Why should somebody else—anybody else, whether it’s a program annotator or a radio announcer—tell me that a piece of music is “sad,” or happy, or light, or charming, or profound, when no two people ever have precisely the same reaction to the same piece? One person’s “sad” may be another’s “noble,” and one person’s intense and penetrating may be another’s pretentious and annoying. The other day I read a program note in which a Schumann piano work was described as a charming salon piece, the implication being that the piece was essentially pretty, but insubstantial. Perhaps it was just the mood I was in, but I found the short piece incredibly touching, a perfect example, in fact, of how Schumann was often able to transform seemingly simple material and fleeting moments into music of lasting beauty and meaning. But again, that was for me, and that’s the point. We’re all entitled to our own reactions, and none of us needs to be told how to react.
This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.