On Friday, I met with Dr. Granville Ganter to talk before writing this post. I assumed all the information about where he went to school, the courses he teaches, and the awards that he has won (of which there are many) can be found on the Saint John’s website.
So I thought, “What would Jack Kerouac do?” The answer was easy: he would go and talk with the man, give him space to tell his story, and show genuine interest in what makes him tick; engage in a conversation.
Before going to see Dr. Ganter, I read his paper “Tuning In Together: Daniel Webster, Alfred Schutz, and the Grateful Dead”. Though I am not a fan of The Grateful Dead, I always felt that I might be “missing out” on something, and I was struck by this specific quotation:
As in any community, there is a collective pedagogy at work. People teach each other how to understand their world. This education occurs on several levels, and it starts primarily with the band’s style of musical interaction. The millisecond pause that characterizes much of the Dead’s music (their slow or hesitating sound), allows the band members to hear what each other does. (Ganter)
Was this the piece that I was missing? Could a musical experience really be a collective learning experience? Being a huge fan of Heavy Metal music, the overall experience one has at, say, a Slayer concert is one of isolated catharsis and chaotic camaraderie. This was a much different experience than the one Dr. Ganter was writing about in his paper. Then I thought, “Is this like the seminar table?”
Walking into any professor’s office usually makes me a bit nervous. Although having read Dr. Ganter’s essay beforehand, I felt a bit more relaxed. To say that I remember everything about our discussion would be a lie. To say that I took really great notes that are legible would also be a lie. Yet the mere gesture of our conversation, the gradual sense of familiarity that was built between student and teacher, put me even more at ease:
For Schutz, music is a doorway to the living consciousness of other people, stripped of conceptual ideas (Schutz 159). Schutz felt that some forms of literary narrative could achieve the same effect, but words generally obstruct contact with the durée itself. In contrast to seeing a word or a sentence on a page (which is virtually instant and which refers to a previously established network of ideas in other books), the significance of a musical note is purely situational: it is conveyed over time in relation to other notes. (Ganter)
I am reminded of something that Dr. Ganter said during our conversation, which I will try not to butcher: “Much of history is held hostage by the Book.” I would like to take this even further by adding that much of our everyday interactions are held hostage by word, character, and line limits. If “…music is a doorway to the living consciousness of other people,” then conversation is the laid path that we are supposed to take our time traveling together, “brightening the chain of friendship” (Ganter 128).
So why did I make the choice to write this awkwardly disjunctive introduction? Firstly, I am an awkward person. The other reason is people should not be taken at face/website value. If I did not read his papers and/or make an appointment to speak to Dr. Ganter, I would have never moved past his degrees and list of academic work, I would have never found out that Dr. Ganter took a class taught by Allen Ginsberg, and I would have never found out that he went to school with a former professor, now a recent colleague of mine, Dr. Christopher Hobson. I would have missed a lot of things.
- Ganter, Granville. “Make Your Minds Perfectly Easy: Sagoyewatha and the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee”. Early American Literature: Volume 44, Number 1. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. 121-146. Web.