August 27, 2008
Weâ€™ll get to $$ matters in a future post.Â Today:Â Pitfalls of paying too much attention to what you think listeners want to hear.
In todayâ€™s NY TimesÂ David Brooks writes about the â€˜airlessnessâ€™Â of designingÂ anythingÂ — in his case, a presidential campaign â€“ by adhering too closelyÂ toÂ focusÂ group feedback.Â Brooks warns Obama toÂ â€œ avoid the focus group over-managing that killed the passion out of men [like] Gore and Kerry.â€
~ Do you tailor your work according to audience expectation?Â To what extent?
In the arts we see this :Â Two Russians Â made an ironic Â career of designing their picturesÂ according to majority wishes expressed by municipal focus groups, coming together to state what theyâ€™d Â like to see in a picture:Â Abraham Lincoln/George Washington;Â a dog;Â some water;Â trees; etc.Â Â Â Â The point wasnâ€™t the pictures;Â they were lame.Â The point was the emptiness of trying to be â€œall things to all peopleâ€. Â
In music, over and over,Â Â I see Â composers looking to erase the personalÂ in their work.Â Â Is it still too painful Â to express directly, without any kind ofÂ protective,Â
dis-avowing filter?Â Â Â Â Â Â Or are these composers looking specifically to give back to listeners what the new-fashioned habits of listening seem to crave?
Perhaps guided by attention spansÂ of slightly greater than a gnat’s length,Â aÂ revisedÂ habit of listening has developed over the last 10 years. Â It partakesÂ of the music,Â dipping into a piece, thenÂ letting attention wander for a bit , then dipping into it at some later point, etc.; and it Â tendsÂ toÂ connect better with single-affect material,Â andÂ — even more –Â with musicÂ which does not Â narrate, journey,Â progress or even developÂ .
Quite different from the previous,Â Â former-age pattern of intense connectionÂ inÂ listening — tracking the musicâ€™s progress closely, pretty muchÂ attentive throughout.Â Â Do Â Â today’s audiences expect Â some additional Â visual/performance Â complement,Â some stimulus to another sense along with hearing?Â
They seem nervous without thatÂ (manifestingÂ ADD on a monumental scale).
[ In 2003 a photographer, snapping me for a photo to go with a newspaper profile,Â remarked that his four-year-old daughterÂ got very nervous whenever there was silence in their home.Â She just expected a bed of noise,Â or someÂ background musicÂ to be present as Â underscore -- not to be Â focussed on --Â but just there; and she was Â tremendously uneasy when that underscore was gone.Â ]