Saturday, September 04, 2010

Reflections' Emittance Widely

I'm going to run into difficulties before even starting this post, but, a couple days ago--maybe more like a week ago (time flies (and, speaking of flying time, this post was itself now started almost a week ago, putting this other conversation at more like two weeks ago now))--I was talking to a friend of mine about existing on the meta level, or, more precisely, about the tendency for philosophical-type-people to always be flitting up and down between levels of discourse and experience; but more accurately, I was talking to her about a conversation she had had with someone else about the topic, which already makes the thing that much more meta, but, of course, at the same time, it still was an actual conversation with actual, and valuable, information and experience being illuminated. And this conversation was still on my mind yesterday (yesterday a week ago) evening, as I at the last minute decided to run out to the Philharmonie to catch the third day of the Musikfest Berlin.

Though few people outside the family read this blog (so far as I can tell, anyway...), I used a line on my family back in May about the Musikfest (which features this year the music of Luciano Berio and Pierre Boulez) that is worth repeating--which I found out about in the same breath as finding out that I has earned the scholarship that was bringing me here in the first place: "I don't believe in signs from God, but I do believe in gifts from the Universe." Which is mostly to say, it's taken a fair amount of restraint for me to only have gone to a small sampling of these concerts. Because most of this stuff, given my particular brand of apocalyptic thinking, will only rarely be performed ever again for the rest of my life.

And, thus (following from the first two paragraphs), I was a bit stuck, listening to this concert, up on the meta-level. Certainly the music itself is thoroughly enjoyable for me (I don't think all Boulez is created equal, but in general I like the way it sounds, if only a few of his pieces reach truly transcendent heights in my inner ear (Marteu and Sur Incises being the two greatest hits). And part of me, realizing that I was going to blog this concert, was also feeling a bit stand-offish, and younger brotherly, and then on top of that a bit regretful for what I already then knew I was about to write now (and am now already amending since I can't actually do it (did I know that then?)): it is stunning to me that apparently smart people with relatively good taste ( brothers, say...) aren't bored to tears by John Adams. Even Boulez's juvenilia presents a more fascinating sonic world than that of pretty much any other contemporary American composer outside of Elliot Carter (and, in fact, I came out of this concert with an even greater appreciation for Carter...).

So, yeah, Le Visage nuptial is an interesting piece. I think it sat well on the second half of the concert, after the Berg Chamber Concerto, and Aimard's rip-shit run-down of the second movement of Boulez's 1st Piano Sonata (a piece I used to just go and listen to on LP every so often at the music library back when I was a music student, just to, like, remind myself that there are things which are interesting in the musical world while learning, I dunno... Mahler 7 excerpts). I can tell I'm enjoying concerts when my metal/punk vocabulary comes out to describe classical music. But yeah, Berg's Chamber Concerto is bad-ass. And it was really thrilling to finally get to see Aimard live in concert. Shit'll fuck you up for real.

But, I would say that it was really only during the Piano Sonata that I was really sucked into the concert. Again, I had a lot of this meta-garbage running through my consciousness (which scientists are currently guessing is like, 80% language), which probably has to do with it being the only piece that I knew particularly well (as much as I like the Berg, I don't know that I've listened to it at all between this and the last time I saw it in concert back in 2004 or 5), but that of course can be interesting in its own right. I guess.

The other aspect of note from this concert was that it was in the Philharmonie's main hall, rather than the chamber hall, and I really think it would have worked in the Chamber context. Not only because of all the empty seats in the house, but that it was all relatively small music in a big open space. Though it was actually kind of fun to here the piano ringing about during the Sonata.

But it's a question I'm still stuck asking myself: As someone who so readily admits to liking this kind of music, if I'm spending much of my listening time mostly thinking about the fact that I am listening to it, what kind of listening experience is that really?

Because, presumably, people that like, say, John Adams, just sit there and listen to that crap and really, like, like it, right? What do you think, brothers? When you listen to the shitty music that you like, are you listening to it in a more focused way than perhaps my mind-wandering enjoyment of more complicated (and, objectively, way way fucking better) music?


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