Friday, November 28, 2014


For quite some time I've experienced what I've felt as a divide between reading about music and listening to it.  This past year a handful of essays and responses regarding music reviewing/criticism caught my attention and reading them, I was left with this feeling that, while illuminating and valid, there was a much larger point being missed by supporters and critics alike.  Something I could feel but not put my finger on.  Repeat mention of "association" lead me to take a closer look at my own connections with music.  What their nature was.  Something at the base, the origin, seemed inflamed and felt to me like the core of this system and the source of this problematic divide. 

What could lie at the origin of musical experience?  What is its gateway?  LISTENING.

As a writer of reviews you are a listener.  We are to suppose a good one.  No musical language is required to do this.  However, this is a skill like any other whose performance can run the gamut of quality.  It's very easy to be a bad listener, yet a great writer and deliver something that reads beautifully but has been crucially under-listened.  An intimacy with the material secondary only to its creator(s) is paramount to the formal assessment of review even if and especially when carrying the intention to institute change.  Otherwise the result is merely casual commentary. 

Presumably, as a writer your relationship with writing undergoes infinite adjustment, consideration, and ever-changing attention to nuance.  So should your listening.  A focus on increasing the depth of listening works to strengthen all connections with a record.  So much is there to be missed even a proper sit down for one week is not enough to fully receive what is available from a record.  (The amount of listening required to merely learn the lyrics of an entire album should be a reference.)  Years later I, time and time again, find plenty to glean from my most cherished and most listened albums.  My point is that there is a direct correlation between quality listening and time.  There is no simplification of time and what is put in will be directly reflected in what comes out no matter how beautifully written.  The most linguistically florid review can still reek of cursory listening and, though it may not qualify as "bad writing," it most certainly qualifies as bad listening; something that can simply be felt in the aural imagination as a gaping lack of fulfillment. 

My preference in reading a review is that it set alight my sensory as close to the point of entry as possible.  LISTENING.  While carefully chosen words trigger uniquely sculpted visions I may not have originally intuited my aural imagination lies in neglect.  The gateway to my system is lying open for use and atrophying for the sake of only a portion of the whole.  My expectation of the music writer is that they BEGIN an expert listener in order to effectively serve music's holistic totality and from this platform, make the best use of their gift for language.

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