Too much music

There is too much music. Not mine, of course. Of that stuff, there’s not nearly enough. (The other day, a student asked me how much music I’ve written. According to iTunes, less than two hours worth. Feh.)

No, there’s too much music out there. I say this because as part of my fragmentary composition exercises, I went to iTunes to listen to the opening of Vaughan Williams’ 2nd Symphony, “London.” I don’t own it, and considered buying it, but then I got sidetracked by his 7th, “Sinfonia Antarctica,” a stark work. I bought it, along with his 8th. Then I got distracted by the fact that a movement from Philip Glass’s 4th Symphony, “Heroes,” was the top ringtone.

I knew I owned that, but it was not in my iTunes collection, and then I couldn’t find it on the shelf. So I bought it.

At this point, I think my iTunes collection is officially bigger than my old iPod. And I’m OK with that. The new iPod Classic will store 120GB of music, but the fact is I don’t have that kind of space on my hard drive. I could put it on my external drive, but then my music wouldn’t travel with me on my laptop.

But that’s not what I mean by “too much music.” There’s just too much to listen to and to learn and to know. Right now on my desk are two stacks of CDs, waiting for me to listen to them again and get to know them:

  • Michael Harrison, Revelation, a microtonal thing, I think.
  • Brian Eno, Discreet Music
  • Philip Glass, Symphony No. 8
  • Philip Glass, Symphony No. 3
  • Einojuhani Rautavaara, Angel of Dusk (concerto for double bass)/Symphony No. 2/A Finnish Myth/Fiddlers, one of my favorites of the Baltic group
  • Peter Sculthorpe, Sun Music, Australian composer
  • Michael Danna, Skys, new age, I think
  • Erik Satie, Homage to Satie, his greatest hits
  • Music for Quiet Listening, a “Mercury Living Presence” reissue, featuring music commissioned back in the late 50s/early 60s by one Edward B. Benjamin, the Edward B. Benjamin Award for Restful Music, who apparently like me didn’t truck with the newfangled crap being taught in conservatories at the time
  • another, untitled “Mercury Living Presence” reissue, featuring works by Colin McPhee, Roger Sessions, and Virgil Thomson
  • John Adams, Gnarly Buttons/John’s Book of Alleged Dances
  • Robert Baksa, Flute Sonata/Woodwind Quintet No.1/Quartet for Piano and Winds
  • Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 1 & 3/Bela Bartok, Piano Concerto No. 3

All of these I have listened to once, maybe twice. None have been imported into iTunes. And I just bought three new works to listen to. And I think there’s a small stack of CDs in my van that I’m supposed to be listening to.

The point is that I want to learn this music, especially the stuff that doesn’t appeal to me right away. I want to know it like I know the Beethoven symphonies, to anticipate what comes next. Sometimes that’s nearly impossible with the more atonal “modern” stuff, and sometimes I give up. But mostly I can learn almost anything. So why is there this huge stack on my desk? And why are there even more stacked over by my CD shelving?

It’s lunchtime.

4 thoughts on “Too much music

  1. No reason why we shouldn’t incorporate musical and compositional impulses into our lacuna work. Could be fun. Adds instant dynamism if nothing else.

    I know “atonal” is problematic in many ways, but the improvisational ease of the structures and the instant access to “texture” could be interesting. Combines well with more extreme vocal posibilities (Like Eight Songs….etc).

    It might be fun to come up with more “tonal” structures that allow for the same kind of play.

    A way to step away from more formal compositional anxieties on Wed. night. Playing just for the moment, not for posterity.

  2. Just considering. As always, “incorporating” scares me because I don’t play anything. It’s not as if I can improvise music on the spot; it would be incredibly painful for me to have to produce anything in company.

  3. Baby steps. Webern’s songs can be inspiring. Tones are very forgiving. More so than your composition teachers. Consider Meredith Monk.

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