Some things about music I just don't
understand ... and look forward to your explanations.
1. How does
evolution explain musical child prodigies?
In our mere million years or so since
plain, what lets a special
12-year-old child play a violin
(Sarah Chang) or piano (Evgeny Kissin) like a skilled adult?
(May 2015, I discover a miraculous
4-year old boy.
Give a listen, and tell me how this is possible.)
(January 2019, an even greater
prodigy, maybe, one Joey
Not just the demanding physical
dexterity required to finger the strings or keys. As remarkable
as that surely is, more amazing, to me anyway, is the ability to
memorize the thousands of notes in a composition. As I,
meanwhile, struggle with Mary Had a Little Lamb with only
2. How can
musical tastes vary so greatly between reasonably intelligent,
similar people? One of my
favorite composers is George Winston. A good friend can't stand
George Winston. My friend loves bepop jazz. I can't stand
How can a friend I respect actually
like Elton John or the Beach Boys? How can I adore the
McGarrigle sisters and a friend thinks they're boring? Another
friend … but you get the picture.
What is it about music that the
same piece takes some of us to inexpressible pleasure and others
of us almost to pain?
3. Would I still
enjoy the CD as much if I’d paid the regular $15 for it? Or if
the CD had come highly recommended by a friend or review?
Some of my very favorite CDs were picked up at yard sales and
swap meets, where I didn’t recognize the artist but took a
chance for a few bucks. Did I come to like this music because of
the way I stumbled upon it - the unexpected joy - or is it
really good on its own merits?
really don't know. But I've come to wish that every CD I hear
would come unmarked, no liner notes, not even who the musicians
are, just what appears to be a blank CD.
I'd want to hear the music with my
mind uninfluenced in any way, not by the name of a favorite
artist, not by a favorable review, not by liner notes trying to
help me like or "understand" the music. I want just the music,
plain and unvarnished. Then if I liked it, would I learn more
The closest I get is to never
read the CD's liner notes until after I've played the CD. I
don't want anything between the music and me, nothing to add to
the canvas the music will paint. It's also why I've restrained
myself on this website from praising my favorite musicians too
highly, for fear of creating expectations that can't possibly be
met. So that you can "stumble" upon the unexpected joy, too.
What it is
about music that it becomes more enjoyable the more often you
hear it? Try watching a
favorite movie the second time, even decades later. It doesn't
work. The thrill is gone.
Books are the same. Sometimes we
can read a book again to enjoy the author's skill, but once is
Music? We can enjoy an album in our
collection repeatedly, and find increased pleasure in each
hearing. In fact, for me at least, music doesn't get boring with
repetition, it gets better.
Why is this? Why doesn't the same
thing happen with music as with its sister art forms, film and