Thoughts and musings on music and aesthetics with Pandora.com’s music curator, Michael Zapruder.
Wow! We received over 300 poster submissions from some of our incredibly talented listeners. Thank you for your entries, and thank you for all your votes. We have compiled the…
In Music, the Exception Becomes the Rule
In his book “The Classical Style,” Charles Rosen makes a cool point. He sets it up by saying:
“The history of an artistic ‘language’… cannot be understood in the same way as the history of a language used for everyday conversation. In the history of English, for example, one man’s speech is as good as another’s. It is the picture of the whole that counts, and not the interest, grace, or profundity of the individual example.”
In other words, together we all create what is known as the English language.
But music, he says:
“…stands the history of a language on its head: it is now the mass of speakers that are judged by their relation to the single one, and the individual statement that provides the norm and takes precedence over general usage.”
In other words, individual artists define what is known as the music of a particular time.
He makes his point in reference to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; but the same thing could easily be said about The Beatles and their definitive role in popular music of the 20th Century.
The Beatles: Masters
The Beatles’ recordings arguably demonstrate the limit of what is possible in their particular form of both songwriting and record-making, and so I was pretty skeptical when I heard that remastered versions of all of their records were coming out.
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“All Sounds are Created Equal”
That’s a phrase I used to like to throw around. The idea is that all sounds are ultimately ripples in the atmosphere, changes in air pressure that our ears can decode; and as such the waves that radiate through the air carrying a Beethoven symphony are no different from the ones that radiate out from a car accident.
That’s true, I think; but it’s not the whole truth, because each wave is perfectly unique as well. No two can be identical. And it is precisely because of this that it’s been possible for us to connect different meanings to these waves. Words, car horns, music, and so on would be indistinguishable if all sounds were the same.
These two truths seem to coexist as a kind of double helix, with one strand standing for the unity of all sounds and the other standing for the uniqueness of each. Sound is comprised of both.
Most of us only call certain sounds music. If a hammer falls off of a table, say, most people would not define the resulting clatter as music. But, happily, there are some of us who would hear music in that falling hammer, and it is the music made by these people that is the subject of this post. The station I’ve been working on this week, named “Ovals,” is the soundtrack. Listen.
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