Curating The Week: New Age Music, Sahel Sounds, Black Lives Matter Music


An article about the resurgence of New Age Music.

“Interest in mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation have become more popular with younger audiences…Vintage new age music from the 1970s and 1980s continues its process of rediscovery, possibly without the baggage that originally surrounded it the first time around.”

•The trailer for the upcoming film “A Story of Sahel Sounds”:

An article about the pro-black music emerging concurrent with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Black artists have channeled the weight of their systematic oppression, both directly and indirectly, into forms of expression that have forever shaped the Western canon. The history of contemporary music cannot be pulled apart from that of black resistance, and vice versa. Gospel’s roots can be traced to fields of slaves seeking resilience in communal song. The mold for blues, itself the precursor to rock’n’roll, was cast by black performers committing the woes of post-slavery Southern life to song. Jazz was the byproduct of black musicians exploring European musical traditions after decades of being stripped of their own. Soul and funk were shaped by a segregated music industry. Hip-hop first found its footing as an avenue for black youth to verbally paint the challenges of inner city life. Electronic music as we know it is indebted to house music’s emergence within Chicago’s ostracized queer and black underground club community.”

Art About Music: Theodoor Rombouts’ “Lute Player” (c. 1620)


(According to the website for the Philadelphia Museum, depicting “a musical instrument being tuned was a veiled reference to striving for harmony in love. Stringed instruments could also symbolize temperance, especially when shown in the company of a tankard and a pipe, as here” [].)

Personifying Musical Action

A melody does things in a look at me kind of way. It walks, it skips, it pirouettes like a sprightly dancer; it leaps from one pitch to another like a long-limbed ballerina. Melodies love attention and they have a diva quality, as if believing that their personal and exteriorized dramas are of intrinsic interest and that we’ll follow the trajectory of their moves simply because they’re moving. They herald, weep, exult, or rage, all the while keeping one eye on us to see if we’re buying their performance. Conjuring like a magic wand, melodies are a vertical theater of pure spectacle.

Harmonies support melody’s prancing around by rolling out a plush carpet. Harmonies are careful onlookers, almost like bodyguards, assessing the dimensions of the space melody might need. They’re measured personalities, plotting a horizontal terrain upon which melody will dance. Harmonies aren’t naturally flashy like melody, yet believe that their own coiled tensions are essential musical constructions. Unlike melody, harmonies are plural beings—they contain multitudes in two, three, four or more notes per moment—and they know they can pack a punch in their supporting role. While melody dances and showboats for the crowd, harmonies let their multitudes work by setting the scene. Conjuring like a scent or subtle lighting, harmonies animate music on the level of the subliminal.

Rhythm is a choreographer and referee holding a stopwatch. He watches melody dance over harmony’s measured space, looks at his stopwatch, and rolls his eyes. That could be tighter he says. A taskmaster, rhythm makes suggestions about proportion, duration, and syncopation, explaining to melody that juxtapositions of short and long could vary melodies’ affective dramas. Then he turns to the harmonies. Don’t just stand there in the back he suggests. You too have a story to tell. Rhythm inspires his colleagues, animating them, giving them a literal charge. Powering like electricity, rhythm drives music on the visceral level of current. When melody and harmony apply rhythm’s lessons, everyone is happy.

Timbre is a fashion expert, dressing melody and harmony in various clothing drawn from her vast trunk of materials. Timbre is acutely aware of how music is judged by its exteriors—how different sounds synesthetically signify different textures and colors—and so imagines different ways to outfit a tune. In a free moment, timbre shows melody some new threads. You could go from this sound to this one, she says, while keeping your pitches intact. Melody smiles—let’s do it! Harmony, though measured and reserved, overhears the conversation and wants to know more, wondering if timbre can make his chordal multitudes conjure differently. Pick an affect you want, timbre says with glee, and we’ll have you try it on. Harmony beams as he slips on a new coat.

Form is a sharp-eared musical marketer and promoter who owns the building where this music rehearsal is happening. He’s sitting behind a one-way mirror, looking down at his notes. Form needs to figure out a way to sell this whole thing—how to bring it to the right context so it reaches the right ears. He lets the four figures in front of him work out the music among themselves, though it’s clear that he will have the final say on the sequence of events. As he watches the rehearsal he writes notes: Maybe the beginning section should return at the end? Is there enough repetition? Is this for contemplation or dance? Is it ABA or ABCBA? Are Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm on the same page? And why does timbre keep interrupting everyone? One thing Form knows for sure is that in music, order is everything.

Curating The Week: The Politics Of Listening, Fake Musical Personas, Twitter


• An article about the effect of one’s political orientation on one’s music preferences.

“Where conservatives prize ‘security and conformity,’ liberals value ‘self-expression and stimulation.’ With regard to artistic tastes conservatives generally favor familiar works, predictability, and ‘simplicity and realism,’ liberals, in contrast, prefer novelty, and ‘complexity and abstractions.’ Of the two groups, conservatives ‘have stronger implicit attachments to tradition, stability, long-held values, conformity, and order.'”

• An article about a session musician posing as an untutored blues player.

“It was clear in interviews that Steve understood why people liked his gutbucket, ultra lo-fi music: ‘People are tired of everything being so fancy. There’s always been fancy music around and complicated shit’ he sniffed in an uncomplicated way, and talked of how he dreamed about getting sponsorship from John Deere, or a whisky manufacturer.”

• An article about the wonders of Twitter.

“It’s like having every sort of expert imaginable on speed dial: investigative reporters, policy wonks, renowned scholars, scientists, musicians, artists, historians, you name it—and being able to tap into their thinking and inside sources.”

On Passing Micro-Moments In Music



Sometimes in music there are brief moments that truly click, magnify your attention, and send you into a state of excitement. These moments can be anything—a chord progression, a melodic turn or leap, a sung phrase, a rhythm clash or synchrony, a combination of instruments, or even a single timbre. What makes them micro is that they come and go in a flash.

If you rewind and replay these moments—on a recording or in your mind’s ear—you learn how music’s power is a function of exquisitely placed sound events that stand out and make themselves felt in you.

So, I’m always on the lookout for passing micro-moments and locating them has become a listening litmus test to answer an insistent question:

Can this music offer me an epiphany?