06 June 2007

My Philosophy In a Nutshell

Much ink has been spilled and time wasted trying to define "music" from a technical or structural point of view, but what about defining it in terms of perception/reception? I'm willing to accept any sound as musical. However, if I wish to find the music in any old sound, I am the one who must decide that this is what I want to do, how I should do it, and why it is important to me. The sound as a physical phenomenon remains unchanged whether I ignore it or contemplate it. A Mozart piano sonata could be a mere distraction if it threatens to drown out an important conversation, while a construction crew could unwittingly create a musical experience for someone who chooses to receive it as such.

In my relatively brief time as a musician, my music has been both a distraction and an attraction to many people. I, of course, intend only the latter, but I only control the sound; the audience controls the music. That there is, in fact, a whole sovereign genre called "ambient music" is very disappointing to me. Besides the fact that I despise this phrase, I would also argue that it is a contradiction in terms. Making music has as much to do with receiving as it does with sending. For this reason, it may be possible to create music unintentionally or accidentally, but it is not possible to perceive it that way. There is a difference between "hearing" and "listening" just as there is between "seeing" and "looking".

Some call this an intellectual distinction; I disagree. That position presupposes that there is only one way to hear a piece of music; that there are certain things that everyone needs to be on the look out for, lest they fail to "understand" the piece. As Debussy said, listeners need only to listen. Let them notice and miss what they may. It is not a question of intellectuals and non-intellectuals, but of those who decide to pay attention and those who either can't or won't for whatever reason.

Among those who pay attention, no two will have the same experience, nor should they. The aims and implications of much of the audience outreach that has been done in the last several decades are profoundly flawed because they assume that the goal is to teach large numbers of people to experience the same music the same way. It's no wonder little progress has been made, for this is simply impossible. The current paradigm is one that aims to educate diverse perspectives into conformity rather than simply allowing them to take their place and exist as they may, but that approach is no better suited to music than it is to government.

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