Thinking about Music

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Month: September, 2013

Lost in Translation

Watching the DVD about Arvo Part (24 Preludes before a Fugue)  which is obviously in Estonian, but the subtitles are in Spanish which I clicked on to instant translate.

The expression con moto  is rendered as ‘With Bike”.

The Perception of Value

We ascribe value to artworks by a far more complex system that their simple worth. (i.e. what somebody will pay for them)


1)             Tape found in an old art student’s locker – 10 minutes of traffic noise  – somewhat edited and organised.

2)             Same tape found in John Cages’ study, carefully preserved and labelled opus 56.

3)             Same tape in the Hollywood special effect department

4)             Same tape  preserved at the Ministry of Transport to measure traffic noise levels.

I have to wonder if it is actually just the ideas that we pay for. If I hold the idea that the T-shirt I bought that ‘belonged’ to John Lennon is a real artefact, should I be disappointed if I see that 500 similar items were sold by a fraudster? Until the moment that the fraud was revealed I was very happy with my purchase.

Here is an economics scenario  given to me many years ago by a guy who advised Government Economists:

A man arrives at a farm in the morning and the farmer puts him to work picking the harvest at an agreed £50 for the day’s labour.

At lunch-time another person arrives asking for work and again the farmer (realising he needs more help to finish in time) takes him on also for £50 for the day.

Does the first person have any genuine complaint?


How much should I pay for a tape of traffic noise?

The Fog of the Auditory world

The other day I was in my study playing guitar.  My neighbour decided that ‘all day’ was the perfect time frame for 80’s rock music to be playing.  It wasn’t loud but it bothered me so I closed the window. The sound was still there but reduced. It made me think about the way we are supposed to tolerate sounds from all around. The constant drone of traffic, the constant right of a private pilot to make THAT much noise over a village in which I would surely be arrested for the same level of sound, mobile phones!

So imagine if you will, that on going to a new art exhibition in a famous gallery you found that the rooms were filled with various levels of mist. From a light film of whiteness to a dense thick impenetrable  cloud such that you could only see the paintings close to. This is how the sound world has become:  People cough in concerts without even trying to mask the sound with their sleeves or even their hands. People eat noisily through films (can a box of pop corn really last that long?). At a solo cello recital in Aldeburgh the other day a couple obviously not used to the fact that this was not television at homer swapping facts about the composer’s life and the soloist’s career in barely whispered asides – all through the playing.

Coming home – I notice that one of my computers delivers a slight  wind sound from its fan. It has smeared over everything I listen to. Ironically it is the computer with my  music library on it. Does anybody make soundproof cases for computers?

There is another sound default at work – the default that everybody will love pop music blasting out – often to drown conversation – especially in public places like restaurants and shops.  Why always pop? is it only young people they are trying to attract? – if we must have other peoples music might it not occasionally be Jazz, Classical, world, singer -songwriter , alternative and so on?  I do not go to the Gym I used to go to because ‘Eye of the Tiger’ type songs play on endless loops.  As a preference, we should expect no background music, that silence be as golden as it used once to be.

Lets win back our auditory space and remove the fog from our listening environment.