A Writer’s Musical Taste

I’m a writer. I’m snobby about literature, because I know just enough about craft to be dangerous.  Where films and music are concerned, I operate more on emotion than technical understanding. My weekly classical music DJ gig in Second Life has been a miracle for me — not only because it’s a delightful challenge to attempt to weave together a two hour playlist that will (hopefully)  entice and enchant an audience but because of all the great new music I’ve found in the process.

Not such a big secret I guess, that I usually structure my playlists chronologically, starting with a baroque “bouquet”, then slowly moving into the more romantic or operatic.  Where music is concerned, well classical music anyway, I prefer the omnivore approach. I love it all. I resist preferring any particular era of music to another.  I think it’s my strength as a ‘curator’. I can’t tell a diminished fifth from a doughnut, but I respond to certain music and I try to play only music that sets off that ‘gut’ vibe.

What I like in music is a good sentence.  A good piece of music, as in writing, has structure. It’s got plot: a beginning, middle and end. And just as in writing, the phrase or the sentence is where the rubber meets the road.

So this is my unschooled music theory — I like to listen to the sentences in music. I love the well articulated musical thought.  Chopin’s got ’em – I swear I can almost hear the words.  OK, I’ve even tried to graph them out and write words to his sentences, but they would be long ones.  Mahler now, (this post WAS going to get to Mahler) he keeps starting sentences and then changing them midstream.  It can be frustrating to hear some glimmer of a beautiful thought and before it’s developed, he’s taken another turn. Was Mahler a bit ADD, musically?

If this idea/metaphor has merit, I might apply this analysis to some more composers.


One response to “A Writer’s Musical Taste

  1. I don’t think it’s musical ADD, but just a different way of composing. Even Mozart used varying phrase lengths. It’s a mistake to think that you are a better composer if you construct more balanced ‘sentences’. Some composers like to throw in a surprise harmony to take you by surprise; Beethoven often did that.
    If you want to hear a composed who really did have musical ADD, try Havergal Brian. His ideas are so compressed that they can be bewildering for the first-time listener. It is only later that you become aware of the musical logic that lies behind it all. And it is that musical logic that is the important thing, irrespective of the surface construction.

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