Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"What song makes you, you?"

Last week I put up a post commenting on an article in the Guardian titled "Six Songs of Me". Somehow I managed to work my way into talking about Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique. Today the NPR blog Deceptive Cadence has some more on this that nicely highlights what I see as a problem. Sure, I know, it seems quite harmless, just list songs that relate to your personal life and, as they noted:
And that's the whole point — what our musical choices say about who we are. And, more broadly, why we respond to music so deeply in the first place. The Telegraph article tried explaining that one, at least a little bit.
Well, the Telegraph article did no such thing. This is aesthetic relativism with a vengeance! Pure narcissism. Let's reduce music to a little soundtrack to our lives. Sure, we can do it and apparently a lot of people have fun with that. But really? That's music? We respond to it because some fragments of it we can shoehorn into parts of our lives?

I don't know if it is merely because I have spent most of my life as a professional musician, but I have never had the inclination to think of music this way. Not to deny that some pieces of music can act on memory like Proust's madelaine did, recalling times past. But that's really not why I listen to music. For me it has exactly the opposite function and purpose: not to be absorbed into my life, but to take me out of myself. This is the precise meaning of the word ecstasy, to stand outside oneself. And that is a kind of magic so much more powerful than some song that makes you, you. Don't you think?

Music can take us somewhere -- else...


Joel Lo Observador said...

Hello bryan!

Well, as i think i said before, i'm not a musician. But I agree with you. When I was a teenager, that ideas of "songs that marked your life", "the songs that describe you" etc., sounded so cool, he he he, everybody wants to establish a "conection" between the own life and music, and I guess that was an attempt to do so. It's funny to see adults doing it now. After I became a passionate of music, I understood that you can not just pick some songs (and songs!, that are so little in comparisson to classical works) to say they represent you or something like that. I think music is biggger than that. I don't think that kind of exercises represents a love for music but anyway... everyone would have an opinion.


Bryan Townsend said...

Hola Joel!

Thanks for the comment. Music can be a huge part of your life, but not quite in that way. One interesting thing about this kind of approach is that it asks nothing of the listener.