Friday, 24 August 2012

The Listener

The listener is the artist.

The gypsy came to realize that it was mainly the melodies with a Phrygian cadence which pleased the collector. From then onwards, whenever it was at all possible, he brought even the commonest melody to an end with a Phrygian cadence, while his companion obligingly observed the effect on the face of the listener. From Balint Sárosi’s book Gypsy Music (Sárosi 1970:245-6)

These are some tracks with flat second from different genres. 
What do you hear? How do you hear this note differently? Let me know.

For the West the flat second is quite an exotic thing. For us it’s a normal thing, we just think of it as another makam [Turkish Classical “scale”], we don’t attribute feelings to them’ (Cahit Baylav, Turkish Classical Musician, London 2009)
When you… know what is the cause of that emotional movement you think now OK…. It’s so interesting to see people react when you just change the second note…. Your body naturally goes with this second, you turn differently…. All of a sudden your body moves, your ear, everything just turns to the different direction.’ (Merima Ključo, Bosnian sevda accordionist, Amsterdam 2011)
In the dusk komal re is more prominent because it’s relaxing… It’s the end of the day, you’re going to relax, chill out, the work’s tension is finished, and your partner, your lover is coming, you want to relax, in front of the box maybe.’ (Baluji Shrivastav, Indian Sitar player, London 2009)
It's always sad, but sad doesn’t mean you’ve lost your purse, it means “closer to God”.’ (Rafaqat Ali Khan, Pakistani Qawwali singer, Lahore 2009)
Jaws was the first time I heard it…. [The] flat second makes it really “doomy”…. What a flat second does to you… on a human level. It creates the skull and the spiral to Hell.’ (Pete Herbert, English Metal bassist, Dagenham, 2009)
I think a lot of people in Metal in the Western World play it because…it has that half-tone diabolic, bad boy kind of essence to it... quite dissonant to the ear… but for me it’s really nothing about that. I don’t try to be diabolic and to create any controversial sounds, or dissonance sounds in any way. For me [it] is far from dissonant.’ (Yossi Sassi Sa-aron, Israeli Metal guitarist, Tel Aviv, 2010)
It's tight, like Israel.’ (Firaz Nadaf, Palestinian Metal guitarist, Nazareth 2010)

It’s also how you perceive, how you hear it, how your nervous system reacts to it. But it definitely is dark, I think everyone can agree to that…. Maybe if you walk around in the cities… like Damascus, like Cairo… older cities and more deep cities and you can probably hear why this note exists in this music…. In my music though - don't listen for it.’ (Boikutt, Palestinian Sound Artist, Ramallah, 2010)

As listeners we create meaning. We cannot know all the meanings given to a musical work by its creators and we may or may not care about this.

Is it possible to listen and enjoy in an ethical way with a desire, not to “understand” the music but to “be here now”?

On listening to the flat second by definition there is a first, a key-note, thus a relationship.

To me:
It’s music from somewhere away from the familiar.
It’s the ultimate Other, the feeling that everyone who doesn't fit in has.
It has an emotional tug bringing pathos, tears, but also pleasure.

It is also the most gloriously alive pitch - unstable, driving, dissonant and full of un-ease.

It’s thwarting the expectation of gravity: the ball caught just before reaching earth.

It’s lingering on the longing, delicious anticipation, deferred gratification.

It’s cool.
But it’s also tense. The tension of being powerless and out of kilter with the norm.
Tension that can only be released by sinking: into depression, Hell?
On listening to heavy metal, the strong, insistent sound makes me aware of the power of the release of anger, of the transgressive sound: dissonance at it's greatest - ‘shock and awe’.

The power of the Other to induce fear and un-ease.

I’ll never hear it in the same way again.
Is it inappropriate for me to listen for it, to feel sad, to sigh? The embedded sedimented meanings are there, appropriate or not. How do I make an appropriate listening? How do I listen without prejudice?

What do you hear? How do you hear this note differently? Let me know.

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