Lookback: on art and technology

LOOKBACKFrom 2004:

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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Almanac: Joseph Conrad on bad music

INK BOTTLE“But there is an unholy fascination in systematic noise. He did not flee from it incontinently, as one might have expected him to do. He remained, astonished at himself for remaining, since nothing could have been more repulsive to his tastes, more painful to his senses, and, so to speak, more contrary to his genius, than this rude exhibition of vigour. The Zangiacomo band was not making music; it was simply murdering silence with a vulgar, ferocious energy. One felt as if witnessing a deed of violence; and that impression was so strong that it seemed marvellous to see the people sitting so quietly on their chairs, drinking so calmly out of their glasses, and giving no signs of distress, anger, or fear. Heyst averted his gaze from the unnatural spectacle of their indifference.”

Joseph Conrad, Victory (courtesy of Christopher Strawn)

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