A MUSICAL DIET
London, 2022, featured on www.interlude.hk
It is often said that what one eats is what one is, or becomes. Indeed, food fuels the human body and good, diverse, nutritious quality food is key to a strong and durable body. It is of course the provider of energy, and it also reflects physically on the individual.
In a way, it is quite the same when it comes to musical diet; in fact, one could recommend a very strict, yet balanced musical diet; to fuel both the creativity and the listening experience of a musical individual. But what would the key elements of a strong and balanced diet be then?
Regularity — repetition is, of course, the grounding base of a healthy musical diet. One can only get to know and embrace music by immersing itself into it. It is by repeated listening that one fully extracts the musical elements and absorbs them. Patience, works hand in hand with regularity. Just as with any diet, it takes time for the results to show.
Quality — is sine qua non. Although quality is very subjective, there is a universally agreed selection of music that has passed the test of age, and that is today considered of higher quality. Think Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles etc. It is important to focus on music which elevates the mind and the soul. Quality of the performance, when it can be chosen — in classical music for instance — is worth mentioning, and adds another layer of diversity.
While junk food music is good every once in a while, too much of it results in a lack of good musical nutrients! Let’s define junk music though... While there is no pretension in this article to discriminate against any sort of musical styles, it is observable that there are some particular works whose similarities to junk food are quite evident. Lack of flavour, immediate satisfaction of the senses, excess of ingredients, lack of diversity and a sensation of it always being the same. Very often this is associated with pop music, but even in other genres and styles — film music comes to mind —, it is somehow present.
Diversity — is another unavoidable condition; in the genres — from classical, to jazz, to popular music and the music from around the world — but also in the styles — from the baroque concerti to impressionistic tone poems, from bebop to free jazz, to psychedelic or thrash metal —, the instrumentations — particularly when it comes to less-known cultures — and in the case of vocal music from an array of world languages. Going back in time is necessary in understanding our musical past and heritage and understanding the directions that are available to us. No music is dead, and throughout the centuries the human mind has shown that it is not short of ideas, and this in most cultures with only twelve notes!
With such a good diet, how does one see the result then? If it surely makes a better listener, it definitely makes an even better performer and composer!
Indeed music comes out, unexpectedly over time — and just like one gains healthy weight, one gains musical experience. One's musical style constantly grows and develops, and even though a musician’s goal is to find his own voice; external influences and musical diet will constantly influence and allow the musician to grow and morph his musical style — Beethoven is probably the best example of it, who started his career in line with the canons of classical music, to end it revolutionising music!
While food diets do not recommend overeating, when it comes to music — and art altogether — one cannot stress the importance of constant immersion. The more one listens, the more one understands and develops an understanding of the language. Having said that, the music of the world, the cities, the countryside, noise and silence are also a crucial element in learning how to listen actively and correctly, thanks to Cage! If one can enjoy Beethoven’s Primavera, one should not forget either where the inspiration came; nature itself!