Author Topic: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences  (Read 3237 times)

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Offline Florestan

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Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« on: June 06, 2020, 07:08:29 AM »
I don't know whether this topi has been discussed before.

Just a few years ago I'd have said that I vastly prefered exploring new music to sticking to, and deepening my knowledge of, familiar music and favorite composers. I have even dared to think, and publicly state, that "life is too short to spend it on masterpieces only".

But as I grow older (will turn 48 coming December) I'm becoming increasingly conservative in my taste and in the last year most explorations of new music and composers left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration, whereas when I put on the music of my favorite composers I have a strong and pleasant feeling of coming home. Most new music I have listened to during the last year seemed insipid and uninspiring and after it was over I was left with no memory of anything, whereas even the shortest and most unpretentious work of my favorite composers charms my ear and stirs my soul and haunts me for a long time after it's over.

Given that, and the fact that if were I to listen exclusively to the complete works of my top 10 composers in all the performances I own I would be busy for several years, I guess my exploration time will be drastically cut in favor of sticking to, and deepening, my knowledge and familiarity with the music I know for sure I love and will enjoy.

As Delius --- a composer I have not yet explored  :D --- put it, "Always stick to your likings - there are profound reasons for them".

What's your experience in this respect?

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Offline some guy

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2020, 08:27:18 AM »
My experience has been that the whole "favorite composers" thing is definitely a part of my past, part of when I was first starting out in music and thus knew only a few composers. If I ever try, for the purposes of responding to a poll, say, to think of "my top ten composers," I quickly come up against the fact that I cannot limit myself to ten. And that has been true for almost sixty years, or almost only mere weeks later than that "first starting out" thing. That is, I was voracious, and while I have slowed down a bit (not too much, though, as I don't have too much time left, realistically), "a bit" is probably not all that much. I was bowled over by music from before my earliest memories. Music is in my earliest memories in any case. And for years that was only "Hollywood" music. It's all there was when I was growing up. When I first heard classical music, properly so-called (as in other than Warner Bros. cartoons), it was overwhelming.

In those six decades--what a cruelly brief amount of time that is, to be sure--I have never thought that I had to choose between exploration and spending time with old favorites. I have always done both. After all, an old favorite is just a brand new experience after a bit of time has passed, an idea I have missed seeing in many years of listening to people talk about music. For most people, the exploration seems always to belong to a dim and distant past, in "the long, long ago, the before time." There was once a time, for all of us, when we heard Beethoven for the first time, or Tchaikovsky, or Rachmaninoff. And I think all of us have at least one composer in our favorites list, however long that may be, whose music repelled us the first time we heard it. Maybe not. I have dozens like that. But having an insatiable appetite for music, I do not find instances of initial and temporary repulsion to be at all serious or important. But the sense I get, after years of listening to people talk, is that the favorites have always been favorites.

My own experience, however, has been that the older I get, as in, the more time I spend listening to music, the more I know that there's a lot of music out there, music I've never heard and perhaps never will. I don't have that much time. I will spend it exploring new things, that is, in listening to tomorrow's old favorites.

Offline Florestan

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2020, 09:14:46 AM »
Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Michael, I sincerely appreciate it.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2020, 09:44:54 AM »
What's your experience in this respect?


I listen mostly to composers I know and like, but I'm always on the lookout for new (to me) things.  Sometimes one can find a composer to rival the greats (I'm thinking Morales or de Rore when I discovered them) or lesser known music from known composers that really hits the spot (Rossini's Petite messe solennelle or, perhaps even more so, Cherubini's mind-bogglingly great masses).  With music more readily available and at a lower price than ever before, I see now as the best time ever to try to hear as much of everything as possible.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 10:02:21 AM by Todd »
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Offline some guy

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2020, 10:16:26 AM »
Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Michael, I sincerely appreciate it.
Thanks, Florestan.

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2020, 10:30:01 AM »
In my personal case, discovering new music is an important part of the fuel that drives my musical experience everyday. It partly has to do with the excitement that means to find great music that wasn't written by the most played composers, or discover less-known works by the most famous ones. I've discovered MANY impressive works by composers who are rarely mentioned elsewhere. It's about giving a kind of recognition to them as well. It's already a habit on me. Granted, not always discovering works/composers is a fruitful activity. I've listened to works from unsung composers that should remain into the music obscure realm. Nevertheless, I consider that's part of the adventurer's job. You can't always pretend to win.

Lately I've intended to discover as much new music (for me) as possible, whether by popular or less-known composers. The results have been positively rewarding most of the time, and that seems becoming an addiction on me. I constantly need new music. So I hardly ever listen to, e.g. Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Brahms's Violin Concerto, Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre, or so. Once in a while I do that. I am one of those unusual (?) listeners who can't listen to 100+ recordings of the same work. I can't get pleasure of it. I just can not.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 10:31:56 AM by Symphonic Addict »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2020, 10:45:26 AM »
In my own listening, I have found that, while I do enjoy exploring new composers and new music, it’s not absolutely vital that I do this. In my earlier listening, I was very much a breadth type of listener where my appetite for hearing/discovering new composers was omnipresent in my general attitude, but, nowadays, I find that my attitude is more depth than breadth in that I’m not really worried about wanting to hear it all or even discover new music. I’m more interested in deepening my knowledge of the composers that I love. I personally don’t think you can have both a breadth and depth attitude that occurs simultaneously, because then you really don’t gain much knowledge in your listening. I have a large pool of composers to draw upon whose music I love and I find that the more I add, the more I end up drowning myself, because I know that deep down I’ll never devote the kind of time that I already have put in with my more well-established favorites.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 11:03:10 AM by Mirror Image »
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Offline kyjo

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2020, 12:21:55 PM »
In my personal case, discovering new music is an important part of the fuel that drives my musical experience everyday. It partly has to do with the excitement that means to find great music that wasn't written by the most played composers, or discover less-known works by the most famous ones. I've discovered MANY impressive works by composers who are rarely mentioned elsewhere. It's about giving a kind of recognition to them as well. It's already a habit on me. Granted, not always discovering works/composers is a fruitful activity. I've listened to works from unsung composers that should remain into the music obscure realm. Nevertheless, I consider that's part of the adventurer's job. You can't always pretend to win.

Lately I've intended to discover as much new music (for me) as possible, whether by popular or less-known composers. The results have been positively rewarding most of the time, and that seems becoming an addiction on me. I constantly need new music. So I hardly ever listen to, e.g. Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Brahms's Violin Concerto, Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre, or so. Once in a while I do that. I am one of those unusual (?) listeners who can't listen to 100+ recordings of the same work. I can't get pleasure of it. I just can not.

Heartily agree with all of this! Being a musician myself has, unfortunately, meant that I have become overexposed to a lot of the warhorses of the repertoire. As a result, most of my listening lies in the “unsung” realm. Call me a “shallow” listener if you will, but I could never find the appeal in comparing umpteenth different recordings of the standard repertoire. I’m always on the lookout for new music to explore (mainly within my tastes, admittedly), because more often than not it has brought me immense pleasure.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 12:35:15 PM by kyjo »
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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2020, 05:14:00 PM »
Good question. I keep Listening Logs documenting all the music I hear and have done so since January 2010. I put a star* next to things that I'd never heard before. The data shows something quite different from my perception.

In 2010, when I was 21, I explored a lot more overlooked/obscure music. Atterberg, George Lloyd, Kalomiris, Guridi, Raff, the Stamitz family... Now, while some of those more obscure composers have graduated into my personal "canon" (like Kalliwoda, Weinberg, and Roussel), most of my listening is a whole lot closer to the core repertoire. And without disparaging any specific composers (though I can if asked), many of the "overlooked" guys are deeply UNinteresting to me now. Nobody has ever challenged Beethoven as the #1 most listened to composer every year in my log.

And yet! The logs show that I actually am listening to more new works than ever (new meaning new to me personally). Something like 1000 first listens per year. Part of it is that I've plunged headlong into jazz. Part of it is that when younger I skipped huge amounts of core repertoire (I've heard 1 Bach cantata). Part is that I still explore just to see what's out there. You can't really know what you love if you haven't heard it yet.

I think of it like a diet. Each day I try to listen to something old, something new, something orchestral, something smaller, a big piece and a little piece. Just to get some balance.  :)

I feel lucky not to be a musician like Kyle or a radio listener like some, because it means that a piece like, say, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is still super fun to me rather than tired and overplayed.

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2020, 06:40:55 PM »
Interesting post, thank you.

As for me, it's obviously also a mixture of new stuff (from all musical ages, except Gregorian), never heard recordings, and re-listening to works/recordings. Don't know the statistics, and surely they fluctuate, though I've probably tended to more re-visiting in later years, in spite of buying lots of new repertoire too. The first category usually requires more from the listener, of course, and may be dependent on how much energy one will want to invest, at a certain time.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 06:44:03 PM by MusicTurner »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2020, 09:00:19 PM »
Yes, an interesting thread and I've given this some thought. I've always enjoyed discovering lesser-known composers and that is the same now in my 60s as it was in my 20s, so in that sense there hasn't been much change. I grew up with an older brother (seven years older) who was a great Bruckner fan (and still is I'm pleased to say). So, although in my teens I listened to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix (still love their music) and American Jazz-Rock I was always exposed to classical music (Beethoven's Violin Concerto etc). As soon as my brother stopped trying to 'convert' me to classical music I became interested on my own. Coming home from school one day I strolled into W.H.Smith newsagent in Earl's Court Road, where I later worked for my Saturday job and was browsing through the LPs when I came across Vaughan Williams's 6th Symphony (LPO/Boult). I asked my brother what he thought of VW and he described him as like 'a British Copland'. My brother had an LP of Copland's 3rd Symphony which I liked very much, so I bought the VW LP (I was curious because it featured a speech from the composer) and I never looked back. For a long time I just listened to VW, bought everything I could about him, read the biographies, wrote to his wife (got a nice reply with a book of VW's essays). So, my early musical diet was VW, Copland, Bruckner and Rimsky-Korsakov, (my mother had an LP of Scheherazade). Luckily I lived in central London and there was an excellent local record library and I got my dad (who only listened to Frank Sinatra) to join so that I could use his tickets, which meant I could take six LPs out at any one time (hence my 'list' threads on GMG Forum tend to be for six choices). This way I discovered lots of new composers at no cost, ones that spring to mind are Klauss Egge (Symphony No.1), Cyril Scott (piano concertos), Pettersson (Symphony No.7), Janis Ivanovs (Symphony 11) etcetera. Miaskovsky I discovered after hearing the Cello Concerto on radio and Martinu's 4th Symphony was another radio discovery. Now there is the internet, You Tube, GMG Forum. In that sense my collecting/listening habits haven't changed that much. I don't think I've exactly answered the question but I hope this makes some sense. I still listen to Bruckner, Vaughan Williams, Copland and Rimsky-Korsakov.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 06:22:30 AM by vandermolen »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2020, 10:58:18 PM »
I constantly explore new music. My experience is as follows.

1. I cruise around streaming services listening in a more or less superficial way to composers I’ve hardly heard of, following connections, suggestions , my nose.

2. Most of it washes over me but every so often something strange happens which I call “captures my imagination”

3. When that happens I listen to that piece a lot, and follow Step 1 from there - I follow connections, suggestions and my intuitions leading from that piece.


As an example, this recently happened when I read a review of Helmut Lachenmann’s Got Lost; I listened and it “captured my imagination”; from there I moved fairly randomly to another piece by the same composer called Serynade which I also liked, despite feeling recently that the piano was not for me. So I said to myself, maybe avant garde piano music is OK, so I cast around for other things and eventually found some piano sonatas by Sciarrino which “captured my imagination” . . . That led me to Sciarrino’s six quartteti brevi , and then on to Donattoni’s Flag . . .

I’m not sure whether I’ll revisit Got Lost in the future much, I don’t care either way. It was like an enjoyable sex friend - fun together for a few nights, I leaned something about the possibilities of musical experience, and then I move on with no commitment or attachment.

In addition to this there are some things which I’ve got a special long term relationship with, not many, Bach’s WTC 2 is an example, as is Sainte Colombe’s music for two viols. Here I tend to revisit this music as frequently as the appearance of new releases.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 11:10:46 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline 71 dB

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2020, 03:35:13 AM »
I always wondered why people listen to 20th century works so much and so little baroque, but I think I have finally understood it. It seems we have discovered so many of our favorite composers and works from radio, and it seems MY local classic radio was very baroque heavy compared to classic radios elsewhere in the world. Also, I think the classical radio I was listening to played a lot of Naxos meaning I was mostly exposed to composers recorded by Naxos while not being aware of many obscure composers from Atterberg to Weinberg (20-25 years ago Naxos didn't have Weinberg discs, now it has plenty). Also, the classical radio station I was listening to preferred short works over long ones. So, not many Symphonies (maybe that's why I am not a Symphony nut?), but shorter orchestral works. I never heard VW Symphonies on radio. I heard Greenleaves and Lark Ascending. That's it. Sometimes they did play a longer work and I heard Nielsen's 4th Symphony and Saint-Saëns' 3rd Symphony (and was blown away by both). Anyway, the programming was very baroque heavy: Corelli, Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach, Handel, etc. where played a lot. Post war stuff was almost never played and if they played something contemporary it was almost always Pärt.  ;D That's why I have been very ignorant about post war and contemporary classical music and only recently discovered the treasures it has to offer beyond Pärt and Philip Glass...
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2020, 05:02:03 AM »
Great thread; many excellent insights and valuable perspectives
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2020, 05:14:43 AM »
Thank you all very much for your thoughtful replies, gentlemen.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 05:16:48 AM by Florestan »
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2020, 05:57:43 AM »
I'm not as interested as many here at exploring lesser-known composers of the common practice era, but my ears are open to a very wide range of styles and eras. I'll try anything at least once. If you gave me a choice between "broad" and "deep" listening, I would probably prefer the latter, because I find the masterpieces of any era to be nearly inexhaustible, but as a composer, I think it's valuable to maintain both an awareness of the wide range of contemporary music and the great music of the past.

If I had given up on music I didn't connect with after a single listen, I would never have come to love either Mahler, Debussy, or Schoenberg.

Still, my personal list of "great works" has never shrunk, and I hope I continue to find new things (and newly-written things) to add.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 06:00:26 AM by Mahlerian »
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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2020, 06:14:54 AM »
I always wondered why people listen to 20th century works so much and so little baroque, but I think I have finally understood it. It seems we have discovered so many of our favorite composers and works from radio,
This is a very good question and a very good theory. I think there's an interesting disconnect here between casual music lovers and those who enjoy music enough to join a discussion board. Vivaldi and Water Music and so on are easy to love because they have straightforward cheery tunes, and they work well on radio - also the pieces tend to be pretty short!

But for most of us, we can relate to more recent music better, simply because it's nearer in time to us. To really dig in to baroque music deeply, you have to learn all kinds of context about their culture and musical rules, and understand why say Biber was daring. Whereas we don't have to do as much learning for really recent history.

Offline Florestan

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2020, 06:33:28 AM »
for most of us, we can relate to more recent music better, simply because it's nearer in time to us. To really dig in to baroque music deeply, you have to learn all kinds of context about their culture and musical rules, and understand why say Biber was daring. Whereas we don't have to do as much learning for really recent history.

Definitely count me out! I need no historical context whatever to greatly enjoy Vivaldi, D. Scarlatti or Telemann. And I don't care whether Biber was daring or not --- I just like and enjoy his music.  :)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 06:55:42 AM by Florestan »
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Offline ritter

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2020, 07:01:04 AM »
I must confess that, with age, my eagerness for discoveries has waned significantly. When I was younger, I was “omnivorous”, and would embark in enthusiastic explorations (on record) of composers which at the time were unfamiliar to me.

For those here on GMG, it may be hard to believe that many years ago, I went through much of the oeuvre of e.g. Shostakovich and Sibelius (and prior to that, in my teens, I even explored Tchaikovsky). Usually, these explorations came to a halt sooner or later, as I stumbled onto some piece that “diminished” the quality of this or that composer in my eyes, and often also made me see the rest of his output in a different, less positive light. As a consequence, I’d stop listening to his or her music (but keep the CDs, as I’m not one for culling my collection).

The most recent process of this nature concerned Carl Nielsen (thanks to GMG, to a great extent). I found his symphonies and the Clarinet Concerto interesting, but then listened to Springtime in Funen and the Hymnus Amoris, didn’t like what I heard at all, and now only very occasionally will listen to any of the works I initially appreciated.

My listening is nowadays circumscribed to large “blocks” (for lack of a better term), styles and eras I’ve come to love and enjoy with the years: Viennese classicism and early romanticism  (roughly from Haydn through Schubert), Wagner, the Second Viennese School and its ramifications,  Stravinsky, French music from the first half of the 20th century, Italian Neo-Classicism, Darmstadt avant-gardism, some Spanish music, and isolated composers (Busoni, Mahler, R. Strauss, Prokofiev, Monteverdi ...) who may not fit into any of the aforementioned. My interest in exploring music outside of these “thematic” areas (e.g, Soviet stuff, the nordics, music from the British Isles) is very limited (almost nonexistent), and frankly, even within those “blocks” I’ve lost curiosity to search for any unknown jewels that may be there to be discovered (although this does happen every now and then, e.g. recently Hans Erich Apostel and—thanks again to GMG—names like Jongen and Vierné).

In opera—which fascinates me as a genre—I may be a more open to novelty, even if in many cases the musical quality may not be to my ears really top-notch.

But, there’s so much to enjoy, revisit and rediscover in my areas of focus, that frankly I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on much by my unadventurous stance.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 07:04:15 AM by ritter »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Exploring New Music vs. Sticking to Preferences
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2020, 07:11:43 AM »
I deeply relate to these:

I listen mostly to composers I know and like

I have a large pool of composers to draw upon whose music I love and I find that the more I add, the more I end up drowning myself, because I know that deep down I’ll never devote the kind of time that I already have put in with my more well-established favorites.

without disparaging any specific composers (though I can if asked), many of the "overlooked" guys are deeply UNinteresting

I must confess that, with age, my eagerness for discoveries has waned significantly.
[...]
But, there’s so much to enjoy, revisit and rediscover in my areas of focus, that frankly I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on much by my unadventurous stance.
"Visând, întrezărim prin doruri –
latente-n pulberi aurii –
păduri ce ar putea să fie
și niciodată nu vor fi."

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