15 ene. 2007

Purity and depth.

Much as I like the Great American Songbook, I like the songs better without the words, ultimately. Compare Miles to Sinatra on "It Never Entered My Mind." I like Sinatra's version too, but... It's not like the lyricists were unskilled, but that the lyrics tell you what the song is supposed to mean, and I prefer a purely non-verbal music. I want to provide my own subtext. Miles has to be considered the best "singer" of ballads ever, having found a way to leave out the words of "Surrey with Fringe on Top" or "If I were a Bell."

I do like "A piano tinkling in the next apartment / those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant / A fairground's painted swings / These foolish things / Remind me of you." That's got to be one of the best rhymes ever.

***

As for depth, I think specialists are better generalists than "generalists" are. In other words, people who have specialized narrowly in something end up also having broader knowledge than those who set out to have broad knowledge but without specializing. I have only a few, "narrow" interests, but I tend to pursue these interests "to the bottom" and end up knowing a lot about other things in the process. Since I've lived long enough to have more than a few such interests (not interests, passions is a better word, my friend Bob Basil would point out), depth has created its own form of breadth.

So narrow specialization is not the enemy of broad knowledge after all. If I'm ignorant of a lot of things, that's just because I haven't specialized in them yet.