03 December 2011

The Weird: digging it and being it are not the same thing

The esteemed Daniel Wolf once wrote:

as far as I can hear, Shostakovich's music does not pose a fundamental challenge to the way in which music is made or heard. The conservation of a particular tradition of listening and music-making is an inseparable part of Shostakovich's music; it is music that both demands and fits study and performance in a conservatory environment. For the listener, the parameters of that which is understood to be music are the same before and after the experience of one of his scores. His music, often with great technical virtuosity and direct -- even when sarcastic or ironic -- emotional pull, plays well-behavedly within the established parameters. My ears, however, are always drawn to that which is less well-behaved.

A curious perspective, but one which I have gradually encountered more and more often. As a classmate of mine more succinctly put it, "I dig the weird." A simple statement with not-so-simple implications: I've often felt that, in my own little world, much of what is weird to everyone else is not weird to me, and while I'm sure that both Daniel and my friend could relate similar experiences, what they are describing is nonetheless a very different relationship. As time goes on, I'm less convinced than ever that I myself am of their type: the sensation of "weirdness" (or music "which is less well-behaved") has never been a deterrent on its own, but nor has it ever been enough to win me over, and I've certainly never relied quite this heavily on its sheer presence or absence as the basis for a value judgment. Here I am stuck, as always, between modernism and something else.

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