Writing About Music

Writing About Music

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Hello, I'm Chuen-Fung Wong from the Music department. The subject of this micro-lecture is writing about music. There are many reasons for us to think that it's intimidating to write about music. Music is subjective, the experience of listening to music is too complicated to capture in words, music and language belong to two different mediums and music speaks the unspeakable, quite true. But to me, music may also inspire writing. Let me share with you a passage written by the famous Chinese author Ailing Zhang in the early 20th century. She hated orchestral music and she used it as a metaphor to express her anxiety and frustration about modernity. Here's what she wrote: "The orchestra suddenly grows tense with hands bowed and teeth clenched, they enter the penultimate phase of the battle, urged on by the timpani, which pounds out its drumbeat over and over, determining the orchestra's destiny: to overwhelm and annihilate the audience completely. And the audience can only put up silent resistance to the orchestra's attack. The orchestral assault is mounted slowly, painstakingly, allowing time for each weapon- tubas and trumpets, pianos and violins- to be set in place for one ambush after another. That kind of premeditated conspiracy frightens me." Simple language, no jargon. She certainly didn't enjoy orchestral music, but she made it so interesting to her readers. Good luck, write well.