Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The Road to Pretentiousness

I just bought a couple piano concertos by Lowell Liebermann. I heard the disc before and decided it was fantastic without recognizing that the music is atonal. Now I’m faced with a curious phenomenon: If I pay rapt attention to the music, it’s beautiful, but if I try to multitask (say, blogging as it plays in the background) it becomes unpleasant – disconcerting and tiresome.

Worse, now that recognize that phenomenon, I think it applies to most of the (largely complicated and unpredictable) music I love: none of it seems to do any good in the background. (Fortunately, there exist exceptions to this trend, such as classical music like Bach’s, and jazz like Pat Martino’s. Their music is still complicated and still beautiful, but it’s also in uniform and constrained enough to work well in the background.)

Often, when someone reacts with displeasure to music I worship (e.g. Stravinsky, Cecil Taylor, Yes, Aphex Twin, Meshuggah) I am tempted to retort, “You’re not even trying! Give it a chance! You can’t expect the recording to do all the work for you!” So far I’ve managed to stifle it.

I’m sure there are other fun parts of the human experience that I’m missing out on because their value is similarly obscure. I don’t know whether to care.

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