Friday, February 20, 2009

on control

Philip Glass - Music in Twelve Parts (lala) When I can't make a decision about where to go, I hand over the wheel to the nearest serial minimalist and let him or her drive for the next four hours or so. In doing this, I contend to be freed by this restriction, thinking that the composers that write four hours of barely changing repetition feel the same way - the repeated phrase is the sonnet form but more severe - and in submission to it I adopt their devotion by proxy. I love this music, especially the big, long pieces, but like any reasonable person, listening to to them drives me a little mad, temporarily. We are not built for the concentration for which this work calls, or I'm not anyway, but I am called to it. I used to think of it as endurance test listening, to see how much I can take and to see if I can ride through the breakers to really get out to sea, where the water is too deep and vast to attempt swimming back, to where repetition becomes sacred, to borrow a phrase from George Clinton.

I'm less philosophical, or at least less philosophically rigid, about listening to this kind of music as I once was. I'm not expecting some sort of enlightenment after standing the the waterfall kind of thing to happen. I can approach it as music, the same way I approach other music finding things in it other than the bullshit coming at it from the space between the headphones, even on occasions when said bullshit is more fun for me than the music itself. I can still nurse the big thoughts, imagine the stop-motion God movie of glaciers as Glass and crew slog through these workouts, but I feel less obliged to these ideas now. I'm free to love it because I love it. I'm not controlling my experience (per se, I did choose to click play and can choose to click stop) but rather controlling my need to control the experience, making my control preventative rather reactive, which is how I understand successful people wield the control they have.

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