Thursday, January 16, 2014

Repetition in Music: What a drag?

Seems like the nature of some media requires more than a single statement for its meaning to be communicated and fully appreciated. At least in the re-creative ones like musical performance the playing action itself is finite in time, a song lasts 5-10 minutes a concert 60 minutes and is over. Thus the musical experience is only present to the listener while the notes sound. That experience is resurrected only by playing the music all over again--from the beginning. This is unlike the visual arts for example wherein a painting can hang on a wall indefinitely after the first creative act is done. Which BTW is precisely the contribution provided with the invention of the camera. Here one could for the first time freeze in time a scene to be viewed subsequently independent of time of day, lighting, indoors or outdoors, weather, or the presence or absence of viewers at that scene. The experience of music on the other hand is not consumed in a fixed moment but rather occurs over a period of time and when the music is not recorded, enjoyment of sound is hardly dulled but rather enhanced with frequent live performances. This feature unique to music has many examples: 1,255 local performances of Tchaikowski's Nutcraker Ballet by third horn player Brian McCarty (see article below); solo pianist Eric Shifrin presiding in the Fairmont Hotel's Laurel Court for seven years (just laid off), or violinist David Reffkin playing Salon Music throughout the 1980's with his trio in what was then the St Francis Hotel's Compass Rose Room.

How is this different from any other form of mechanized labor say for example working a 'stamping machine' in an athletic shoe factory? Might want to ask the laborers involved about their state of mind at the end of a work shift. While Siddhartha famously said "one can never stand in the same river twice" with music the mental state required provides an opportunity for infinite variety of attention and expression. That's why we pay top dollar for favorite performers who bring a unique interpretation to the very same material. Can't say that about the machine operator or even a traditional Disc Jockey. And this is true for performances of  'carved in stone' classical manuscripts as well as Jazz improvisations using chord charts. "Play it Again Sam" each time can take us on an entirely different journey.

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