Meditation On Music First Thing In The Morning

Why do we like the things we like?

What attracts us to certain music, literature, movies, television?

Do we like a certain song by a certain artist more than a similar song from another artist because the first has cooler clothes?  Is it the aesthetic or the talent?

Similarly, why do we like style of music over another or another type of fiction over another or drama over comedy?

Why do I prefer Jason Isbell and The Carolina Chocolate Drops to Daft Punk and Kanye West?  Why would I rather read Light In August instead of Ready Player One?

Are we born who we are or are made into who we are?  I think a lot of it is inherent.  A genetic predisposition to certain chemical responses in the brain created by what we see, hear, and read.

I also think on some level we each decide everyday who we are and what life we want to live.

I started thinking about this as I tried to figure out why I like human beings playing guitars much more then I like electronic music.  Intellectually I can hear the artistry and skill musicians who dwell in the electronic world.  I can appreciate the complex nature of the sounds they are putting together.  However, I can’t hear the humanity.  I almost always feel when listening to electronic music that its beauty is rather antiseptic.  I prefer the messiness of real people.

To my ear and to my mind there is a vibrancy that comes from an imperfect human interacting with an imperfect string instrument.  It creates moments that even if they are recorded are lost to history.  You can record a live concert and listen to it again in the comfort of your home or car, but you cannot recreate that moment between you, the band and the rest of the crowd.

It isn’t that this is impossible with electronic music, but again to my ear, those moments seem prescribed.  I actually like listening to electronic music.  I think a better description then antiseptic of what I often don’t like in it is over-intellectualized.

Often when I hear or read a music critic or fan talk about electronic music they describe it in ways that sound like a computer program.  They talk about the use of rhythms and string effects and modulation and how all this comes together to make a beautiful piece of music.  It is in those moments I start to think, “Yeah, why didn’t they just plug in a Stratocaster, turn it up to 10, hit a big E chord, and see what happens.”

Let’s not get it twisted.  I don’t want some dumb cave man screaming and yelling nonsense over silly chord progressions.  I love singer-songwriters and want to hear intelligent lyrics sung over great musicianship, but we shouldn’t over think it.

Sometimes the more we know the easier it is to lose the humanity.  We must be careful in all aspects of our lives that we keep using the tools we develop and not let them use us.  I think this is especially true in art.  Artists, writers, and musicians must retain control of their tools to use them to augment their expression of humanity instead of letting those tools dictate their expression of humanity.

Or maybe I just don’t understand electronic music.


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