I’ve honestly been open to all styles of music for a very long time, but since attending the most recent ASCAP “I Create Music Expo” in Hollywood last month, I’m even more interested in finding ways to eradicate the compartmentalization that divides rather than elucidates.
Of course, an all-inclusive appreciation of music is nothing new. It can be traced back to the dawn of Americans being internationally acknowledged as musically significant. At the beginning of the last century, Victor Herbert was equally comfortable writing hit songs and cello concertos. Though primarily embraced nowadays by American experimentalists, Henry Cowell famously quipped, “I want to live in the whole world of music.” Though he’s a jazz icon, Duke Ellington skirted the question of musical genres by stating that there “are only two kinds of music; there is the good kind, and there is the other kind.” And it’s even been more than a generation since the first appearance of books like Charles Hamm’s Music in the New World, which treats all music on a level playing field, and John Blacking’s A Common Sense View of All Music, a favorite read from my grad school ethno days which offers a difficult to refute raison d’être for having as broad a purview as possible.
So this week I’ve been catching up with AvantGo feeds from Rolling Stone and read through a series they do of recording picks from various performing artists. A contribution from a Canadian “songstress” named Feist seemed particularly intriguing since the sub-headline referenced that her faves ranged from “piano ballads to Sri Lankan rap.”
But then Feist’s comments about her selections reminded me that while it is possible—and in my opinion desirable—to listen to all music, individuals’ listening modalities span a wide and often irreconcilable gamut. She selected a disc called Solo Piano by someone called Gonzales because “it’s sweet in a much too complicated era.” She admired her top choice, Midlake’s “Roscoe,” because it “sounds like someone wasn’t thinking.” And what attracted her to Spoon’s “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” was that there’s “no messing around—the song is staring you in the eyes.” None of the things that seem to push Feist’s buttons about music push mine. While I don’t dislike simple music, I have no problem with music that is complicated. Simple or complicated, I’m attracted to music that makes me think, especially music that does indeed “mess around.” So I wound up following none of Rolling Stone‘s audio links, although I’m well aware of my inability to tune out anything, which means I’ll probably listen to them by the end of the day.
Over the weekend, I performed my weekly thumb-through of the music section of Time Out New York, which is separate from their classical music section, and got curious about a British girlband that Jimmy Draper previewed named Electrelane. But what sparked my interest was not what the writer said was good about them, rather what he claimed had been bad about them in the past: e.g. “racing instrumentals,” “intent on cultivating a chilly, impersonal stage presence,” and the coup de grâce, “[T]he ladies’ decision to follow their heads over their hearts has resulted in some frustratingly inaccessible EPs and albums.” On the other hand, Electrelane’s new album is supposed to be great because of their incorporation of “straightforward love songs.”
Electrelane’s gig is tonight, but based on Draper’s assessment of their current direction I probably won’t be attending; instead I’ll try to track down some of those allegedly inaccessible albums. I wonder what Draper and Feist would think of music like Olga Neuwirth’s provocative anti-piano concerto locus…doublure…solus or Andrew Violette’s relentless Rave, both of which I’ve been personally obsessed with for the past month, though admittedly not to the extent of having an “18,000-times-a-day song,” which is what Feist claimed Midlake’s “Roscoe” is for her. Indeed, in a world that admits in all music, choice still plays a role.