Writing about music is an absurd task. It requires abandonment of the usual rules of communication, a certain suspension of logic and adoption of an impressionistic language which the author can do no more than hope that his audience will understand, be affected by. Perhaps the comedian Martin Mull put it best when he quipped that “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”
And yet we persist. We all have a need to communicate our feelings, and there are few more powerful, more demanding of articulation, than those elicited by music. We want to help others experience art as we do, to know that they feel equally overwhelmed by it. Tolstoy wrote that art is a contagion – a medium through which one who has contracted a feeling, so to speak, can “infect” others with it. By writing about music, we want to mimic the art that has infected us by empowering our words to accomplish a similar effect.
But sometimes words fail utterly to do that. At those times, they can only pollute the experience, interfere with others’ opportunities to be infected, unmitigated, by a perfect feeling. At those times the only responsible thing for the writer to do is put down the pen, fold his hands in his lap, and listen.
The Goat Rodeo Sessions hits stores on October 18th. For now, you can learn more about the project here, or by visiting Yo Yo Ma’s home page.