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Stirred But Not Shaken in Life and in the Arts

Stirred but Not Shaken in Life and in the Arts. Memoirs with a Twist. < br> < br> Biographies and stories of unusual cultures, people, places and events enrich our lives. They may spotlight opportunities that we were not aware of before, warn us about possible perils and pitfalls, decrease our phobias of the unfamiliar, and help us to be more sensitive of others. They may give insight into individual character and artistic creations. They sometimes help us to realize the interconnections and Oneness of Us All. They should expand our wisdom as they expand our world view. I would be happy if " Stirred But Not Shaken" nudges the reader toward any of these benefits, if only by one minuscule step. < br> < br> It was not easy comparing these memoirs with others. It is easy to say there are few others like it. Noah Adams' " Piano Lessons, Love, and True Adventures" (1997) is not terribly dissimilar, but it spans only one year of time. Moss Hart's " Act One" (1959) and Bob Dylan's " Chronicles" (2004) are engaging autobiographies, but they focus strictly on adventures in the theater and in the life of a troubadour, respectively. Karen Armstrong4s " The Spiral Staircase" (2004) is engrossing, but since I have never been a nun, our escapades are hardly comparable. Dan Savage4s " The Commitment" (2005) deals hilariously with some of the same subjects in my memoirs, but from quite a different perspective. Robert Pirsig's " Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (1974) bares a closer resemblance to my book, but only because of its breadth and its form. Pirsig's tale, of course, was not just a trendy, flash-in-the-pan best seller. It is a classic that many are still reading even after three decades. In a rare delusion of grandeur, I fancy it as a stepping stone to my own writings. < br> < br> A cross-country motorcycle trip provides the continuity of " Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, " while topics such as Eastern philosophy, values, science, religion, and humanism constitute the rest stops. The unifying thread in " Stirred But Not Shaken" is my trip through life itself, while the experiences of a teacher, musician, actor, critic and aesthete provide a variety of viewpoints along the way. The thoughts in my book do not reach the lofty philosophic and spiritual heights of Pirsig's or Armstrong's, but they do offer fleeting glances at the Buddhist theory of Karma and reincarnation, a subject that Americans have been showing increasing interest. < br> < br> Pirsig divides human understanding into two kinds, the classical and the romantic. These understandings can also be seen notably in the arts, which Curt Sachs described so well in " The Commonwealth of Art" (1946). I do not pursue these subjects directly as Pirsig has done, but I do deal briefly with related matters: aesthetics, style, and some criteria of artistic judgment which appear in the second half of my memoirs. As a college professor, these drifts have often embellished my lectures in music history. < br> < br> I hasten to add that my memoirs do not resemble an academic book in the slightest. All of the topics cited above are but side trips and excursions. I have tried to include sly touches of humor everywhere. Even my academic book, which was published in the '80s (" Music, Mode and Words in Lasso's Last Works" ), does not resemble an academic book. For example, I wrote the following about it in " Stirred But Not Shaken" (Chapter 26): < br> < br> " An academician from Fresno found my writing style wearing. While rereading the Preface recently, I did feel a brief out-of-the-body- experience. But nothing tiring. An explanation: The troubles that I was having in the '80s caused me to lose my balance sometimes, and to bend over backwards to regain equipoise. To counter my heavy heart, I felt compelled
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