Musicality Book Club, Week 10: Unexpected Gifts in Music We Don’t Like

bookA few days ago I read a guest article by Lindy hopper Coyle Parker on Dance World Takeover. In it, he quotes an interview with teacher Dan Newsome, who lists “not connecting to the music” as one of the top three reasons dancers suffer from burnout (the other two are lack of helpful feedback to progress and unhappiness with their place in the community). There is sooo much in Chapter 9 of Bridge of Waves that relates to this and that I want to write more about, because they are things I have been reflecting on for quite some time, but for today I want stick to something short and simple.

Experimenting with music outside my comfort zone has opened up whole new worlds to me, so I have always encouraged my students to reconsider music they think they hate. There will always be music I don’t feel very connected to, but I prefer to think of it as music that I just haven’t gotten to know well enough – yet. It is natural to have tastes, preferences, and choices (and I definitely like mine!), but some of my most memorable dance/music experiences have happened because I opened myself up to something new and unexpected.

So today I am celebrating rethinking old stereotypes and trying things I usually shy away from out of laziness, stubbornness, or fear (i.e., habit). Here are some words from Mathieu on this; he sometimes writes specifically about “intelligent” music or “dark” music, but the principle can apply to music we dislike for any reason:

Intelligent, difficult music is marginalized because it requires us to face the unknown, feared aspects of ourselves; its perpetrators can thus seem like a threatening, self-appointed priesthood. Yet there can appear an unexpected shining in even the darkest, more fearsome sound. Yes, there may be posers among us, but deliberate listening can discern what is authentically transcendent in dark music. Today’s anguish has a way of becoming tomorrow’s beauty, so give yuck a break…

[I]f you pinpoint your resistances to these sounds, you can often enough find a point of entry into a useful experience. Weird new experiences have a way of turning into enjoyable habits. Preferences come and go, which is a good thing because when your tastes crystallize, the stimuli that formed them in the first place begin to cloy…

There is one more special reason to extend yourself by listening to difficult music, especially music that is intellectually tough, like richly layered polyphonic music. When you push the limits of your concentration over the span of a work, and do that repeatedly – Mozart, for instance – an amazing transparency ensues. What had seemed murky or at best translucent becomes fresh and clear, a meadow after rain. For the dedicated listener, hard work pays off. [pp. 218-219]

“A meadow after rain”… I like that. Although we’re talking about music here, I have found the same quality of experience with dance partners. I often struggle to eliminate preconceived notions of what a particular person or dance will be like so I can stay open to the unexpected. Getting out of my box with music helps me to do the same with my partner; one often holds the key to the other.

On days like these I breeze past the most common songs on my iPod and stop for the ones that I tend to skip time and time again. And on nights like these I am excited to dance with my “least favorite” partner to see what kind of buried treasure I might find.

* * *

Here’s the next post in this series:
Musicality Book Club, Week 11: Ten Lessons and a Final Word

1 comment on Musicality Book Club, Week 10: Unexpected Gifts in Music We Don’t Like

  1. LadyLeader
    May 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm (13 years ago)

    You are right about the value of unexpected gifts!

    I have tried to find the study about the safety on the roads; what kind of impact music has on the driver but did not managed this time.

    When the music was your favorite it did your driving more risky – you maybe started to sing and move along the tunes. However the most dangerous moment was when a musical genre you did not like presented a song you actually could not resist! The driver got totally hilarious! Not good at all!

    It was surprising that we this time shared one of the issues; usually we end up to different parts of the chapter! I also liked the idea of pushing the limit and enjoying Mozart more!


Leave a Comment