The right way to Listen to Ambient Music

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The right way to Listen to Ambient Music

A few years ago, I had a college pal who was an evangelizing devotee of the abstract painter Marc Rothko. I remember her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s work, while I used to be thinking that I should be aesthetically challenged; I just didn’t “get” it. After all, many of the paintings were nothing however massive rectangles of coloration, with slight irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. The entire acquainted reference points of line and shape, perspective and shadow, had been gone. I could recognize them as “design,” however not as “art.” While they had been pleasing sufficient, I could not see why anybody would rhapsodize over these abstractions… until I first noticed them for myself in particular person–a completely completely different experience! After I encountered them on the Museum of Modern Artwork, they literally stopped me in my tracks, subverting conscious thought and plunging me instantly into an altered state. They weren’t just flat canvases on a wall, but seemed more like dwelling things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a elementary connection to the Source of things. I was stunned. They did not “specific” a sense–they had been more like feelings themselves, and so they seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or anyone. When I later seemed on the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of color. There was a recollection, however no recreation of my experience. This was an expertise that relied on the presence of the unique artifact (art: a reality).

A Tune is Not a Tone

I spent my early musical life working largely with music that used-like representational artwork–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its effect. There are various vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, concord, and structure that place music in a context of kind that makes it comprehensible to listeners. “Comprehensible” is just not precisely what I mean–it suggests that music communicates only mental concepts, whereas in truth, it conveys and expresses a whole range of concepts, feelings, sensations and associations. However there is an element of “intelligibility” to conventional types of music that will depend on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are familiar components that listeners use to anchor their real-time expertise of a composition, formal or sonic parts which can be borrowed from other items created and listened to in the past. Once I discover myself buzzing a tune from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking one of its attribute rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a fancy sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that is simply recognizable to others aware of the music. I could also be able to share a musical thought with different musicians using the abstraction of notation. But a “tune” just isn’t a “tone,” and a “note” will not be a “sound.” It is an idea, even a powerful concept, but once I discover myself humming the tune, I do know that I have indirectly “consumed” the music, reduced it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my own purposes.

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