People always ask, Why did you stop drinking? They never ask, Why did you start drinking?

October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Our cultural belief is that harmony is good and dissonance, bad. Those forms of music that have abandoned connection to what most people regard as “harmony” can be very difficult to listen to: for many people the onslaught of dissonance in much twentieth-century “serious” music amounts to torture, and they retreat to Mozart for relief. Yet music that has no dissonance is equally difficult to listen to, not because it is painful but because it is dull – particularly if it lacks rhythmic definition as well. Twentieth-century minimalist music is not as challenging to Western ears as twentieth-century serialism, but it is just as difficult to listen to attentively. After 5 minutes of unrelenting ostinato, the average listener is asleep…

Permanent dissonance is perhaps not quite as dangerous as permanent harmony. The soporific effect of unrelieved harmony can be disastrous, as anyone who has fallen asleep at a car wheel could testify. Listening to challenging music can be an effective way of warding off fatal sleepiness.  Listening to undemanding musak can make sleepiness worse. When things are going well we are lulled into a false sense of security, which means that the crisis when it comes is all the worse because it is unexpected. In the recent financial crisis many people asked why it wasn’t predicted. The truth is that it WAS predicted, by many economists, but politicians and people alike didn’t want to listen to the Cassandras and wheeled out their own “experts” to “prove” that there would be no crisis, despite the mounting evidence that there was an unsustainable boom in house prices and credit expansion. They were asleep at the wheel, and the result was a crash.  read more

ART: RB Kitaj

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