Replying to LO23998
I too have been thinking over At's post and thank you for your thoughtful
reply to what At wrote. I am fully aware of the concerns some may have
about yet other categories of knowledge, but one that seems to have been
left out is aesthetic knowledge. In writing this I should also thank
Andrew Campbell for his constant challenge to enter into profound yet
often wistful knowledge of poetry and stories.
I originally trained as a classical musician and some of the most profound
learning and enlightenment I have undergone has happened when listening to
and taking part in musical performances.
Like John and his learning to ride bicycle example, I could try to tell
others what I learned when I listened to the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
perform Bach's B Minor Mass at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, or the huge
impact hearing Messiean's great Turangalila symphony live last year had
and continues to have on me, but the learning was not for the great part
in words or even ideas. I am currently studying Mahler's 9th symphony
which is profoundly concerned with issues of life, what it is to be human,
death and mortality - yet it has no words to explain itself with...
Another work I love is Britten's "War Requiem" which combines the text of
the Latin Mass with the war poems of Wilfred Owen. If you really want to
learn in your deepest soul "the pity of war distilled" beg, borrow or
steal a copy of the CD and listen to this work once or twice.
The great Australian poet Les Murray wrote 3 poems on the death of his
mother that enabled me to learn so much about families yet I could not
write much of this learning down as, like music, my learning is
intrinsically tied up in the form of the poem and the greatness of the
poet. Which does not prevent anyone from writing a PhD thesis on the
topic. Its just that as works of art these poems have a life and
existence that transcends even the most insightful analysis.
Like John, I continually go back to my aesthetic learning and it does not
deplete: it grows. It is simultaneously tacit and explicit with the two
polarities seeming to feed each other in a virtuous cycle. The wonderful
thing about music, as with digestion, is that it teaches us in many ways
and one does not have to have to have a formal musical education to learn.
This brings me to the next point. Another distinction we can make in
regard to knowledge is between theoretical and non-theoretical knowledge.
Some call the latter "naive" although I think this term can be used in a
disparaging way in our culture. As trained musicians, scientists,
philosphers or consultants we can and should theorise, but ultimately
great experiences and great learning often happens when we are in the
non-theoretical realm. My wife's viola da gamba teacher, Jaap ter Linden,
who in addition to being a great viola da gambist is one of the world's
leading baroque cellists, used to say something along the lines of:
"You must know all the books and have read and understood all the
treatises on baroque music - then you must forget them and play!"
It is in the non-theoretical, naive mode that I tend to experience great
art, poetry, music, love and transformative science. I then step back and
theorise and explore and extrapolate. But the integrated whole remains
and transforms with my theorising and in doing so makes life worthwhile.
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