Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Music Salon: One Year in Retrospect

I started this blog on the first Sunday in June last year. In two days it will be one year old. That first month I had 300 page views! Now it averages close to 6000 page views per month, which is still tiny compared to the well-known music blogs like Norman Lebrecht or Alex Ross who are themselves tiny compared to the big political blogs like Glenn Reynolds or Ann Althouse. Those folks get hundreds of thousands of views per day! But this is a classical music blog, so the readership will be limited.

But why is that? Why would music, because I don't just talk about classical music, be inherently less interesting than US politics, or European economic news, or the latest horrific violent crime, or the doings of celebrities? No, really. I would much rather listen to some Schubert and see what he is doing with the harmony than read yet another dreary account of which European country is going down the tubes next, or what kind of dress Kim Kardashian is wearing today. I mean, wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone? Doesn't the news seem distressingly the same every day? But every piece of music is potentially like a new world.

I suppose that, for me, music has always been like another world, a place of refuge, where things make just a little more sense than they do in the 'real' world. I suppose this makes me some sort of romantic because this is what the romantics discovered in the 19th century: how music can construct, represent, express a world of inwardness, of subjectivity. But that doesn't seem quite right. Music is not something that principally goes on in your head: it is something that happens in the world, with performers, musical instruments and listeners. Until it is played it is not quite music, just the potential for such.

I'm talking about a certain kind of music, but what kind is hard to define. You could certainly call it 'classical' because that is what a lot of it would be called. You could say there are two kinds of music: music that means something and music that doesn't, taking off from the phrase, "he didn't mean anything by it." I'm saying that some music is intended to mean something and some not. But by "mean something" I don't mean anything expressible in language. I mean "musically meaningful". For what I mean by that, the best is just to point out examples. A lot of this blog is doing just that.

Take for example this post from last June where I talk about 'transcendental' music and music that only seems so. There were a lot of good posts last June. Here is one about Bach and the unmeasured prelude. Here is another about the idea of 'pulse'. Here is a post about the problems of avant-garde music. One post was about the phenomenon of distance in time revealing aesthetic quality. I called it the 'time quotient'. In another post I invented something called the 'boring quotient'. Looking back at these old posts I notice that sometimes the YouTube clip has gone away, as it has with the song by Tom Waits. Since I name the song, you can just go dig up another version on YouTube. But I will have to go back periodically and update my clips if they have expired. Here's a clip that's still good: I ran across a rather odd international music project that seems pretty wrong-headed and called it 'globalizing music'. Here's a post on one of the most interesting pop albums ever released, and one that doesn't actually have a name.

There were 47 posts in the first month of this blog and this is just a selection. I think--I hope!--that they are still interesting. Why not go back and have a look for yourself?

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