on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 31 Mrz

You can‘t measure these sounds.

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments



You choose your own worlds, according to the picture you‘ve painted in your mind. This happens all the time, f.e., while listening to music you love. Even in the little world of Mana, you have to leave an infinite number of compositions outside your box. Take Greg‘s latest opening of  his musical treasure grove. Though we have a lot in common, it‘s interesting to see big differences. I lost my interest for Morton Feldman long time ago, though I know about the magic of repetition, entrancing textures etc. But when it comes to these special virtues, I put on different records, with comparable side effects but a sound language I prefer much, much more. Morton Feldman leaves me stone cold. Also, I always like when Mr. Whistler digs deep into one artist‘s discography, as it happened recently with Bill Frisell or Marc Copland. Didn‘t do this for a long time. Why? Nobody gets the 360-degree treatment. The „only quite nice albums“ fall aside. On the other ear, it may be a trip of a kind to immerse yourself in one composer‘s horizon  (for a while). I lost my interest in David Sylvian, never had a knack for Olivier Messiaen, not one song of U2 or Coldplay or Queen will ever cross my way again unless drunk on a faraway beach – and, please, no oldies by the likes of Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, or the first two Roxy Music albums! I never had the wish for a second encounter after the first cut with Ferry and Associates was NOT the deepest. The list of what falls out of the way is endless. The question is: what stays when you never sang a praise of Beethoven‘s last string quartets, and other so-called milestones of Western culture? Your life any poorer? Nope. Even the highest peaks of music history can turn into useless garbage in your very own garden of awe and wonder. You can test your own compassion now: Dadawah‘s „Peace and Love“ sends more shivers down my spine than any of the other stuff of these lines, and I’m far away from being a rastafari. And the special thing with Andy Sheppard‘s „Romaria“? Apart from chemistry, it the ability to move so close to pure kitsch without crushing into it. So, yes, this is stunning. And, in a literal sense, I‘m only looking for music that brings me through the night (and into the light), in my long „nighthawk“ hours. 

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  1. Rosato:

    I agree, totally. For me Micha’s words seem to be the concrete & graspable exegesis of Mr. Bulva’s sentences.

    Everyone must have the right to enjoy his music. The saying that there are only two types of music, good and bad, is mischief. My big hobby is astrophysics, and everywhere you read horoscopes today – you can hardly find something stupider, maybe religion, that’s the same thing. But if anyone reads, today everything will go well, and it will help him through the day, then everything is fine
    (Josef Bulva, Google translation from German)

    To like the smell and taste of music, I personally need something special, sometimes complexity, sometimes simplicity, power, silence or whatever. You can‘t measure these sounds – that’s true! I or you can say what piece of music is appealing. In other words: even the lowest valleys of music history can turn into useful fruits in your very own garden of awe and wonder.

    Some questions are harassing me. Saying there are only two types of music, good and bad, is mischief (and so on) testifies extreme subjectivism. Should Helene Fischer help somebody through the day, then everything is fine. Maybe this will do no harm – preconditioned nobody will convince or even force me listening Helene Fischer.
    I also wonder why we are talking about music that touches us as individuals. This can’t be stupid hard core subjectivism in that sense „I do my own thing, what do I care about yours?“ I also wonder what’s the matter, should I leave aesthetics and say there are only two types of politics, good and bad, is mischief

  2. Brian Whistler:

    Subjectivity is rampant in criticism, whether it be music, literature and of course, visual art. How could it not be so? In the end, no matter how objective he/she may try to be, the critic brings his/her prejudices, informed or not, to the table. Even an informed critic can miss out on something unique and beautiful if they are biased, or didn’t have their lunch that day.

    Think of the hackneyed cliche, “ I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” It is at once a true and completely ridiculous phrase. True, because in the end, what moves us is what matters. Ridiculous because without exposure, background, understanding of the artist’s intent etc, one can sometimes miss profound insights and even ecstatic experiences.

    Case in point: Recently I took my girlfriend to see the Jasper Johns retrospective at the Broad Museum in LA. She didn’t know much about him and wasn’t very open to it, being somewhat sceptical of contemporary art, a view that was only reenforced after visiting the first room exclusively devoted to his iconic US flag paintings. However, the cumulative effect on her after seeing his growth as an artist and human being over some 6 decades, was profound. As she walked through the extensive exhibit, she absorbed expressions of his humanity, his quest for truth, his compassion and maturation as he sought to explore the subjects of memory, mortality and the nature of reality over a lifetime. Because she remained open, she had an unexpected ecstatic experience. Which besides being a reason I love her, illustrates that openness can lead to surprising and rich experiences, musical and otherwise.

    Still, most of the time, a piece of music either moves me or I move on. As far as the cliche, (attributed to Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald etc), “there are only two kinds of music etc,” this statement is far too simplistic to be of any real use to anyone. Good in what way? As in good for you, like musical castor oil? Intellectually stimulating can be heartless. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, all feeling can slip into saccharine sentimentality. As soon as you get into making statements of absolutes, the conversation becomes less full of possibilities. Defining what’s good and bad with no inbetween is a very slippery slope. Yet all too often, that’s what critics do.

    I have played the role of critic at times. I used to write for Audiophile auditions. I am also guilty of compulsively scribbling 100s of reviews on Amazon. But I look at my role not so much as critic as promoter of my subjective ideas of “good music”. I never write bad reviews. (Well, hardly ever: I think there are two exceptions, one for the atrocious film about Carlos Castaneda, the other a horribly bungled Audiophile Weather Report tribute sacd.) I share my love of music this way. I’ll leave the tearing apart to the real critics.

  3. Uli Koch:

    There‘s the question of taste which is necessarily subjective and the question focussing the qualities of music which also includes less subjective points. And as there are millons of steps in between these positions, there are millions of them between good and bad music …

    When I once really liked a piece of music there will be a relationship between me an that song or record. This relationship will develop or change but it doesn‘t occur very often that I totally loose my interest in a piece of music I once liked very much. Why should I create a distance between the person I‘m now and the person I‘ve been loving a song? I don‘t know at all.

    But finally I agree with Brian with the idea to write only those reviews of music I definitely like and want to share with others. If I dislike a piece of music I‘ll leave the judgement to those who really want to find out whether they want to listen to some real musical rubbish any longer. And if they are happy with it it‘s never been my problem …

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Fair enough …

    And if anyone owns the big Roxy Music workout of the first album, I would like to hear the surround mix. Maybe my old perceptions would change … would be an interesting experiment.

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