Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm a Binge Listener

Binge is an odd word, isn't it? It was originally a dialect word meaning to soak. So it referred to drinking to excess. Now it can mean doing anything to excess. But I tend to binge. Here's what I mean by it. When I discover something new and interesting, like the string quartets of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, as I did the other day, then I might sit down and listen to four or five or eight or ten of them in a row. I got hooked on Caesar salad once and ate it three or four times a week for months. One summer I discovered Haydn string quartets and listened to all eighty-some of them. Another summer I did nothing but listen to Javanese gamelan music. I'm a binger!

Of course, this is a slightly different thing than drinking large amounts of alcohol and waking up in a strange hotel room in a strange city. With a tattoo. And married.

Actually, the way I do it is more of a focused learning experience than just over-indulgence. My rationale is, when I discover something new and interesting, I want to explore it, figure out how it works, become familiar with it. That's why I listen to many different examples or instances of it. Sometimes I break it up. When I got an excellent box of all the Shostakovich string quartets on CD I listened to one every morning in sequence. Then I did it again. Same with the Beethoven piano sonatas.

As you might guess, I would not be the kind of person who would use the shuffle play feature. I want to know what I'm listening to. In fact, I usually have a specific reason I'm listening to a specific piece or set of pieces.

While I've been writing this, I have been listening to various movements from a mass by Josquin des Prez. Here is some of the notation for the Agnus Dei:

This is the Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales to give it its full title. In the very first printed collection of music devoted to a single composer, printed in 1502, this was the first piece. At the very beginning it doesn't sound very mass-like because the performers sing us the folk song "l'homme armé" that the mass is based on first. Now here is all forty transcendent glorious minutes of it:

Now, if you wanted to listen to that all again, or all the rest of the masses by Josquin, why, I would quite understand.

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