I can’t clap and sing at the same time. And I never will. While this makes attending Protestant worship services nearly impossible, my depraved ignorance of all things musical actually gifts me moments of complete awe. This, I’d like to think, is why I read more music criticism and listen to more music-themed podcasts than anyone I know: the theoretical grasp other people have of music satisfies me. 

It’s not that my knowledge grows—it still sounds like Elvish to me—but, in the moment, their knowledge helps me understand the way I feel about a song or film score. I could never repeat to anyone what I’ve “learned,” nor will I ever be able to tell what key something is in, or even what a key is. But other people can, and listening to them opine on their expertise fills my ignorance—which, if I may, is the most underrated emotional experience. 

Settling the Score’s Star Wars episode was so entrancing that I decided it wasn’t safe to listen while driving. Months later, all I could tell you is that John Williams’ pretty much used Gustav Holst’s “Mars,” which is essentially common knowledge to most people at this point. Here at the post calvin I make sure to never miss one of Josh Parks’s posts, hoping to see a new post like “Arvo Pärt’s Musical Breastplate”: 

Throughout the entire piece, the sopranos sing the three notes of the A-minor triad (A, C, and E) almost exclusively. The only exceptions are neighbor notes that quickly resolve to those three pitches. This is a favorite technique of Pärt’s, and he refers to it as tintinnabuli, since the melody jumps between chord tones like a set of bells (tintinnabulum is Latin for “little bell”). In this piece, it makes the sopranos sound both celestial and transparent, there but not there. 

When I read Parks’s paragraph on Estonian composer Arvo Pärt piece The Deer’s Cry, I can, despite being unable to clap and sing at the same time, hear exactly what he describes. In these moments, I’m thankful for my own ignorance. 

When I moved to Boston, I was less thankful for it. While ignorance has its boons, it’s more well-known for its banes. Moving to Bean City from Grand Rapids, Michigan, created many opportunities for my ignorance to induce stress. If for some reason you decide to move to Boston, here’s what I wish I knew: 

  1. You need a parking pass to park on the streets.
  2. But to get a parking pass you need Massachusetts plates, so you’ll need to purchase a private spot somewhere in the city, which will most likely be a 10 to 15-minute walk from your apartment. 
  3. Get a transponder ASAP. In Massachusetts, tolls are collected electronically, and the cameras are all over the highways. You’ll end up spending around a dollar every time you leave the city unless you have a transponder, which will save you a few quarters every trip. 
  4. Be prepared to see a rat that can pass for a raccoon two or three times a week. (I much prefer Grand Rapids’ rabbits, the small mammal of choice.)
  5. Make sure you budget at least $10 for laundry every week. Even if your building has a laundry room, the coin shortage makes using it rather impossible, so you probably have to go to the nearest laundromat. For me, that’s almost $7 a wash and about $2–3 to dry.
  6. Too many fluffernutters will make you queasy. 

My inept musicality and my move to the east coast probably have less in common that I’m stretching for. All I know is that the common refrain “ignorance is bliss” rings hollow amid life’s complexities. I prefer to think of ignorance as both a boon and a bane. I just hope the coming month brings more of the former and less of the latter. 

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash


  1. Geneva Langeland

    I’m an avid sountrack (and podcast) listener, but I wasn’t familiar with Settling the Score! Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Avatar

      Thomas Gray puts a limit on that bliss: “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

  2. Kyric Koning

    There is something wonderful about finding beauty in things we do not fully comprehend. Normally people are drawn to the things they understand, but to be willing to draw near to things just out of reach speaks volumes.

  3. Avatar

    I remember liking Arvo Part so much in the nineties that I named a new kitten after him. Little Arvo was not a success as a cat, but he had a great name.


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