How To Evaluate-Judge-Quantify

Rico Apriori (
Sat, 31 May 1997 15:47:02 -0500

The issue of how to to talk about and then evaluate works of art and
Music in particular has always been of concern to me. But i have never
really ferreted out any consensus - even with myself.

Educated to some extent ( I hold a bachelors from a conservatory, a MA
in music Composition from Mills and started at a perf arts high school
as a jazz pianainst), and now 36 years old, I have trouble with how to
think about what I hear and see performed?!

I am absolutely convinced that, what I know or think I know effects
perception. I have been out of the "academy" now for 7 years. That after
lurking around the halls for 11 years...

What is talent? What is "good music" ? Why are so many contemporary
forms and styles obscure or with small audiences?

If its made in teh academy is it better than some untrained guy with a
little midi rig at home?

Are all pop forms simpler than academic music?

Is dodecaphony dead? Was it ever alive?

Is pattern music dead? Was it ever alive?

Do we revere those with access to resorces and name recognition from
prior points in there career regardless of whether they merit those
resources relative to others or have remianed innovative and on the
cuttin edge?

What is innovative and on the cutting edge?

Questions. Lots of questions.

I;d like to think of myself as fairly literate when it comes to music. I
think I have spent a lot of time listening and thinking about it. I
think I have studied the traditional forms like Jazz and Classical and
have reasonable knowledge about other forms like Indian, African, and
many other so called ethnic musics. I have seen and heard music that was
part of performance art or dance or film on and on...

I do think that my ear has grown. For me this means that I have the
ability to understand and appreciate many forms of sound/music that
others reject. It also means for me that I cannot listen tomusic like
many other people. I am irritated when pop radio is thrown on at me as
background ambience, particularly if it is canned highly produced
70's80's pop. I find this musical/cultural pollution and it has an
adverseeffect on me.

I also find that if I listen to a classical station for a whole day my
ear tires of diatonicism and or chromaticism and the devices emploed
over and over in the 19 century. V-I and arppegiation and scale based
melody wear thin. The Germanic "model and sequence" approach to form
gets tiring.

I also find that listening to the harmonies and textures of Afro-pop or
Arabic/Greek and other modal type scales wears me out at a point.

What I am getting at is this...very little is fresh for me. I have
difficulty seperating styles of music into "more compellling" vs. "less
compelling". I tire of everything at a point.

I am now working with a software company that does a commercial
interactive music product. The music being dealt with for the most part
is dance music. House, Techno, Hip Hop. And I have learned that it also
takes great skill and that the folks producing this stuff spend a great
deal of time and energy and they hear things inside the music sublte
nuances that make differences to them. What is "whack" or "dope" (bad or
good) are based on very precise and specific perceptions and
understanding of a history and with context.

This is the same thing that I saw going on in the contemporary art music
scene. Its not jsut what you do but its when and how. And that those
people involved in a scene become very astute to that scene and value it
above other forms...

Studio engineers and mastering guys hear all kinds of things that some
of the greatest composers or academics could never hear.

Composers with links to the western continuum or linked only in there
refuting of the western continuum also have valid knowledge that allows
for hearing certain things inside great complexity.

How bout repeatability. Is that a measure? If something can warrant X
amount of repeated listentings with the same "bang" is it better?

Is better a necessary term?

But then some people get published or recorded or a position teaching or
a grant and others do not. So better is going on....

What is new music? As we head to the 21st century what meaning does this

Those who study at the conservatoire consider the majority of the 20th
century still New Music. How many of them routinely program pieces
composed after 1945.

What about Jazz. How many times can I listen to a sextet improvise in a
hard bop style over rhythm changes? This to me is similar to my eventual
boredom to listening to classical forms and music that is harmonically
driven and referncing diaton/chromatic tonality. I do find it tastier
though if there is a venturing towards bi or multi tonality ala Mccoy
Tyner or Bartok...

Of course Braxton and Cecil Taylor are overlapping with other late 20th
century improvsied music coming form the classical channel...

But how many people would listen to that music exclusively? (other than
those that compose and play it?)

And howmany people reject tonal systems built on the Ionian or Aelion
modes completely?

Are there people that listen to FM synthesis and microtonality

I know from my own experience playing and composing with structured
microtonality that the feeling of going back to d minor after living in
a sound world with 72 pitches to the octave feel very primitive?

I have many more thoughts on all this - but I pose this note more to
solicit other views.

I;m a bit all over the place and feel free to jump in on anything I
state or ask - with any tangent!

I'd like to see this "living room" start to pick up some energy. Lives
are busy with infrastructure, and time is precious but I for one would
benefit from some dialog with others who may suffer from over
eclecticism and are struggling to put together a way of seeing things
that works...