To be well-rounded is to be well-grounded in many areas of study and practice.
Narratives on eclecticism:
- Pico Iyer, The Man Within My Head (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012): on the author’s feeling of kinship with Graham Greene
- Alexander Norman, The Dalai Lama: An Extraordinary Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020): “. . . the Dalai Lama has navigated the modern world while consulting on all matters of import with oracles possessed by wrathful deities.” “He also reveals the Dalai Lama to be a sophisticated thinker and consummate scholar, one whose feet remain firmly on the ground . . .”
- Ezra Greenspan, William Wells Brown: An African American Life (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014): about “the fugitive slave, abolitionist, lecturer, travelogue writer, novelist and performer whose wide-ranging intelligence turned a gaze on white people . . .”
- Stephen Budiansky, Journey to the End of Reason: The Life of Kurt Gödel (W.W. Norton & Company, 2021): “In 1947, having left Nazi-occupied Vienna for the quaint idyll of Princeton, N.J., seven years before, the mathematician Kurt Gödel was studying for his citizenship exam and became preoccupied with the mechanisms of American government.”
Technical and Analytical Readings
- George Anders, You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education (Little, Brown & Company, 2017): “ . . . the ever-expanding tech sector is now producing career opportunities in fields — project management, recruitment, human relations, branding, data analysis, market research, design, fund-raising and sourcing, to name some — that specifically require the skills taught in the humanities. To thrive in these areas, one must be able to communicate effectively, read subtle social and emotional cues, make persuasive arguments, adapt quickly to fluid environments, interpret new forms of information while translating them into a compelling narrative and anticipate obstacles and opportunities before they arise.”
- Randall Stross, A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees (Redwood Press, 2017): “ . . . by the time they reach what Stross terms the “peak earning ages,” 56-60, liberal arts majors earn on average $2,000 more per year than those with pre-professional degrees (if advanced degrees in both categories are included).”
- David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph In a Specialized World (Riverhead Books, 2019): “Breadth is the ally of depth, not its enemy. In the most rewarding domains of life, generalists are better positioned than specialists to excel.”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
The main purpose of the music and accompanying essays, on this site, is to illustrate distinctions that are human values. If the listener "hears" the value in the music - even if only after reading the accompanying exegesis - then this project's main purpose has been achieved. Sometimes, a composition, a performance or an artist "nails it". So it is with Paolo Angeli, who plays a prepared Sardinian guitar, which can be bowed or plucked/strummed. “Whatever you want to call it, nobody else is doing it quite like this. Paolo Angeli, the Sardinian sorcerer, manually magics beautiful, multi-layered music from his unique prepared guitar: a hybrid orchestra of an instrument with strings going in all directions, foot-pedal-controlled motorised propellers and hammers to create shimmering drones and bass-lines as he bows, strikes, plucks and strums while producing rhythmic atmospherics by treading on a plastic bag and adjusting tunings on the fly.” His influences seem to come from everywhere. His Sardinian guitar is “a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument that looks like a guitar crossed with a cello, and has virtually orchestral capabilities. Angeli’s custom creation has been fitted cross-wise and lengthwise with additional strings: cello strings and drone strings, and has numerous other inventions attached to it, including hammers, pedals, and some propellers at variable speed. Then there’s his array of effects, controlled by both his feet and hands. These custom modifications enable him to become a crazy-awesome one-man band, as he draws on Sardinian folk music, jazz, flamenco, Arabic suggestions, post-folk and contemporary classical music in his compositions.” Playing with a bow, Angeli creates a sound similar to a cello’s, with a feel of introspection, a mood to which the cello is naturally suited. This style points out the close relationship between self-worth (think of Bach’s solo cello suites) and inner integrity. What make for fun and fascinating listening are the intricacy of his instrument and his musical ideas. Each of his albums could be categorized under a separate value but doing that would overlook his genius, which in substantial part resides in his original and groundbreaking approach to music, and his unwillingness to stay put. His albums include:
- “RI” (2004)
- “Sale quanto basta” (2013): “. . . although it's just him and electricity, it seldom sounds like fewer than three people playing. There are twelve fine compositions, each as crafted as a short novel, and beautifully recorded. Paulo's is a music that pretty much defies genre or category; accessible, exerimental, tuneful, tactile and ambient - with a folk root, a rock inflection, and a contemporary outlook.”
- “S'Û” (2014): “S'û is the sound of a master musician. The master in question is Paolo Angeli, a virtuoso player of the prepared Sardinian guitar (an instrument he has developed over the past 20 years).”
- “Talea” (2017): “. . . a great performer able to play and modify his own music, always finding new keys to read it and to play, succeeding in combining everything with such a positive attitude, so loaded with “good energy” to always be enjoyable by any kind of audience.”
- “22 Free Radiohead” (2019): “On this hour-long solo suite, Angeli reinterprets the music of English alt-rockers Radiohead, deftly weaving traditional Sardinian folk songs and his own compositions into the mix. It's hard to believe that there are no overdubs, so multi-layered are Angeli's arrangements, but then again, his prepared Sardinian guitar is no ordinary instrument.”
- “Jar'a” (2021): “. . . he Sardinian's music stubbornly resists categorization. Elements of free-jazz, post-rock, folk, noise and electronic soundscaping are all in the mix, while Agneli's prepared guitar has more bells and whistles than your average one-man band. Suffice it to say, Jar'a, a six-part suite for prepared guitar, will cause a headache for label merchants. For the open-minded, its rich sonic collage is quite the ride.”
- “Rade” (2022): “. . . the Sardinian musician changes course, openly confronting the Mediterranean in a navigation that takes us to the mixed race atmosphere of Mare Nostrum’s ports.”
Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, BWV 1046-1051 (1721): Bach composed these concerti to display his compositional skills – he was looking for work (performances by Goltz, Savall, Huggett, Faust, Abbado and Karl Richter). This performance, by Václav Luks and Collegium 1704, took place at Köthen Castle, where Bach was employed from 1717 to 1723.
In his Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116, BB123 (1943), Hungarian composer Béla Bartók incorporated folk themes and contemporary art music. Bartók wrote: “the general mood of the work represents – apart from the jesting second movement – a gradual transition from the sternness of the first movement and the lugubrious death-song of the third, to the life-assertion of the last one.”
“Aga Ujma is a captivating individual, both her music and personality brim with a childlike openness but also a hint of a fairytale darkness beneath the autumnal warmth. Her sound follows the contemporary folk cannon of Bjork, Múm, Eivør, CocoRosie and Current 93, blending traditional folk with minimal avant-garde production methods and Eastern instrumentation. Her glacial vocals, underpinned by the delicate plucking of an Indonesian sasando, make her EP a beautiful homage to two very different places that are close to her heart. Aga was born in a sleepy town in the South West of Poland, to parents who were ‘quite conservative but open-minded at the same time’ - a duality reflected in her music.” This is reflected in her album, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (2022).
Music from SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States)
Flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal was a medical doctor.
- Bach, sonatas for flute: BWV 1020; BWV 1030; BWV 1033; BWV 1034
- Bach, Partita for solo flute, BWV 1013
- Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (arranged for flute)
- Mozart, Flute Concerto No. 2
- Mozart, complete flute quartets
- Händel, flute sonatas
- Romberg: Flute Concerto, Op. 17
- Mozart: Concerto in C major for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, K. 299
- “Japanese Melodies” album with Lily Laskine
- Bolling, “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio”
- “Improvisations” album with Yehudi Mehuhin and Ravi Shankar
- French documentary, 1985
Bartók, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz 106, BB 114 (1936): “it is simultaneously primitive and sophisticated; wild and controlled; serene and terrifying; serious and slapstick.” This makes it music of eclectics, if not necessarily ecletic music. Bartók composed it as the right wing was taking a firm grip on much of Europe.
Charles Ives was an amateur composer; his main career and source of income was life-insurance executive.
- Symphony No. 1 in D minor
- Violin Sonatas: No. 1; No. 2, “Concord, Mass., 1840-60; No. 3; No. 4, “Children’s Day at Camp Meeting”
- Various works
- Symphony No. 4
- A Symphony: New England Holidays
- Central Park in the Dark
- Three Places in New England
If you listen to the music of Stuart Saunders Smith, then probably you are a percussionist, an eclectic, or both. Smith has composed music for drums of many kinds, vibraphone, xylophone, gongs, marimba, timpani, temple blocks, glockenspiel and spoken voice. A six-CD set of his music is called “At Seventy: The Percussion Music of Stuart Saunders Smith:
Whether Händel’s Solomon (HWV 67) was truly a well-rounded person is not the point: Handel’s apparent intent was to portray him as one, highlighting a significant character trait in each of the oratorio’s three parts (performances conducted by McCreesh, McCreesh and Gardner).
- Landowski, Symphony No. 4
- Anders Koppel: three marimba concerti: No. 1; No. 2; No. 3, “Linzer”
- Avison, 12 Concerti Grossi, after Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1744): Nos. 1-6; Nos. 7-12.
- Steven Ricks, Reconstructing the Lost Improvisations of Aldo Pilestri (1683–1727) (2019) (approx. 14 minutes): “. . . Ricks employs the same method of ducking in and out of genre worlds. We peek into near-quotation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and out again, where the next gesture might be an atonal solo or a whirl of contending, entangled voices.”
- Steve Tibbetts, “Hellbound Train: An Anthology”: “The Minnesota guitarist and composer has created a near-five decade body of work that straddles several genres (jazz, folk, rock, ambient, various types of world musics) without sitting comfortably in any of them.”
- “Brazen Heart”: Dave Douglas Quintet Live at Jazz Standard 2015 (8-CD set)
- J.D. Sparr Electric Bands, “I Can Hear Her Through the Thin Wall Singing”: this is “music of a mixed classical and eclectic character . . .” [Don Lerman, Cadence magazine 2019 annual edition, p. 264.]
- Joji Hirota, “Prayer’s Tale: Taiko Drums and Asian Percussion”: “Single-handedly playing 40 different Japanese and Asian instruments, combined with vocals, he weaves sounds of nature, emotions and colours of the universe into a beautiful soundscape.”
- Maciej Zimka, “Out of the Circle”: for Lawrence Welk fans, listening to an accordion would not have reflected eclectic tastes; listening to this would have.
When I close a book / I open life. / I hear / faltering cries / among harbours. / Copper ignots / slide down sand-pits / to Tocopilla. / Night time. / Among the islands / our ocean / throbs with fish, / touches the feet, the thighs, / the chalk ribs / of my country. / The whole of night / clings to its shores, by dawn / it wakes up singing / as if it had excited a guitar.
The ocean's surge is calling. / The wind / calls me / and Rodriguez calls, / and Jose Antonio-- / I got a telegram / from the "Mine" Union / and the one I love / (whose name I won't let out) / expects me in Bucalemu.
No book has been able / to wrap me in paper, / to fill me up / with typography, / with heavenly imprints / or was ever able / to bind my eyes, / I come out of books to people orchards / with the hoarse family of my song, / to work the burning metals / or to eat smoked beef / by mountain firesides. / I love adventurous / books, / books of forest or snow, / depth or sky / but hate / the spider book / in which thought / has laid poisonous wires / to trap the juvenile / and circling fly. / Book, let me go. / I won't go clothed / in volumes, / I don't come out / of collected works, / my poems / have not eaten poems-- / they devour / exciting happenings, / feed on rough weather, / and dig their food / out of earth and men. / I'm on my way / with dust in my shoes / free of mythology: / send books back to their shelves, / I'm going down into the streets. / I learned about life / from life itself, / love I learned in a single kiss / and could teach no one anything / except that I have lived / with something in common among men, / when fighting with them, / when saying all their say in my song.
[Pablo Neruda, “Ode to the Book”]
The diaphaneity of Babet contrasted with the grossness of Gueulemer. Babet was thin and learned. He was transparent but impenetrable. Daylight was visible through his bones, but nothing through his eyes. He declared that he was a chemist. He had been a jack of all trades. He had played in vaudeville at Saint-Mihiel. He was a man of purpose, a fine talker, who underlined his smiles and accentuated his gestures. His occupation consisted in selling, in the open air, plaster busts and portraits of "the head of the State." In addition to this, he extracted teeth. He had exhibited phenomena at fairs, and he had owned a booth with a trumpet and this poster: "Babet, Dental Artist, Member of the Academies, makes physical experiments on metals and metalloids, extracts teeth, undertakes stumps abandoned by his brother practitioners. Price: one tooth, one franc, fifty centimes; two teeth, two francs; three teeth, two francs, fifty. Take advantage of this opportunity." This _Take advantage of this opportunity_ meant: Have as many teeth extracted as possible. He had been married and had had children. He did not know what had become of his wife and children. He had lost them as one loses his handkerchief. Babet read the papers, a striking exception in the world to which he belonged. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume III – Marius; Book Seventh – Patron Minette, Chapter III, Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse.]