Thursday, August 9, 2012
For those who are speed-reading: Beck's new album will apparently contain no recorded music. Yes, you read that correctly.
Here: a McSweeny's article on his forthcoming (album?) Song Reader.
I have recently been reading Plato, Aristotle, others on music - there are many indicators that the Hellenist (Greek) understanding of music would have been exceedingly important in the culture of the Palestine where Jesus was brought up, and conducted His ministry. I even believe that at one point, His own words refer indirectly to some of the issues discussed at that time regarding music, education, character, and the divine.
One of the things we have lost from the pre-Romantic understanding of music is the way that music is active with regards to the listener - that it moves the heart and mind of the listener, but this itself is also dependent upon the listener's own activity (and cultivation).
I.e., music ALWAYS implies doing something yourself. Plato and Aristotle actually thought it best to avoid as possible professional musicians - simply because this meant not making the music one's self.
In modern times, we essentially have a problem of a market of extraordinarily lazy music listeners who lack the imaginative powers to put together (synthesize) interesting musical developments in their minds. As Bernstein said, we all hear much too much music, and listen to very little music. This cultivates a habit of non-active listening.
What Beck has done here is very much like turning us back to Plato and Aristotle when we consider our relationship to music.
BRAVO! This is not only a musical mind - it is a profoundly deep mind in the consideration of how we relate ourselves to music, and how music effects us over time - even over multiple generations.
Up until sometime in the middle ages - the word "musician" was not even applied to singers and instrumentalists - it was applied exclusively to thinkers who could imaginatively grasp what music was doing - like Boethius.
So Beck here is being a musician in a very profound sense.
I found this link thanks to Eric Whitacre - a composer who himself is very much a musical mind in the older sense, with his Virtual Choir (and who has done such incredible things as setting Paradise Lost to music).
If Western culture is to re-gain an ability to listen to music, we probably first need to do something like this - very simply, more people making music, and less people hearing music in the background. And after a while, with an audience that's more capable of listening to interesting music (instead of music that's mostly intended to be a kind of background or sound-track), it might again become possible for truly fantastic music to find an audience that's more than a tiny, highly select group of individuals. As Aristotle put it - good musical education is so important, it's something that should belong to everyone.