you to Tufts. Well, the photos are back, and to all our brides and grooms: mazel tov.
Iraq service. We would like to update our readers on the wartime experiences of Tufts alumni. If you have served, are now serving, or are about to serve in the military in Iraq, would you kindly identify yourself to email@example.com.