Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Embarrassment of Riches

Back from the library with a big stack of CDs - an anthology of Brazilian folk music from the amazing French label Ocora, noise rock from Lightning Bolt, duets by Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, Zorn's Masada live in Jerusalem and a few others. Blown away, as always, by the breadth and volume of the collection, but oddly, a little ambivalent, too.

Anyone else coming to the conclusion that variety of choice does not make you happy? Or that you don't give yourself a chance to enjoy music you already have because you're constantly, compulsively on the search for something new? Or that you shouldn't acquire anything further until you bring up pathetically low scores on Music Quiz?

One of the arguments I like to use with people who put down difficult modern classical music is that they simply haven't heard it enough. What I mean is that to take pleasure from music - or even just to fairly assess it - we usually need to get to the point where the ear can predict what comes next. (Enjoyment of improvised music would be an obvious exception, though with recordings even improvisation is infinitely repeatable.)

It's only with repetition that we can sing along, or whistle a tune when it's over, or, in the case of much modern music, make sense of structures so complex that they initially sound chaotic. (I once asked my mom to listen to a movement of a dense string quartet by Webern over the course of a week. As expected, the more she heard, the more she liked. In the beginning it was chaos, by the end, "moving.")

The point here is simple, and of course, not new: acquisition can distance us from that which we find highest. I will say, however, that if it's burdensome to sit on cash, I will take your sins upon myself.

3 comments:

alice said...

you can have my copy of 13. it comes in a fancy box and everything.

Kevin said...

I need more Evidence to be Gathered! No update yesterday? I am back in action now. My goal is 3-4 updates today.

MCW said...

Wunsch, I am digging the Brazilian music. Rock on!