We have endured days of outrage over Mary Wilson’s comments that Notre Dame should not have honored J. F. Kennedy in 1963 over the event’s “tone,” the issue of whether the awarding of an honorary degree to the president’s brother was wrong.
Wilson’s concerns were fully justified. But the fact that people today have totally different standards and values for honoring leaders comes as no surprise to those who study the works of composers in the classical music field. But the principle, echoed in later scholarship in scholarship, holds: Art should be free from politics.
The spirit of the musical aesthetic arises from how a piece is written. In the classical tradition, every figure of speech, no matter how trivial, is to be treated in its natural and formative state. These figures of speech matter as a matter of religious content, personal development, and psychological connection. Each figure of speech has a personality and a distinctive flavor. And each character must have particular spatial setting and internal dynamics that separate and separate individual sources of inspiration. In the classical tradition, each dance is not simply performed by a couple or individuals, but there are distances that apply as you move from one place to another.
Where composers fail is in assuming the right to impose those personalities on others. The approach most widely adopted is to create sequences of scene patterns that either adhere to a continuity (music that a character has traveled back and forth from place to place) or overcome any problems of space (music that floats free of any spatial problem).
The genius of George Gershwin’s music, moreover, is that it is so successful on so many levels that it was impossible for today’s listeners to determine if its effects were due to right or wrong sentiments. In the language of today’s critics, there is no middle ground, no possibility that a piece should have been given the marks it received on account of politics.