On The Musicological Juncture

Words are not going to get us there,
are they?
Words won’t bring us
to music’s promised land.
They weren’t given the right directions,
the right coordinates for finding
where exactly music resides.
Words reach,
but unlike music,
they don’t touch.

The “musicological juncture”
was Charles Seeger’s phrase,
coined long ago to describe
the situation we
–musicologists all of us–
place ourselves in
when we talk about music.

“Gaps found in our speech thinking
about music” he said at one point,
“may be suspected of being areas
of music thinking.”

We’re still in that gap–in that space
between thinking about music
and music thinking.
“Interpret music’s mediations!”
says anthropology,
“Look to the brain!”
says neuroscience,
“And don’t forget the notes themselves!”
urges music theory.

We reach to fill the interpretive space,
all the while
musicians keep playing,
talking another talk among themselves,
using sounds, not words
to craft their touch.

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