Never Assume….

December 8, 2011 Post Comment Uncategorised

A dear, and now departed, friend and former work colleague had a number of catchphrases – one of which was:

Never Assume

This of course is SO true, and yet we all have a tendency to fall into the trap of “knowing what’s coming” because we’ve either seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted it ALL before. Even if we haven’t we have, because we are so very good at distorting something we don’t know into being like something we do know.

“How did you find X?”
“Yea, it was nice – a bit like Y, to be honest. And I love Y, so I was comfortable with it.”
Recalibrating ‘new’ experiences in terms of old ones is a very common mental trait by coding events using metaphor after the event.

However, to do it before the event, is to actually start to close the Mind to being fully in the moment and really experiencing something completely new, and – more often than not – totally rewarding!

This last month has found me out in terms of my knowledge and love of the music of Beethoven.
I assumed I had heard all there was to hear – and loved it all from the very familiar (5th Symphony, say) to the less well known piano or chamber music. I admire his humanistic qualities, his musical language and stunning level of invention. I believe he is one of the greatest creative artists of all time and this, it would seem, allows me to assume I know everything about my experience of Beethoven.

The turning point for me was watching a programme called “In Search of Beethoven” that went out on the Sky Arts channel. It was a lengthy programme and, to be fair, was just interesting by virtue of its familiarity. Until I heard one particular comment late on in the programme:-

“What makes every piece he ever wrote sound different? It is because in sketching out and crafting every work he chose a particular soundscape for it.”

Chose a particular soundscape

Now this wasn’t just about instrumentation, key signature, tempo, melody and counterpoint and interpretaive markings. This was beyond the fundamentals of his musical language.
This is ALL about the meaning he wanted to convey to the listener and how, in creative terms, he preframed it.

Then I extended my thinking on this, as to how might we carry this into the art of living our own lives.

For what purpose. you may ask?
Purpose inasmuchas we are all capable of greatness, to be genius, at some part of our life.
Come on – not everyone can be a Beethoven though can they?
Perhaps not in musical terms – but there is more to man’s existence on the planet than conveying YOUR MESSAGE through the expressive medium of music.
Beethoven was pretty ordinary at loads of other things, and probably woefully inadequate at some as well. We are just mighty fortunate that he found his genius and expressed it for posterity.

There must have been for him instances where he assumed things, such as the true nature of the intentions of Napoleon Bonaparte for instance! However in music there was never any assumption. As a passionate musical revolutionary he left no room for assumption.

Are you a passionate revolutionary?

So what are you a passionate revolutionary about? If you don’t know then I invite you to never assume that you are not one or cannot be one! If you are able to express your true message in life then therein lies fulfillment. The life you were meant to lead!

How often do we bring the meaning of our communication, our deeds and actions, to truly bear upon our world and the people in it in such a way? Given that everything we say and do has an impact on THE world – not just our world – then surely we can really bring meaning into our lives through bringing more gravity into the things we say and do.

So – Beethoven’s 5th Symphony – that much played and well known old ‘war horse’. I’ve just heard a brilliant and very ‘fresh and new’ rendition by a conductor who revealed much in an interview afterwards about how he saw the work. He said,
“This work has become so popular over the last 200 years that there has become an almost overwhelming expectation about how it should sound. And in and through that expectation it has lost its original meaning, the meaning Beethoven must surely have ascribed to it, given the nature of the man and his art.”

In other words, the world has assumed the music and the soundscape that the piece occupies and has played it that way ever since!

So, what about soundscape and meaning Beethoven wanted to convey here in part of the Missa Solemnis – a work that I was in danger of never knowing until now, by virtue of my foolish assumptions? For me it is an expression of wonder and joy at the whole of creation.
I leave you to decide for yourself however – far be it from me to ever assume again!!

Gloria Part 1