Smaller portions

February 2, 2010

I have trouble sitting anywhere in the same place for a long time. That means long flights, plays, operas, movies, and concerts. It has something to do with my long torso.

For that reason, and a few others, I find myself preferring smaller portions of everything: food, material possessions, and music. Many times I find half a concert just perfect, especially when new music is involved. Sometimes you just don’t want the tasting menu; you just want to hear the new piece (or whatever you prefer). It’s like being a member of the clean plate club. Sorry, but I never have been. I eat until I’m full. And ditto with music.

It is common to have music on for parties and I find myself musically exhausted with all that music playing all the time. I guess I just haven’t figured out how to tune it out. Ditto with music and sex: I can’t do it.

POSTSCRIPT: The concert actually had another new piece by Globokar for male topless percussionist, Joseph Pereira, who played his body as a percussion instrument. We were all amazed and entertained, although I doubt anyone needs to ever hear the piece again. The performance of “Eight Songs” was astounding, and especially the baritone, Thomas Meglioranza. The audience gave him five standing ovations. I decided my plate was full and happily left at intermission. Funny thing though: as I was leaving, David Lefkowitz waived me over to introduce me to someone. It was one of Schoenberg’s sons (Ronald) and his wife. Oops.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Leonid February 3, 2010 at 3:17 am

Roger, you’re making an interesting point.

Let’s leave the music professional aside for a moment. The average contemporary person’s attention span – let alone that of a busy office employee – is quite small.

Igor or John or Jennifer or Natasha just don’t have the time for Stravinsky’s FULL performance, whatever it may be. Let alone Wanger’s operas.

I’m not composer, but let me make a guess: because the attention span is so small – and that’s a given fact – we can’t change it, a valid solution is work with sound symbols where musical meaning is condensed. Examples: theme from Beethoven’s 5th, Mozart’s 40th tune, etc.

Development is great, but this stuff is reincarnating into more simple forms (let’s call them, for the sake of simplicity, ringtones), at least at the moment. Maybe that will change in the future.

Development is not dead, of course, but because the attention span and rhythm of life has changed dramatically, the dramaturgy of a music piece should unfold within a much smaller timeframe, say, several minutes (??), that it did in the days of Mozart and Beethoven.

And they were quite innovative for their time, like, say Dave Brubeck in our days. Mozart used popular tunes of his day, etc .. .

Couldn’t agree more that we need to account for the audio reality of our time. Look, I respect, for example, Hindemith, and his music is interesting. But I simply DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME to finish listening to the third movement of his famous sonata. Seriously, I’m not kidding. And he IS a very good composer, and I DO like XX century music (except for some totally offbeat experiments).

I’m listening to De Phazz these days, and I’m not kidding. Pat Appleton has a versatile, soothing voice. Their music is rich in sound and balanced (e.g., “Jeunesse Dorée”), and these days, I’m more interested in its functional aspect, how it affects me, does stabilize me, help me stay centered?!

Hindemith, with all due respect for that contrapuntal pundit, does NOT produce the required stabilizing effect.

Of course, it’s different for music professionals, whose duty it is, pursuant to applicable laws, to work with this material.

That said, there are examples of what should NOT be done , even for the sake of experiment, with the music of, say, Back – who, to many of us, is the greatest composer, who ever lived:

Roger, I apologize in advance for this long comment, but you raise the very important issue of squeezing music architectonics into a smaller timeframe, to accommodate the dramatic change of the attention span of the XXI person.

Thank you for your understanding.

Roger Bourland February 3, 2010 at 7:42 am

You’re amazing Leonid, and thanks for your comment. I don’t have a problem with my brain and long concerts, although sometimes I do, it’s mostly my BODY that protests sitting for so long.

BTW: I made an update on last night in this post.

Leonid February 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Roger, thank you for your kind words.

Schoenberg: way too heavy for most of us.

To the contrary, Webern, with his modest, compact, no-nonsense writing, makes for much better listening, and doesn’t waste our time with overloaded expression. I’m surprised his music has not made it to ringtones yet. Probably just a matter of time.

All the best,

Roger Bourland February 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

True, I find I love Webern’s music these days for the reasons you state. I like Pierrot, it’s just I was full after the first half.

I remember in college playing Pierrot for people when I wanted them to go home.

I also played this piece in the game of dueling loudspeakers in the back alleys of Boston with competing disco music. Only when I switched to Mort Subotnick’s TOUCH did I win the battle.

Previous post:

Next post: