Monday, May 12, 2008

Popcorn Post

You can't eat just one piece of popcorn, and it turns out that having just broken a blogging silence with the least substantive of posts, I suddenly have the urge to blog again. Where was that urge the last 10 days?

Anyway, putting aside the larger and more complex issue of the classical music world at large and looking at my own aesthetic tendencies, I'm struck by something my "Songs Without Singers" posts may say about my reactions to Greg Sandow. Whereas Sandow just posted a critical takedown of a classical song recital that he found to be too safe and distant from the dark and uncomfortable world of the Baudelaire poetry that was being sung, I've been posting recordings of songs for which I find the words entirely superfluous. I don't mean that the words aren't an important part of these songs as artworks, but rather that the songs can stand on their own as piano pieces appreciated entirely for their musical qualities. I think it's wonderful that music can say things external to itself, but whereas Sandow seems to think that the connection to external meaning is essential, I'm probably most deeply drawn to the music for its own sake. I love to talk and think about meaning in music (thus, this blog), but I became a musician not so much for what music tells me about this or that, but because of what the music itself means to me. Sandow has challenged me on just what this sort of meaning might be, so hopefully I'll be able to come to terms with it in posts to come.

A blog reader we'll refer to as MMmom recently pointed out to me that my "Songs Without Singers" sort of do the reverse of my visualization projects. Whereas my videos/animations add imagery to help follow the music, the song recordings subtract verbal imagery. However, note that my experiences in visualization have the goal of focusing the listener more closely on the music. Just as I've suggested that the typical music visualizations (such as the Fantasia films) tend to divert our attention from the music, my singerless (and word-less) songs are also intended to focus on the music for its own sake. The truth is, there are art songs that I loved and played for years without ever really caring about the texts that were being sung - I'm not saying I've been right to feel that way or that I've never felt otherwise, just that the heart of my attraction to music tends to be in the sounds, not the stories.

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