We mostly listen to recorded music, and we likely hear it alone—in a car, through headphones, maybe through a set of speakers at home. This kind of listening space is simultaneously ephemeral—in that it is fundamentally malleable—and monumental—in that its infinite repeatability aspires to cultural permanence.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Nicolas Collins’s Pea Soup, a piece that uses electronics to “play” the signature acoustics of a space. In honor of that milestone, Collins today unveils Pea Soup To Go, a free virtual jukebox programed with recordings of 70 different versions of the work.
The unlikely collisions between the two musical cultures I inhabit bring up so many questions for me about musical perception: What do people from one musical culture hear in the music of another culture? How much of our aesthetic association with specific music comes from repetition and reinforcement within our musical culture, and how much is simply hard-wired into us as humans?
It’s fair to say that we yearn for more opportunities to enjoy music in less formal spaces. But can you still have a valuable musical experience while ordering a drink, chewing an hors d’oeuvre, or making conversation?
When I began to study Hindustani music, I treated the recording of each lesson the way I would have treated the score of a Beethoven sonata, meticulously learning and memorizing each phrase, with all its subtle twists and turns. It took me years to realize that most Hindustani musicians do not practice this way.
Is a lavish setting one of the chief preconditions for our enshrinement of cultural objects?
Gurupoornima creates a space for social and musical interaction between students, which helps to establish a community of students of varying levels of proficiency and to inspire them to continue progressing in their studies.
Environmental degradation and cultural annihilation aside, the total combination of sounds on the PCT is something that is interesting and wondrous to behold. There’s often a special kind of beauty in the confusion that arises when you’re not entirely sure what you’re hearing.
When we listen together, the space in which we convene affects our impression not only of the sound but of ourselves. To what degree are we as audience members encouraged to use our musical experiences to imagine ourselves as royalty of a different era?
In a crowd, nuance fades away. When the argument is literally framed by a fence in the street, the question of “which side are you on?” can take on a certain stark, if ultimately artificial, clarity.