Thursday, March 20, 2008

Slow Listening

Don't like the label "classical"? We could always follow the "slow food" movement and go with the phrase "slow listening", making a virtue out of the fact that the features we treasure in music are not only those that are immediate and on the surface, but require listening that consumes meaningful amounts of time but is rewarded by meaningful amounts of content. The economist Tyler Cowan (pointing to an Economist article) writes of a rumored new single fee, all-the-music-you-can-download, program for Apple. The money line for us slow folk:

One point is that songs will get shorter and their best riffs will be held to higher standards of immediate accessibility. If the marginal cost of a song is free, people will sample lots more and they will give fewer songs a second listen (higher opportunity cost); of course the opening bits of a song are already free in many cases but this will make sampling even easier.

1 comment:

Joe Hannan said...

Hello Daniel,

One of my favorite professors at UCSC in the mid-70s was the delightfully gruff (and funny) Grosvenor Cooper, who seemed--at least at first--as old-school as his name. He was close to retirement when I worked with him; did you cross paths?

Grosvenor's approach in the classroom was about 80%-pure Socratic. Among my best memories of him are an independent study on Baroque opera and a *wonderful* seminar on Debussy. For the first five weeks of the seminar, we were on the honor system not to look at scores. We broke into groups and did purely aural analyses of some complex scores--En Blanc et noir, Jeux, Villon songs, the late Sonate for trio. It was revelatory to be thrown on one's ear that way. (Grosvenor also seemed to actually enjoy teaching the survey course and the "appreciation" class for nonmajors, perhaps because the preconceived notions of the students were not as thick on the ground.)

ANYWAY, the point of this blathering post is that I once got him, in a non-Socratic moment, to give his definition of analysis in a nutshell: "slowed-down listening." Somehow it was just the right moment for me to consider music this way (even as the long-duration/close-listening California school of minimalist composition was in full swing). Simultaneously, Bill Brooks was asserting an equally stimulating model of analysis as de- and recomposition.

So at this latter-day stage of my life, when I have in fact become a charter member of the local slow-food group (UpDeRiVa, for Upper Delaware River Valley), it interested me to read your modest proposal for redubbing "classical" music. Here's to slow listening.