An invited post by: Yana Stainova
“The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic or intellectual
forms a bridge between the sharers, which can be the basis for
understanding much of what is not shared between them,
and lessens the threat of their differences,”
We often equate good scholarship with a critical attitude. A cynical view of the world is almost automatically welcomed as more scientifically sound than an enchanted one. While this methodology has led to destabilizing habits of thought that perpetuate large structures of power, it has also elevated the critical perspective onto a pedestal. We are more inclined to unveil the mechanisms, cultural logics, and uneven global flows that underpin magic than to suspend disbelief and to partake in it. We have grown afraid of feeling enchanted.
I was attracted to my research topic, a classical music program in Venezuela popularly called ‘El Sistema,’ because I found it enchanting. The program provided free classical music education and instruments to more than half a million young people in schools all over Venezuela. Even in video recordings, I was smitten by the energy with which the young musicians played, by the sight of people who were passionate about a pursuit.
In Venezuela, I met musicians who took musical enchantment seriously: it was a state of mind and spirit that they consciously aspired towards. One of them was Carlos, an eighteen-year-old musician. I asked to interview him because his playing stood out for me at a concert: when Carlos played, he lifted the instrument unusually high in his left hand, his cheek resting against the instrument as if on a pillow. He closed his eyes. And smiled. Continue reading