Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Entry 167 9.11.11

Entry 167, September 11th, 2011, 11:55pm (GMT +2)

When I first made the decision to pursue music as a profession, one of the influencing factors was a inherent perceived “meaningfulness” possessed by the arts (as opposed to other professions, such as engineering or business). A career in music, while perhaps not as lucrative as stock brokering, was something I could be sure would carry meaning. It was something that I could be sure was worth doing.

I've since learned that this is not true. The arts have no more inherent “higher meaning” than any other human pursuit. They can be reduced to a mindless, repetitive assembly line just as easily as automobile manufacturing can. That's what this job has taught me.

But that means that the opposite is also true. That means that any type of work can become meaningful depending on how it is done. I came to this realization while reading about the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most perfect engineering triumphs of the 19th century. Completed in 1883, it has been in constant use with only minor maintenance ever since. Roebling's (the chief engineer) hand-drawn plans outline not only every inch of the bridge in loving detail, but every piece of every machine that had to be invented to build the bridge. Even today, when a part wears out, the City of New York goes back to these plans to determine how to replace it.

It is Roebling's plans that brought me to this realization. In modern blueprints, when a line of rivets are required, the first few rivets are shown and the rest are represented with a line of X's. A notation at the side lists how many there are. This is not the case with Roebling's plans – if a piece has 4,568 rivets, he draws all 4,568 rivets. The houses under the bridge are the houses that were actually present during the construction. A relief comparing different sizes of ships sailing under the bridge has the clippers and steamships rigged with historical accuracy.

The plans are drawn with an exactitude and detail that can only stem from love of the subject matter; it is this love that gives them meaning and makes them art. In music, they say that it's not what you do, but how you do it that's important – I think that this principle applies on an even broader scale than my professors meant. It's not what you do that is meaningful, but how you do it.

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