This post was inspired by Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music Lesson One – Getting Acquainted (Amazon affiliate link)
Stravinsky’s first lesson outlines his game plan, as I outlined mine in previous posts.
“I should like to place my plan of confessions mid-way between an academic course and what one might call an apology for my own general ideas. I use the word apology…in the sense of a justification and defense of my ideas and personal views. In fine, all this means that I shall be giving you dogmatic confidences”
“Dogmatic confidences” is an important term. His game plan is already open to discussion. How can we hold these confessions to be true with no proof? His justification:
“The fact that the value and efficacy of such an explanation have been tested in my own experience convinces me – and guarantees you – that I am not offering you a mass of mere opinions, but rather that I am submitting to you a body of findings which, though made by me, are none the less just as valid for others as for myself…My experiences and investigations are entirely objective, and my introspections have led me to question myself only that I might derive something concrete from them…These ideas that I am developing…have served and will continue to serve as the basis for musical creation precisely because they have been developed in actual practice.”
This is Stravinsky’s link between creative action and theoretical creativity. I’ll refer to them respectively as playing and talking (about playing).
Stravinsky claims his views are true and objective because his playing is real; his talking informs his playing and vise versa; his theory and practice are totally in sync.
Some people can’t play; they just talk. They don’t have any experience or substance to prove their claims. Others can’t talk; they just play. They don’t understand or don’t care to understand their purpose. They also lack the skills for communicating ideas in a non-musical form.
Side Note: Both types of people make poor teachers.
This isn’t an issue of taste; it’s an issue of genuineness. Any creator who practices what he preaches (and vise versa) has a kind of unifying theory that can be said to be true, objective and real. Do what you say; say what you do!
A unifying theory could exist on different levels. What’s interesting is that Stravinsky’s Poetics, although about “making in the field of music,” only tackles big issues and avoids mention of specific melodic, harmonic and rhythmic materials. Some theories only deal with melodic, harmonic and rhythmic materials, and could also cover teaching and technique. For the individual, it’s not important on what level your theory exists. What’s important is that it’s unified with your practice.
For future consideration: How does an individual’s theory of the arts evolve? How does his/her practice evolve with it?
Further reading: Theory (epistêmê) and practice (technê) in ancient Greek philosophy (Link).