Nov 172010

In my daily life I don’t really think about these things but sometimes something comes up and then I find that there are all these little pouches of knowledge sitting in my brain unused. I know I have read about this phenomenon on somebody’s blog that there are all these things you learned about at some point in your life and now they just sit there like boxes in the attic.

Last week I went to a meeting. I have recently joined a group of women who meet every five or six weeks to talk about gender and giftedness, and last week the topic was ‘jealousy’. And the woman who started this group had prepared a nice little paper, and on that paper there was something about tsav. Now I know that most of you will never have heard that word before, but I had, and I read the paper, somewhat distracted while thinking about what I wanted to order once the waiter came around, I read that and thought, “Wait a minute, that’s not what tsav is.” Tsav, by the way is a term that refers to a form of witchcraft and comes from a language spoken in the Cameroon Grassland. I wrote a paper on it back in the days when I still studied cultural anthropology at university. We went on, talking about jealousy in ourselves, and others and as a cultural phenomenon, and I found myself – as usual – talking, and talking, and talking, and I wondered why I was going all expert on this, again, and one or two days later the answer popped into my head in the middle of the night. I did, because I was the one with the special interest in psychology and sociology for years, and those women were working in science, or law, or architecture. That was why I kept thinking, “But why don’t they know how that works?” They didn’t, and they couldn’t.

I don’t go around reading books on sociology, psychology, or anthropology these days, but there still is a place in my brain where all these theories live, I only had forgotten about them. They are a bit dusty, they don’t get much use but they are still there.

Then the other day a student of mine asked something about music notation, I don’t remember what, and all of a sudden he got the twenty-minute lecture about how music notation evolved since the 9th century. Oops. I tried to keep it as interesting as possible but still, that was the result of having studied musicology at an institute that specialized in medieval music. (And for those of you trying to get all that university study straight, I studied music education with a minor in musicology, and cultural anthropology.)

And then, yet another day about a month ago, somehow, I was talking to somebody about knitting – I do that all the time – and some time later I found that I had talked for fifteen minutes without stopping about sheep. My friend was polite enough to say that he really had learned a lot about sheep that night. The thing was that we were in a group of people and one of us had bread rare sheep in the past so she had a lot to say as well.

And then, last week again, my husband and I talked about the part of Germany where I come from, and that part has been known for its linen in former centuries, and all of a sudden I found myself explaining how to prepare nettle for spinning.

Now, it’s not unusual for me these days to speak about fiber as you know, because I spend quite a but of my time thinking about it and working with it, and most of my students get an impromptu spinning demonstration at one point. After all the spinning wheel is sitting right there, but those psychological, and sociological things? I keep forgetting that they are there. Like my dissertation, I wrote about learning theories in music for ten years, and of course that’s not something I talk about a lot in daily life, but then sometimes, usually at parties I find myself standing there, talking to someone, and it all comes back.

The weird thing for me is not that all of that stuff is still there if a bit rusty or vague for lack of use but the weird thing is that there are these things I spent years of my life with, and now they are totally unimportant and gone.

And the weirdest thing of all is the jazz standards. I used to sing mostly jazz, and when you’re a jazz musician you spend a lot of time learning a set of standard tunes. Like when you’re studying jazz at the conservatory here you have to know about 150 tunes by heart. I never knew that many but still I knew quite a few. I don’t sing jazz anymore these days, and I don’t listen to jazz mostly but then I go to a concert, or I watch something on TV, or I sit in a bar, and there’s music in the background, and I think, “I know this tune. I used to now all the lyrics.” and then I have to sit and listen and think until I know the name of the song. And then I remember all those songs buried in my memory. And I wonder why I never sing them again. And I wonder if I could maybe just say that I’m a jazz singer again, get a piano player and a band, get up on stage, and with a minimum of preparation just sing for hours. I might.

And then I feel really weird because it’s like I’m cut off from my past. All these things that I started and then left behind, I don’t really know what to do with them. They do come together in a way, but they can’t all be present all the time. That has always been a problem for me, both the reason why there are so may areas of interest in my life, and why I am not really an expert in anything, or a master piano player. I keep fluttering from subject to subject. I sit in a jazz concert and long for something more avantgarde, I sit in an avantgarde concert and long for something a bit more groovy, I listen to rock and long for something a bit more edgy, I don’t know.

My husband once said that our task for the middle years is to bring everything together we started in our youth. We thought about what I had done so far, and he came up with the idea of music theater with fiber performance art. It didn’t seem very realistic.

Do you have forgotten pockets of knowledge as well?

  2 Responses to “pockets of knowledge”

  1. I’ve forgotten if I do.

  2. Natürlich … und ab und an hol ich das vergessene Wissen raus, stürze mich auf ein Themengebiet und freu mich, weil einige Wissenspuzzleteilchen eine neue Ordnung in meinem Kopf bekommen, einen neuen Zusammenhang zu anderem vergessenen Wissen. Manchmal nutze ich diese neuen Entdeckungen, andere lasse ich bewusst wieder dem Vergessen zufallen, weil ich andere Prioritäten in meinem aktuellen Leben setze …

    Und ich würde mich freuen, wenn die wieder mehr Jazz – oder überhaupt mehr – singen würdest. Ich liebe deine Stimme, besonders dann, wenn sie so im Vordergrund steht, wie es bei einigen Jazzliedern der Fall ist.

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