Saturday, February 10, 2007

a sample of my distraction

I just watched an episode of the OC....I know I know my brains are going to rot out and die, but I just have a question.
how old are these kids supposed to be? 15? 16? and 17? I mean they're all played by actors my age at the very least. Which isn't all that much older, but those 4 to 6 years at this point in our lives makes a tremendous difference.

on a more serious note I have to write this dialoge as several critics reviewing a concert by Uri Caine.

Uri Caine is an avante garde jazz musician who does....well the best word I've heard used for it is deconstruction.
He takes Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, and does adaptations or interpretations of their works. It's pretty cool. I'm not as a rule a tremendous fan of avante garde Jazz, I in fact take up large issues of continuity and form (I know I know the very things that they are rejecting) with them.

But in any case this is interesting because I know the pieces that he is playing with and can therefore take pleasure in his changes. I like it, I don't think that it is something I want to listen too on a regular basis, but I really like it as an intellectual exercise regarding "classic" music.

Well that above statement brings up two things in one go:
1. what is the point of music if you don't want to listen to it on a regular basis
2. is there any music that one actually does want to listen to on a regular basis, and does it have more or less value if you do?

1:
it would seem that all music is written with the intention that it would be listened to. I'm not actually sure if on a regular basis is actually necessary, but to be listened to and enjoyed to such an extent that one would wish to listen to it again. There are certainly some composers out there who do not write in such a way, but they are trying to stick it to the man, and well for them it's lose lose. They lose if they are (by their own definition) successful because no one listens to, knows, cares about, and therefore buys their music. they lose if they are (by society as a wholes definition) successful, because people listen to the music that they did not mean to be listened to.
And of course if they are really successful they can only be seen as a sell out. And as Adorno so kindly puts it, this results in the complete emasculation (actually I think Adorno says castration) of the musician

2:
for me there is actually no particular type of music or piece that I want to listen to all the time. Certainly I go in and out if phases of certain music that I want to listen to at a certain point, but never am I compelled to listen to listen to a certain type of music all the time. That said I don't even desire to listen to music all the time. I have absolutely no desire for an I-pod at all, nor do I listen to music all the time in my room. In fact I listen to music less and less as I study music more and more. I guess I find myself too engaged in the music to have it merely be background music...there's a pretentious word for this..diagetic music??? It appears I just made that word up....I remember my second year of college I took the required intro to ethnomusicology class an we had to make a list of all of our "musical interactions" of the day. This included things like rhythmic tires and feet and birds that we noticed that day and made us think of music as well as music we listened to and rehearsal that we went to. I remember one guy in the class, in the usual pretentious way, made the comment that he could never listen to music as merely background music, or something to manipulate his mood, this would be degrading the status of music as it is art that one should be engaged in. I thought he was completely full of it (this is the same kid who last year when we had to write a canon for musicianship skills chose the chords D flat diminished and C augmented (or something to that effect) to write it over but that's another rant for another time) but at this point I can sort of understand why he said that. I certainly don't agree with him, I certainly do listen to music as background music, and use it to manipulate my mood, yet I understand the desire to actively engage in it.
That all said I guess my feeling is that if you listen to a certain type of music all the time you might be cheapening it for yourself, and that no great music is not something that someone wants to be immersed in all the time.

Fin,

6 comments:

Duff said...

Per usual, your comments are sagacous and loquious, but I have one cavat: the band Bush can and must be listened to at all times and all places and no cheaping can occur, only the embetterment of our souls.

Embly said...

I'm not sure if loquious is a word Duff...did you mean loquacious? if so I'll try to be more succinct in the future!

Campbell Vertesi said...

Well, yeah- music is written to be listened to. And somehow I've become one of "those people" who actually listen to my music all the damned time. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Don't get me wrong: I like it quiet at home. But when I do listen to music, it's good opera. Or if there isn't any on (ie Sirius Met is playing a recent recording), I'll listen to good symphonic or piano music instead.

I've found that the more I get into classical music - S&F calls it "music of transcendence" - the less satisfying I find other music. I'm turning into a music snob before my very eyes! agh!

Duff said...

One way I have found that allows my to listen to non-classical music is to actually not listen to the music per se, which is seemingly nonsensical, but makes more sense in regard to song. With a song, one also can listen to the words, recognizing it as poetry with perhaps a more pronounced rythm and melody. Ignoring the comment about the band Bush (which I do listen to for the lyrics, but because I find them nonsensical, and hence funny, so not so much for aesthetics here), one can often listen to certain bands because they are genuinely good lyricists. Perhaps no T.S. Eliot, but good in their own right. Two examples that come to my mind are the Mountain Goats and Modest Mouse. Musically, they are not very good, but good enough that with some suspension of the snobbery we all can get, the lyrics can be appreciated.

What I find interesting is that being able to listen for the lyrics, in terms of raw talent, tends to be inversely proportional to how musically inclined the individual is. That is to say simply, that those who are good at music have a harder time in hearing anything but the music, in my limited experience.

But of course this is all predicated on being able to find people who write good lyrics and decent enough music to see its worth. For the vast majority of music produced along these lines, the makers fail in both catagories.

This of course leads to what I have long thought to be an interesting historical question: almost all music had its origin in song, or poetry had its origin in music. Hence the whole distinction I made above would be meaningless. I suppose it was the Renaissance that what one might call "pure" music arose. Now we are also faced with the prospect that much of what was once song now appears to our modern ears as pure music, as most of us don't know Latin, French, German, Italian, and hence cannot listen to the music for the lyrics, so to speak, but in translation, which doesn't quite cut it. And even if we do know Latin or French, it is rare for someone to know well enough to appreciate the subtles of poetry in all the major European languages, and hence there will always be song that will to us be just "pure" music. I wonder how much of this historical fact, largely inescapable even for the well educated, is responsible for our lack of understanding how to listen to both words and music.

the idiot said...

i find it interesting that any subject that is taken up by academia runs the risk of losing its soul, from time to time.

(not to say that such a risk negates the value academic pursuit)

Anonymous said...

Yeah Yanni!! MOM