Friday, March 28, 2014


...are rampant. At least, that appears to be the case, in the music world, if not permeating our entire world. Many musicians, for example (and where I'm headed with this observation), are universally praised, frequently when they are nowhere near the elite status they are generally afforded. The question arises whether they are really thought of as being that good, or if their public (frequently other musicians) is simply being polite, or (ahem!) if the listeners really don't know, or are being fooled, or hoodwinked, or are fooling themselves, or are just going along with the crowd. In my experience, many musicians who are lauded in public and private do not deserve to be included in that elite top-tier of the truly great. That leads me to think that the majority of listeners are not sophisticated enough or knowledgeable enough to really know the difference between technical prowess and true artistry.

The creation of music involves many facets, but foremost of these is the ability to communicate with the listener. Some have been well educated, have spent countless hours in the practice room developing and honing their craft, many more hours listening and learning from the ones who came before, and so forth and so on. But sometimes (and perhaps frequently) someone comes along who is lacking in one or more of the elements we think of as being a requirement, such as having a pleasant voice (or sound on an instrument), or a knowledge of theory, or other things, but they have a gift for communicating with an audience, of "clicking" within a certain genre, and they become stars. So all of those elements taken together are not necessarily the answer. Indeed, sometimes the elements have been studied, practiced to perfection, but that one special talent, the ability to communicate, is missing. But too often, to my way of thinking, the listener is not sophisticated or learned enough to know the difference. A friend of mine long ago had business cards made up that read, "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit." So many listeners (and critics) seem to be baffled, or at least fooled. Maybe they are just trying to be, or seem, sophisticated or knowledgeable. Maybe it's a matter of intelligence; after all, half of us are at or below average intelligence. Maybe IQ has something to do with it; I don't know. I do know that I am sometimes impressed with the technical prowess of someone I hear, but hearing them once is enough. I don't seek out further opportunities to listen to them, live or on recordings. They don't move me. But then someone will come along who says things in the simplest way, but it strikes at my heartstrings, and a bond is formed.

There is an emotional element in true communication between artist and observer, in music and art, in poetry and prose. Of course we all have our own interests, and we tend to pursue the genres that do interest us, but sometimes something from outside our experience will intrude on our consciousness and pique our interest, and we experience, well, expansion. Our world has just gotten larger.

1 comment:

M. L. Benedict said...

This is such a provocative subject. In the days where schools actually had music classes from the early grades, kids learned to music, not ringtones, game themes or other stuff (most "music" accompanying television ads). Most listeners under the age of, say 40, simply have very little experience listening. They are unable to comprehend the fact that there can be music without words. They may believe that music is simply a series of notes in a certain rhythm, the faster, the better. I really think it's a matter of education and maybe the suppression of intuition, rather than a matter of intelligence. Babies will respond to real music, but few twelve-year-olds or adults know what real music sounds like.