Friday, March 24, 2017

If it sounds good

Just for the fun of it I tried listening to some old Chinese music the other night (Youtube), and was a bit disconcerted that I typically couldn't make out anything like a melodic line. There'd be a phrase or two that seemed promising, and then everything got upended as far as my ear was concerned. I expect some rhythm or melodic logic to carry me along, but the phrasing didn't usually seem regular and I couldn't follow the logic.

Apparently the irregularity is built into the music theory. E.g. "Related to this concept, the idea of accents on regular beats of a bar is not as important as accents occurring on appropriate parts of the phrase. Accents are also influenced by note length."

So much for the universal language. Peter Schickele liked to end his show with Duke Ellington's "If it sounds good, it is good." But if you can't follow it, it may not sound good.

I read in an account of an expedition up the Amazon that the explorers brought along a phonograph with which to entertain themselves, and demonstrated it to various tribesmen--who allegedly far preferred Mozart to Beethoven. I wonder what it was in Mozart that they liked (understood?) better. I wonder if that preference is still true, given the exposure pretty much everybody has had to pop.

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