I’ve studied computer science and then gone on to study the recorder and I’m currently busying myself with making the recorder able to control the computer. I love the combination, but wondered a bit about if I’ve chosen a favourable tradeoff. I’m happy so I guess I’m not doing to bad. But, when I started reading “On playing the Flute” by Johann Joachim Quantz (the book I’m referring to is the 2nd edition of the English translation by Edward R. Reilly published through Faber & Faber) I found that he had something to say on the issue. In chapter 1 (page 24) he writes:

“Furthermore, a musician must not occupy himself with too many other things. Almost every science requires the whole man. My meaning here, however, is by no means that it is impossible to excel in more than one science at the same time, but that this requires a quite extraordinary talent, of a kind that nature seldom produces.”

Ouch! But later in the same paragraph: “Yet if someone who gives himself to academic studies has sufficient talent for music, and devotes just as much industry to it as to the former, he not only has an advantage over other musicians, but also can be of greater service to music in general than others, as can be demonstrated with many examples. Whoever is aware of how much influence mathematics and other related sciences, such as philosophy, poetry, and oratory, have upon music, will have to own not only that music has a greater compass than many imagine, but also that the evident lack of knowledge about the above-mentioned sciences among the majority of professional musicians is a great obstacle to their further advancement, and the reason why music has not yet been brought to a more perfect state.”

So, apparently, nature seldom produces people that can do two things well, but there are many examples if the two things are music and academic studies. Of course, a good question is what Quantz recognizes as academic studies. Is what he writes considered academic by his contemporaries?

PS, happy new year! :-)

Categories: Discussion