Monday, November 07, 2005

Douglas Bails

A C Douglas has this enlightening post in my comments box: "Please read my response to George Hunka's remarks in the comments section of your previous post on this matter. That should make more clear to you my position in this business. And just to make very clear my position on the text, you, and Mr. Butler, and Mr. Hunka take it as inarguable that the text is not the play. I, on the other hand, insist that the text IS the play -- if it's worth something, that is. That's the core of our disagreements on everything in this business, and I now see (well, actually I saw it before) we'll simply have to agree to disagree on this core principle."

Mr Douglas, there is a difference between making assertions and making an arguable claim. A line such as "Thus has it always and universally been, and thus it will always be," with which you end a previous comment, is an assertion that is unsupported with evidence, either historical or logical. It is, in fact, merely an opinion which, like assholes, we all have. Perhaps you feel an opinion is enough. Most educated people require more.

If you truly believe that the text is the same thing as the performance, then you are going to have to offer evidence and support beyond mere assertion, because to most people who actually work in the arts, your opinion makes no sense. It is like asserting an apple is an orange, and then insisting that we must "agree to disagree" on this core principle. I reiterate: A play or a score exists in two dimension on a page and communicates through written symbols -- would you argue with that? A performance exists in three dimensions and moves through time, and communicates through bodies and voices or instruments -- would you agree with that? If you do (and I'm not certain how you could not), then you have to admit that they are simply not the same thing. And while naive relativism allows youngsters (and postmoderns) to disagree on a "core principle" without discussion ("You believe what you want, and I'll believe what I want," they chirp), there is still such a thing as truth and validity and merely asserting an opinion exhibits neither.

Furthermore, Mr Douglas, to my knowledge you have never composed an opera or written a play or directed either one (correct me if I am wrong); that you would argue with people who have done so is fine, but that you would do so without feeling the need to back up your opinion with evidence and arguments, simply shows you to be an arrogant, uninformed fool with a computer and a blog.

If the best that you can do is call an argument "absurd," and assert the "universal" and eternal quality of your unfounded and undefended opinions, then my recommendation is that you go back to your electronic playground and let the grown-ups have a decent conversation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a venerable idea that like plays, music is also an 'intentional object', which is not totally located in the score (which always requires some degree of interpretation, a fact obvious to anyone involved in music on more than a superficial level), but is not ever perfectly realized in any one single performance, either. Roman Ingarden wrote perceptively on this issue in the early part of the 20th century, but music theorists and historians of earlier times have always had a running discourse on the nature of music and performance. It's a tricky issue, the ontological status of a piece of music within the Western classical tradition. Throw performance traditions and context into the mix, and it becomes even more complicated.

Simply retreating into 'the text is the text' doesn't get anywhere, because any staging (or concert performance) whatsoever requires decisions and thus interpretation. I'd love to read Mr. Douglas' defense of the universality and transparency of his approach to the text, but he's never seemed too forthcoming with actually laying the entire argument out.

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