Goldman to discuss writing about music with Brown Bag



Ari L. Goldman was first invited to Chautauqua Institution about 30 years ago. He and his wife were on their way to the grounds when his wife went into labor, cutting their visit short before it even began.

“So I’d say I’ve got a long longing for Chautauqua,” Goldman said.

Goldman is the prose writer-in-residence for Week Seven at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. His Brown Bag, “Making Writing Sing,” will be at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Goldman has given lectures before at the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua, but this is his first time on the grounds as a writer-in-residence. Goldman’s workshop is focused on the spiritual autobiography — something he’s familiar with as the author of three books in the genre — but his Brown Bag will focus on writing about music.

“I know how to tell a spiritual story and a spiritual journey — I’ve done that many times,” Goldman said. “But writing about music is a special challenge.”

Goldman realized this when writing his most recent book, The Late Starters Orchestra, which recounts his experience of learning to play the cello again. Goldman said writing about something outside of his normal range was a challenge for him, but he hopes to share some techniques with his audience that will help “keep the music going even when the concert is over.”

Goldman said when writing about spiritual matters, one can write about his or her practices, experiences, encounters and journeys. Writing about something like music, which is ephemeral, requires a different approach.

“Writing about music is harder, because it’s something you hear and enjoy in the moment — it’s not something you can really take away with you,” Goldman said. “You may leave the concert hall humming a tune, but that quickly disappears, and something else replaces it in your mind.”

Goldman was inspired by Chautauqua’s “wonderful smorgasbord” of opportunities to partake in music, dance and theater when trying to decide on his Brown Bag topic. He said he knows the audience at Chautauqua is one that is appreciative of these opportunities and may want to capture them in some way.

“I think, through writing, we can stop the clock and capture the experiences we have,” Goldman said. “We can write about the music, write about the dance and the lectures, and somehow preserve something of the experience that can take us through the year. Summer’s too short — we should try to bottle it.”

Goldman said the hardest question of writing about music is figuring out how to capture in words an experience that is completely beyond the written form. He said writing about music makes it more democratic and takes it beyond just the concert hall.

“We can all experience it, share it, replicate it and capture it in words,” Goldman said.