Since I’m both a musician and an intellectual, I’ve scrutinized my tastes closely and analytically enough to have isolated certain musical “tricks” that I find especially appealing. I know exactly what it is that I like about, say, Gabriel Fauré’s bass lines, or the harmonies in the songs of Jimmy Van Heusen. To be sure, I can’t tell you why these devices tickle my fancy. I can only apply Eddie Condon’s empirical test of musical quality: “As it enters the ear, does it come in like broken glass or does it come in like honey?” (Philip Larkin, who when not writing great poetry was also a part-time jazz critic, swore by Condon’s Law.) But at least I know what I like, and I have enough scientific knowledge to suspect that it will someday be possible to move in certain cases from what to why….
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