Curating The Week: On Musical Chills, Deep Listening, And Brian Eno


1. An article about why and how music gives us chills.

“…the chemical that’s released during musical chills, dopamine, is one that is also acted on by things like cocaine or amphetamine or other intensely pleasurable experiences.”

2. An article about deep listening–not in a musical context but certainly applicable to one.

“Avoid preconceived notions, assumptions, judgments. If you imagine you know what someone’s going to say, you might not listen. Deep listening involves an openness to ideas, to others, and a willingness to suspend judgment.”

3. A video interview with Brian Eno.

“I use this word ‘surrender’ quite a lot and it doesn’t immediately have the right connotation, but there’s not another word for it. What I mean by surrender is a sort of active choice not to take control. So it’s an active choice to be part of the flow of something…For me the perfect analogy is surfing—which I don’t do by the way but I have watched with some interest. I don’t do anything really, I just watch documentaries about it and then make theories…What you see when you watch someone surfing is they take control momentarily—situate themselves on a wave—then surrender…We tend to dignify the control side of the spectrum more than the surrender phase.”

How Pop Music Boxed Itself In

It began innocently enough–
somewhere along the road
of blues and R&B,
when Little Richard’s piano hands
pushed drummer Palmer
to split the beat into two instead of three, with backbeats on two and four.

Then the squareness of this sound
–the duple, the beat as a four-sided box–
caught on,
moving rock further from its blues body.

Rhythm took a back seat
on harmony’s ride,
taking in the melodic sights
but still wanting to drive.

It got its chance
to take the wheel of funk,
switching accentual gears
to ride over its syncopated bumps,
and then coast on dance music’s
four on the floor open road.

But a feel was gone,
the fluidity of a beat divided into three
having fled into the open arms of jazz,
while the squareness, the duple beat,
wondered why so much pop music
now sounded the same.

Curating The Week: Crafting A Pop Hit, Laraaji, And New York Hardcore Music


1. An article and a mini documentary about how two DJ-producers and a famous singer collaborated to create a pop hit.

“What you want is an earworm that you can literally listen to an hour or two in a row and not get bored of it.”

2. An interview with the musician Laraaji.

“My music began to reflect an inner sense of reality that I contacted through meditation, an inner sense of constant stillness, quiet, harmony, peace and serenity, and universal oneness. These themes found their way into my musical expression, along with, still I did jazz and bop and jam-alongs when I lived in Park Slope, New York. Coffee house jams, loft music jams. We’d go through the whole gamut of music, but my electric zither at that time was surfacing and the music that I offered into all these experiences was usually this flowing ambient textural continual kind of atmospherical space music. That was around the late ’70s.”

3. An article on the New York hardcore music scene.

“From the beginning, one of the defining oddities of NYHC was young punk kids becoming devotees of Hare Krishna. With its link to George Harrison and psychedelia and its connotations of meditative transcendence, Hare Krishna was almost the total opposite of hardcore’s crudeness and insistent negativity.”

On The Musicological Juncture

Words are not going to get us there,
are they?
Words won’t bring us
to music’s promised land.
They weren’t given the right directions,
the right coordinates for finding
where exactly music resides.
Words reach,
but unlike music,
they don’t touch.

The “musicological juncture”
was Charles Seeger’s phrase,
coined long ago to describe
the situation we
–musicologists all of us–
place ourselves in
when we talk about music.

“Gaps found in our speech thinking
about music” he said at one point,
“may be suspected of being areas
of music thinking.”

We’re still in that gap–in that space
between thinking about music
and music thinking.
“Interpret music’s mediations!”
says anthropology,
“Look to the brain!”
says neuroscience,
“And don’t forget the notes themselves!”
urges music theory.

We reach to fill the interpretive space,
all the while
musicians keep playing,
talking another talk among themselves,
using sounds, not words
to craft their touch.

Curating The Week: On Audiophiles, Canadian Speech, And The Film Modulations


1. An article about the culture of audiophiles.

“The old line about great hi-fi making it feel like the band’s in the room with you isn’t quite right. It doesn’t sound like live music: it sounds better. Clearer, more pure. The weirdest thing is that the music doesn’t appear to be coming out of the speakers: it seems to be happening in a space just in front of you. It feels like it’s in 3D: you could walk around it, you could reach out and touch it. It’s astonishing.”

2. An article about the sounds of Canadian speech patterns, word use, and accents.

“The best-known feature is ‘Canadian raising’, which affects two specific diphthongs before voiceless consonants: the first part of the diphthong is higher in ice and out than it is in eyes and loud. The out raising makes the vowel sound more like ‘oot’ to American ears. This feature is present across much but not all of Canada. It may be influenced by Scottish English (many British emigres were Scots), or it may be a relic of Shakespeare-era pronunciation.”

3. The 1990s film about electronic music, Modulations, can now be viewed on Vimeo:

Reading Analogically: Thinking About Music As A Landscape

“Landscapes like ours were created by and survive through the efforts of nobodies. That’s why I was so shocked to be given such a dead, rich, white man’s version of its history at school. This is a landscape of modest hardworking people. The real history of our landscape should be the history of the nobodies.”
– James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life:
Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape
(2015, p. 19)

Brett’s Sound Picks: Four Tet’s “Morning Side”

Four Tet’s “Morning Side” from his Morning/Evening is a 20-minute track that presents a gentle techno beat as a backdrop for a sample of legendary Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar singing “Main Teri Chhoti Behana Hoon” from the 1983 film Souten. The music unfolds gradually with a slow-moving chord progression, chattering hi hats, floaty synthesizer lines, and subtle echo effects on Mangeshkar’s plaintive melodies.

Here is the original:



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