The world’s ugliest music: Scott Rickard at TEDxMIA
Here is a great example of the power of context. What do I mean by that?
I wasn’t supposed to like this piece of music. In fact, it was EXPRESSLY written to NOT be enjoyed. But the speaker spent over 7 minutes explaining the composition to me. Not just the theory of the piece (he actually hardly mentioned any actual music theory), but telling stories about mathematicians, duels, navy sonar, composers, prime numbers, and more. He created an incredibly rich context for the piece.
Then he gave me a challenge: try to find repetition in this music. He turned the musical performance into a focused, active listening experience.
The result? I really enjoyed hearing the piece. Not because it conformed to some preconceived notion of beautiful music, or because it reminded me of some person, event, or emotion in my own life, but because it challenged me to find a pattern and explore the music on its own merits.
[I actually did find repetition in music, because music is much more than math. If you “speak” music then you recognize other elements like gesture and motif, octave and register, etc. and you start to construct your own expectations, which is a fundamental outcome of repetition. But I digress.]
So many musicians I know have this same aspiration for their own music (and I’m thinking in particular of those who create what they would term jazz, classical, or avant garde music): that people experience and explore their music on its own terms. Many of them are also frustrated by the lack of engagement, interest, or broad appeal their music receives.
I wonder how many of them take the time to provide this kind of context, tell great stories, give their listeners a specific challenge, and invite the audience into their unique musical world. I wonder if they would see a different reaction from their audience if they did that.