Recently I've become interested in compartments.
There are many types.
Some are imagined.
One fits a brain. One fits a heart.
One is larger than it seems. One seems tightly shut but is difficult to close again, like a ziplock bag filled with sand.
Compartments are easily generalized.
The general instance of a compartment, however, is different than, say, the general instance of a drawer.
When drawers are mentioned, we understand that there is usually something going on to do with ordering: placing something with respect to top or bottom, or occasionally left to right. Compartments care less about "right order" and more about separation. It doesn't matter so much where a compartment is with respect to other compartments, but only that their respective contents have nothing to do with one another.
Compartments are also different from bins, to take one other example.
Bins are entirely unconcerned with content separation. Moreover, they seem to possess a remarkable indifference as to what is put inside of them. Compartments have at least a basic respect toward their contents. Bins accept luggage and rubbish equivocally and with abandon. Bins feel sturdy and resilient, while compartments are almost delicate by comparison.
Compartments can be specific:
Secret compartments are perhaps the juiciest of all. The term "secret compartment" feels specific and general all at once.
If only we knew what was inside of them.
Usually what's inside, though, is less interesting than the secret compartment itself. Once discovered, both the compartment and its contents lose some of their appeal. We might as well not even look.
I'm still trying to feel comfortable with compartments. They seem to be all around me. I suspect I might be full of them, though, as with most things, I usually have no idea until it's too late.
I sat down to write a program note. I typed the name of each piece into a Safari tab. I stopped on the last tab when there were no more to open.
The first result was a recording of a passacaglia by a violinist I had gone to music camp with twenty years ago. I had followed the violinist's career on Facebook, noting with interest that they had become something of a Baroque music specialist.
I had never clicked on a single recording they had posted. Why? Was I envious? Uncaring? Probably neither, but I certainly didn't care enough to click.
Why, then, did I suddenly want to hear their passacaglia? Was it because I was finally independently interested in a piece that they had happened to record and the personal connection was enough to entice me?
Or was it reflective of a more general headspace when writing the program note?
Perhaps the interest in the passacaglia had nothing to do with an interest in their playing, but rather the interest in both their playing and the program note reflected a more open frame of mind (as opposed to the assumedly closed frame of mind I had been in when chancing upon their recordings previously).
Before we embark on the depressing thought spiral about Facebook and closed frames of mind, here's another question:
Why was I sitting down to write a program note on a piece I barely knew?
James Tate wrote, "God! This town is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there's mystery and wonder. And I'm just a child playing cops and robbers." Perhaps our information age is something like a fairy tale filled with mystery and wonder. We can find anything we want online and style ourselves an expert, but isn't it all just a gingerbread house of ideas? Still, I can't see anyone ending up like Hansel and Gretel for engaging in plagiarism.
What interests me is that we have no word for the next best thing (to plagiarism). In other words, what does it really mean to try to cram information in a few hours only for the purpose of teaching it to other people? College professors, who hate plagiarism, engage in this kind of intellectual cram-work all the time when asked to jump in on a new course.
In their defense, are ideas any less valid when unbacked by deeper understanding? Perhaps the ideas become more valid in themselves because they're untarnished by subjectivity. Whatever change they undergo in transmission is unwitting, like a virus adapting to a new host. Perhaps, like a virus, these changes make the ideas more memorable, easier to replicate, more transmissible, more able to traverse the path of least resistance. What is lacking in depth is precisely makes the ideas more compelling.
Of course, like a virus, these sorts of ideas might still be terrible for us, but what about from the point of view of the idea?
Recently I sat down to put an arrangement together with a percussionist working from a limited instrumental setup. Someone handed them an Irish bodhrán, asking, "Can you play this thing."
They responded, "Wikihow."