It’s been quite a few weeks since a true Friday FunPost. Lent is over, I’m not on break and I found something quite appropriate for this feature.
Spend a few minutes (less than 6 actually), enjoying this creative and educational medley by a young band from Europe:
Not only am I impressed by the precision in cutting from one genre to the next, the costumes are pretty awesome. And I learned about a few genres which haven’t (yet?) caught on in the U.S.
I’ve been thinking about musical genres lately as I discovered a really clever book which seeks to explode the whole concept. The thesis in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff invites the reader to move beyond genres which are based more on commercial categorization rather than structural similarities from piece to piece.
In a new era where most any listener can easily access almost any song ever recorded, Ratliff proposes a new methodology for creating digital playlists. He presents and discusses twenty playlists with themes related to the underlying elements of the music rather than its often arbitrary “type.” Some of these themes are “Slowness,” “Virtuosity” and “Density.”
I’ve only read the first chapter on “repetition” entitled “Let Me Concentrate!” After defining this concept, the author analyzes a diverse set of musical pieces which illustrate it in a wide variety of ways. I really like how he uses thought-provoking metaphors which stretch my understanding and subsequent appreciation of works with which I was unfamiliar.
For example, he uses a piece called “Four Organs” composed and performed by Steve Reich in 1970. On page 20, Ratliff writes:
This aspect of “Four Organs” – its “repetition” – is like playing a peekaboo game with a child. You’re going to do it over and over: that’s the repetition. But you’ve got to keep changing the way you do it, otherwise he’ll expect it and will not be surprised. And at some point in the game – it doesn’t take very long to get there – you and the child understand each other; you know each other’s reaction time, range of facial expressions, sense of humor, degree of patience.
After reading this description, I found the piece within my Apple Music subscription. I listened to it for a couple of minutes before I decided the repetition annoyed and bothered me, so I turned it off. While I won’t likely listen to the piece again, I am grateful to have been directed toward it as an example of an important element of musical form.
And I’m particularly grateful that Ratliff mentions the featured pieces twice in each chapter – in the text and in a handy list (in order of mention) from which a digital playlist can quickly be created. I look forward to more reading and listening and learning via this book.