Saturday, August 6, 2016

World History Project, or Ahh Bach!, Part One:

Sometimes I think I’m overestimating my capacity to hear new music.

It would be nice to think - like I once did - that there is no theoretical reason for me to not like any CD, something unless there was definitely something wrong with it. In other words, I should have been able to go to any genre and enjoy whatever was good in that genre.

I remember borrowing a CD of Armenian folk music from a co-worker and enjoying it. (Even he didn’t like it that much.)

But my musical arteries seem to be hardening.  I’ve come to find I like hip hop (and dance music and dubstep and electronica and...) only so much.

It’s Not Them:

Now, I’ve been hearing complaints about “those young people with their crazy music” since I was six years old, which was fine. At that time, they were talking about me.  But now it’s us talking about them.

To hear someone my age say it is pretty disheartening. After all, he/she probably went through the same degree of non-acceptance from his/her parents as I did, and should have been a little more aware when he found himself saying the same thing.

So I’ve been on the lookout for such non-acceptance for decades now.  And I’ve been pretty successful at keeping it at bay. Even when I ended up not loving something, I was smart enough to not dismiss it because there were lots of people who did love it. For you algebra fans (come on, I know you’re out there!) x number of y fans can’t be wrong, can they?  Well, technically, they can. I’ve heard some  terrible popular music, but I’m not going to let that distract me from the good.)

The bottom line is that those young people love that crazy music, so who am I to say it’s bad? What’s bad is my ability to absorb the constant changes music seems to go through.

It’s Me:

So I’m just like you and need to retrench sometimes.

So, what is my solution to this problem?

Why, going into the Past for music that I should be theoretically capable of understanding/enjoying,
Unfortunately, I’ve been hitting some of the same barriers here that I hit with current pop music: liking it but only so much.

My timing couldn’t be worse, either. Springtime is usually the best time to hear something energetic (loud) and joyful (guitars) and in a genre that’s close to one’s heart to begin with. And something brand new would be preferable. It makes you feel part of the present, and optimistic about the future.

I didn’t always know this. I’d tried Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos – gotten in the heat of summer -  and quickly put aside for the Velvet Underground.  It wasn’t bad, mind you, but I just preferred “Sweet Jane” in the heat of July to Concerto Number Two, which is pretty good, by the way.

Sensory Deprivation Chamber:

Adding to the general musical malaise was a general malaise malaise (hmmm, maybe one has something to do with the other?) and didn’t feel up for much of anything anyway.

So I decided I’d enter the old SDC.  And instead of energetic and loud, all I wanted was quiet.  Not nothing, mind you. Just something really really quiet.

And so the World History Project couldn’t have come along at a better time.  It just so happened that I was up to (really past) the Benedictine Monks (c. 800) and Monteverdi (c. 1638).

Originally, I found the Monks kind of boring and Monteverdi pretty good.  But now both records are so well suited to my mood.  Perfectly fine music for their time, they’re perfect for modern times when you’re feeling depleted.  I have to admit I never thought I’d be so depleted that the Chants would work for me, but there you go.

That’s how tired I am of new music. The chanting monks are sounding good!

But the WHP also brought me to another record that fit the mood:

Bach: Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, Performed by Yo Yo Ma

This is one of Johann Sebastian’s earlier compositions (1717), and like the Monks and Monteverdi this is a 2 CD set. Who’da thought you could fill 2 entire CDs with just one guy - named after a toy - sawing away on what you and me and Jack Black all know is really a bass? They must have had all the time in the world back then.

Anyway, I won’t even try to describe this. The title really says it all. I’m too ignorant to note any huge changes of mood or tone. It all seems to stay in a zone of mild melancholy that I find to be so much fun these days.

Like those other times of depression when I could only handle Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Selected Ambient Works 85-92, Vol 2, this one fits perfectly into that low-input frame of mind.

For a while, when I’d play this it would simply slip past me, because I was awaiting more sensory input.  But when you aren’t up to all that, this is perfect.

I won’t lie and say I absolutely love it. Something would have to enthrall me on a sustained basis to get that reaction.

But there must be a category of music representing what you normally wouldn’t immediately reach for, but under certain circumstances is fantastic.  In which case, this would be an A+.

For your first classical album, you could do a lot worse.


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