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Wednesday, 06 July 2016


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Ross has also written two excellent books, one on 20th Century Classical music (The Rest is Noise) and one sort of about the relationship between Classical music and pop culture in the our current cultural context (Listen to This).


High Fidelity-

One thought comes to my mind, and that's the overuse of movies in movie and TV drama. In too many programs, the music track is too loud and in moments of high tension, can drown out the dialogue, except it's the dialogue I want to hear. Does no one ever watch the final edit? There have been some programs that we stopped watching because of the music.

I can understand the use of music for good and bad.
I used to manage the camera department in a department store. (it was an employment low point). The background Muzak was terrible, and repetitive. You could set your watch by it.
It was designed to innocuous to the average shopper, who was probably completely oblivious to it, yet the staff found the 'grey noise' grating.
During those many quiet moments between customers, when your mind zones out and gets into the lazy rhythms of the bored musicians your teeth start to grate, your mind turns to cheese and going postal seems like a reasonable life alternative. That is when you start to take better photographs in your mind. But, the job paid so poorly that you were pressed to afford the bus fare.
That is why a person can hate mall music.

No art form is innocent, particularly if "innocent" means having no intent or power to change those who are exposed to it.

Pat Metheny's "Zero Tolerance for Silence" comes to mind after reading this post.

This is not exactly on topic but TOP readers may find it interesting.
Alex North composed a soundtrack for 2001 A Space Odyssey. The score was discarded in favor of a collection of music by other composers that had apparently been place holders in the rough cut while Norths score was being done.
You can compare the two on this site. You have to wonder how much impact Kubricks film would have had if it had kept the North score.
In my opinion the Alex North score really does not work in this capacity. You may differ. Give it a listen.

Reminds me of the photo of the girl standing on top of the toilet, the context changed the meaning of the image.

Similarly interesting is "The Singing Neanderthal" by Steven Mithen. Among other things he argues that music affects our emotions in ways that speech rarely does.

Alex Ross' The Rest is Noise is an excellent history of (art/classical/film/experimental) music of 20th century.


One is reminded of the central plot of "A Clockwork Orange". Music used as reprogramming.

Very interesting article. Brings to mind "A Clockwork Orange" and its many music / violence juxtapositions.

...oops, fell prey to the old "comment before thoroughly reading" syndrome. A Clockwork Orange is mentioned in the story !

The national anthems of formerly colonized countries are usually marches or have sanguine lyrics.

Have you ever felt music can be intolerably beautiful?
Have you ever been so moved by music you felt uncomfortable listening to it?
Have you ever had to hide your face when listening to music, so that no one would notice you were crying?
I did. That was when I listened to Pachelbel's Canon in D major for the first time.

"The Murderer" by Ray Bradbury. Incredibly, written in 1953.

A few years ago a big box store opened in our area. I went there and found that each department - appliances, CD's, photo, and so on - had its own unique background music. As you were walking through the store you could hear two - and sometimes three - different genres of music being played simultaneously. LOUDLY!

I paid quickly for whatever I was buying and when I was done said to the young girl behind the counter, "how can you stand it in here?"

She replied, "oh, you just get used to it after a while."

I sometimes wonder where she is today.

"you can sometimes hear anthems of counterculture 1960s revolution used as muzak in supermarkets now"

My 5 year old son got quite the looks when he would sing along to the Beatles "happiness is a warm gun" in the supermarket. I used to know a girl in in highschool who would sing along to the MASH theme song when it was popular as background shopping music. For those who are unfamiliar with the song, "Suicide is painless" http://www.neatorama.com/2015/07/28/MASH-Notes-The-Story-Behind-Suicide-is-Painless/ is one of those songs everybody recognizes but no one knows the lyrics to.

I shared the link with a friend, a retired AP journo - his take was that music is a fundamental communication tool can be used or misused, just as words can. Would we rather use words or music to incite to violence, or to express and celebrate the better aspects of human nature? He found it "disturbing, like any article that essentially celebrates violence - however elevated the tone".

As to me, for Alex Ross to say "To admit that music can become an instrument of evil is to take it seriously as a form of hu­man expression" seems fatuous, as it implies music might not have been taken seriously before, and that an admission of misuse is required in order to take it seriously. Really? What nonsense. Music has always been a serious form of human expression linked powerfully to our emotions, and it doesn't take evil misuse to make it so.

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