Friday, April 27, 2007

On pride

I think it is very difficult to take a clean pride in one's own achievements, or at least in any kind of public recognition of those achievements; it is too often tainted either by some reservation about the thing you've done or a sense of the deep bad decorum of pride as opposed to humility (there is always a sort of shame, I find, in whatever pride we feel on receiving an award or distinction of some kind--as if it's a distinctly lowering thing to find one even cares about such recognition); but I love taking pride in my friends' accomplishments, and of course pride in a present or former student's accomplishments is by far the most gratifying sensation I can think of, a more innocent and purer pleasure than any satisfaction elicited by our own public successes. So here I am ridiculously bursting with pride about this great piece of writing by a dear friend who's also a former student: it's Nico Muhly at the Guardian on the deep allure of English choral music. Here's a particularly good paragraph, but go and take a look for yourself:

My love for Thomas Weelkes, especially, was like a childish celebrity infatuation. If the internet had existed, I would have been running the Weelkes fan site and moderating the message boards. There was something about his 400-year-old music that felt so right in the throat and brain; I would have followed him on tour and lit my lighter during When David Heard. I'd have told all my friends that he had written the Ninth Service for me. Part of what is so appealing to me is the athletic teamwork required to pull that music off; in his anthem Hosanna To the Son of David, the basses begin with a swift kick to an A on the syllable "Ho-". Immediately afterwards, the rest of the voices enter on a fat A-major chord, and spiral out into a quick cadence, some moving quickly to a distant note, some staying right where they are, and the tenors doing a little back-flip to their second positions. I cannot remember any other music that has excited me as much as that one balletic and powerful gesture: it has got to be right or there is nothing to listen to. Weelkes makes you do it again and again, with subtle variations each time; singing it was a pleasure that made me feel larger than myself, part of a different body of work.


  1. Beet Holy hoven Batman he disparaged Beethoven! Robin sang.

  2. I'm going to read the Muhly piece later, but I'm very, very impressed by the sort of teacher you seem to be. I think I need to send my 16-year-old your way: she loves tutoring and is thinking about teaching as a profession but wonders if it is challenging enough!

    (How would you like to do a post for the teens who are grappling with this? Mum's words, naturally enough, don't carry enough weight.)