A stradivarius violin is understood only in contrast to lesser instruments. Even this is secondary to the concept of the perfect tone. By stretching one’s mind to conceive the perfect tone one begins the pursuit of that experience. We then share the experience and motive of Stradivarius and only then can begin to appreciate the “Tone When Heard.”
Connoisseurship is, therefore, meditative, rather than quantitative. To say, “legitimization is the work of connoisseurship” is to miss the point. To comprehend the highest ideal is the goal. To become the embodiment, for a moment, of the clearest understanding is the challenge. And then to share that with others is the desire. Abolish the cult of originality, if you can. I don’t see too many postmodernists leaving the limelight if they get it. That’s human nature. But to imply we are all equal copies of a nonexistent original is to ignore the ranks of brilliant men and women who have left us all the fruits of their great work. Those who make the great effort are more than “intersections of cultural and ideological forces which shape a particular historical moment.”
Their reward is to indelibly transform us through their personalities whether we know them or not. I don’t need to know how many children the Psalmists’ had or when Bach left puberty. Shakespere and Rembrandt can be figments of my imagination for all I care. Just don’t take them away.
©1998 R de Koster