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Re: repeat listenings

Philly the Kid (apriori@slip.net)
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 13:06:29 -0700

>What is it that we get from repeat listenings of music. Why can we
>listen to a particular piece of music over and over and over, then
>suddenly its old? And if it is a particularly good piece, you can put it
>away for a while and then when you listen to it again it is no longer
>old?...much like food(taste)?

More interesting to me, is why some works survive and warrant repeated
listenings and others do not?

I think it depends on several things.

If a work, not unlike a movie, has a "punch line" or is like a mystery that
is solved in the end, or tells a story THEN, perhaps listening again loses
the luster because you know what is going to happen.

But most music doesn't operate this way.

I'd say it has a lot to do with why one listens at all. Some want to have
expectations fulfilled. Others want new and ever challenging experiences.

I have found that the music that I can go back to over and over in a
serious manner is music that has a lot of layers. And so your focus can
shift with different listenings and how you first felt about an aspect can
change with the shift in focus.

Music accompanies many other rituals. And so some music evokes or
associates. People want to hear this music when it is the appropriate
circumstance. This says less about the music on its on terms and more about
how it is used.

We got into this somewhat a while back, but I for one could live the rest
of my days
never hearing another Elvis or Beatles song again. Whatever may have been
comelling and fresh at some point in time is long dead. And I would contend
that no piece of music ever written and recorded, or passed on orally, has
warranted the gabillion playings that this music has received. (most 60's
rock n roll is only interesting to me now in the context of a documentary
or period film)

I don't like music that is square and symetrical and boringly tonal.
Uninventive.

I go back to music for 2 reasons:

To get a certain fix (fulfill expectations)
To seek further exploration (few pieces hold this complexity)

I studied with a Mexican composer about 10 years ago, he was only 33 at the
time I was 26, and he told me one day that what made a piece really strong,
and able to go back for repeated listenings was "middle ground". What went
on in the middle ground.
He said most music has obvious foreground and some underpinning background,
but it was how things shifted in and out of the middle ground, that defined
a complexity that would be compelling. I agree.

Rico Apriori aka Philly the Kid