Friday, September 2, 2011

How I like a song

A little introspection here.  But not entirely off topic because for me, music and sailing are natural partners, intertwined.  It's a little tricky doing this kind of analysis because the observer is the observed, and the analytical instrument is the target of the analysis.  But here goes:

It is extremely rare that when I first hear a song from a new-to-me artist (say, for example Gillian Welch, my latest musical acquisition - thanks Kaci!) that I immediately like it.  "Liking" a song, for me, is not an event; it is a process, and it goes something like this:
  • First, the song must be interesting.  That is, there must be some aspect of it that snags my attention and holds it.  It could be the lyrics, but if this were the case then it would have to be something repetitive  - like the chorus, or something that strongly resonates for it to make it thru the layer of distractions that is always present in my brain.  More likely it will be something musical (this bypasses my distraction layer) - an unexpected chord or harmony, an unusual beat, something in the artists voice, something.  If on the first hearing of a song by a new-to-me artist I don't find something interesting, that artist gets relegated to the huge pile of singers that I ignore...  and perhaps not surprisingly, a second chance is harder to arrange (but not terribly rare).
  • If there is interest, then I will listen to the song again.  The song that is destined to be in my "like" pile will have additional features that reveal themselves after the basic structure of the melody is grasped by my feeble brain.  So I listen to the song again.  Perhaps I now pick up a word that makes a phrase now become clear.  Or an unnoticed harmony - that happens - a lot.  At first listening, a lot of the music slips right by me, while I am working on grasping the broadest cut at the melody and lyrics.  At this stage, after the second or third listening, I'd say that the song has become "intriguing."
  • OK, now the song has its hooks in me.  I will listen to it over and over, gaining more and more detail at each replay.  I will now appreciate all the harmonies and lyrics.  I will start to sing along.  I officially "like" this song.
  • The terminal stage is "obsession".  In this stage, my left hand starts to form chord shapes, and I am listening to the finest structure in the music.  I am even listening to the non-verbals the artist makes in the course of singing.  And I will now seek anything else I can find by this artist - to contrast and compare with this song.  This is the stage where the other songs in an album round out my appreciation of the artist.
At least for me, that's The Way It Goes.

Did that one hook you?  It did me.

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