Saturday morning quotes 2.8: The music is nothing special
“There’s nothing special about a song…”
Early this morning one of us was exercising his Constitutional right to engage in online political discourse when the conversation turned quite unexpectedly to the music business. Our correspondent, whom we only know from an anonymous forum, and who didn’t know that he was talking to a professional musician, made the following pronouncement:
I fully support the “free culture” and think that if musicians want to sell something they need to do something special that connects people with their art in a way that they were either too lazy or didn’t have to do before. For example: there’s nothing special about a song. “The music” is not special. So when you’re talking about monetizing music these days you can’t think of that as selling a CD, because no one cares, they can go to Spotify and listen to it for free. But there is something special about having that song on limited edition split colored vinyl. That’s something to show off to your friends.
The music is not special?
Wonder what kind of music he listens to? If it takes the physical product of a limited edition split colored vinyl to make a song special, then we have clearly been going at this thing in the wrong way – and working much too hard.
Disgusted, we turned off the computer and spent nearly two hours immersed in a particularly beautiful chanson by Antoine Busnoys, staggeringly complex in its imitative counterpoint and proportional architecture. Yes, two hours working out the minute details of one song. We exhausted our bodies and our brains long before we’d exhausted the mesmerizing depths of the music, to which we we eagerly look forward to returning.
Of course, we may just be the slightest bit biased, but the reactions we hear from our audiences (even those who’ve only heard us on Spotify, Jango, or Pandora) have convinced us that this music really does touch people in a unique way. After concerts, members of the audience often approach us to describe their emotional reaction to the music—feelings rather than analysis.
One particularly thoughtful listener once opined that perhaps the reason audience members approach us with their emotions close to the surface is because our music so delicately intermingles sound, texture and quiet, offering a safe aural space. The music actually allows the listener to let down his guard, opening him so fully to the beauty and intensity of the words and music that he is absorbed and overwhelmed by the experience.
We sometimes read aloud a snippet of the following favorite quote, a 16th-century description of the power of music:
‘Music is the sovereign mistress for solacing grief, appeasing wrath, curbing boldness, tempering desire, healing sorrow, easing the misery of poverty, dispelling weakness, and soothing the pangs of love.
You could relate a great number of ancient stories on this subject, but you would hardly find one of a more striking proof than that which was recently told us…by Monsieur de Ventemille… who while staying in Milan…was invited to a sumptuous banquet…where, among other pleasures of rare things…appeared Francesco da Milano – a man who is considered to have attained the end (if such is possible) of perfection in playing the lute well.
The tables being cleared, he chose [a lute], and as if tuning his strings, sat on the end of a table seeking out a fantasia. He had barely disturbed the air with three strummed chords when he interrupted conversation which had started among the guests.
Having constrained them to face him, he continued with such a ravishing skill that little by little, making the strings languish under his fingers in his sublime way, he transported all those who were listening into so pleasurable a melancholy that…they remained deprived of all senses save that of hearing, as if the spirit, having abandoned all the seats of the senses, had retired to the ears in order to enjoy the more at its ease so ravishing a harmony…
…I believe (said M. de Ventemille) that we would be there still, had [Francesco] not himself – I know not how – changing his style of playing with a gentle force, returned the spirit and the senses to the place from which he had stolen them, not without leaving as much astonishment in each of us as if we had been elevated by an ecstatic transport of some divine frenzy.’
Nope, there’s nothing special about a song.