martedì 15 luglio 2014

Listen and regret

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct
from Manual of Muad'Dib by the Princess Irulan

This website is in Italian and contains a method to DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE in few hours your ability to listen to music. I am not a mother tongue so forgive me for my poor English.
It took me 12 years of trial and error to develop this stuff, so probably it is worth reading.
 95% of this website  contains some of these tentative ways and the path up to final development.
But in this brief summary I explain everything, so don't worry.


I suppose you listen to music.
And I guess your friends listen to music too, but they have different tastes. And sometimes you feel bad about this issue.
Sometimes a record, a song, a piece that you feel to be a masterpiece that gives you a lot of pleasure, sorrow, fascination is considered rubbish by your friends and vice versa.

Usually people say that this happens because it is musician's fault.

Indeed there is a lot of music that is trivial, poorly played, not so interesting.
But much more often it is not the case: in fact your brain is less flexible, weakly trained, a little bit lazy so you lose the opportunity of enjoying real masterpieces.
Listening is like a martial art. You can learn it, you can train it, you can refine it.


There are two main ways to listen to music: horizontal and vertical. I call them Pink and Aqua respectively.
For people who have musical education pink = modal harmony approach, aqua= tonal harmony approach.
But tonal and modal are imprecise because atonal music can be listened in either of these ways.

You can just think in this simple way:
pink = your mind checks for scales and patterns in music
aqua = your mind checks for chords and phrases in music.

Or if you analyse the biases in the advices by some famous music popularizers:
Hans Keller, Leonard Bernstein, Wynton Marsalis -> Aqua
Glenn Gould, Alex Ross, Robert Fripp -> Pink
(Even if I suppose that both Bernstein and Ross have been much more versatile than their fans.)

or using the name of two American music fans tribes:
Jazz nerds --> Aqua
Metalheads --> Pink

People tend to stick to just ONE way of listening and very often they are not even very good in doing that ONE thing.  By the way I call Red the weak horizontal listener and Blue the weak vertical listener, but you can forget about it.

Pink music is fascinating and beautiful.
Aqua music is passionate and strong.
This is a list of Aqua records.
This is a list of Pink records.

I can teach you in 3 hours to expand to BOTH WAYS and be the perfect listener.

The trick is easy, just listen to these four records that are perfectly balanced between horizontal and vertical development and contain A LOT of different techniques and styles inside.
It starts from the easiest to the most difficult:

The best result is obtained if you listen to this playlist in the suggested order (about 3 hours) at least once a year, but I suggest once a month.

If you want to have some rationale about why it works, just take some basic course about harmony and composition and ask about the difference between modal and tonal counterpoint or take some jazz/blues class and ask the difference between Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker.

Since you happened to read an Italian website, I offer you as a present this perfectly balanced Italian song. Listening to it you are already starting your transformation.

After choosing this song I realized that the title, Dune mosse, can be related to the fictional figure of Paul Atreides. I consider it an example of serendipity since both the movie and the novel Dune have been an inspiration for the final development of the method, in fact I am reading the book and I watched David Lynch's movie 2 weeks ago before making the last effort.
As a coincidence the song "To tame a land" by Iron Maiden (whose original name is Dune) allowed me to deeply understand the difference between Pink and Aqua listeners  6 months ago because of similarities with ancient Greek music. 

Moreover the synthesis of Bene-Gesserit (female) and Mentat (male) abilities is the main source of  Paul over-human perceptions.


When Paul (Aqua) learnt his mother's powers (Pink) he became the perfect listener.
For about 12 years I have been considering Pink music as "bad music".
Finally I've found a way to enjoy it again in the last six months.

In the beginning I used to call Red and Blue as intensional and Pink and Aqua as extensional. I am not sure this is the case (and I am not sure of  the definitions as I intended continuous music vs fragmented one). The real difference between Dark and Light is probably Simple vs Complex  (or Weak vs Strong) because now that I am a neutral listener I find continuity and development also in the most elementary house and techno music.

My experiments suggest that once you are balanced and you remove all biases (vertical vs horizontal, complex vs simple) you will be a better listener not only in the world of Classical and Jazz music but also in the opposite of the spectrum (Punk, Noise, Indie, Drone...).
My first exercises just changed a biased listener into a different biased listener.
Most of the students were happy because they were biased towards stronger languages. But I think real freedom is the right goal to achieve because a listener should satisfy all his needs.

Everyone is a good listener according to my latest results. He (or she) is just a biased listener. If you like Madonna you are a good Madonna listener. If you like Beethoven and your ear feels pain listening to Madonna you are a good Beethoven listener and a bad Madonna listener.

By the way I think that Madonna's music is simple and  minimalist (horizontal) so it is the opposite of Beethoven's (complex and vertical).  In the beginning I thought Madonna's music was tonal (don't read old posts, they are full of mistakes, the earlier they are the wronger).

While most of Madonna's songs are atonal, most of her competitors (Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Shakira, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Black eyed peas, ABBA, Bee Gees, Cyndi Lauper, Donna Summer, Katy Perry...) tunes are tonal... So genres are sooooo ill-defined!!!

A perfectly balanced song by Madonna is "Live to Tell", you can use it instead of Zucchero's Dune Mosse.

The best Madonna's record is American life:
Metacritic 60/100
Allmusic 2.5/5
Rateyourmusic 2.91/5
Rolling Stone 3/5
Pitchfork: Not rated/not reviewed
Scaruffi 4/10
Ondarock 4/10
Stylus magazine F
Robert Chistgau ** 

When a record has MANY bad reviews listen to it!

I hope you will become a very good universal listener!!!
This is the playlist on youtube with the song by Zucchero and the four records:


Antonio Suriano, PhD

Some readers asked me for my mobile ringtone. I realized it is a perfectly balanced tune:
Lotus feet by Steve Vai.
Some also asked for my devices: I use Bose Around Ear 2 headphones and Sony MDREX10LP Earbud connected to youtube via PC/laptop/playstation vita. I am not an advocate of audiophile sets and I don't understand the habit of slowing down music to 432 Hz. I think vinyls are really a bad choice for any kind of  music because of lack of dynamics.
The best lossy algorithm according to my tastes is Musepack (MPC). But I know it is not widespread. Variable bitrate Apple MPEG4 (AAC) and OGG Vorbis are better than MP3 and WMA. But the choice of the source is quite irrelevant to develop good listening skills.

Suggested books:

Aaron Copland - What to listen for in Music
Alex Ross - The rest is noise
Lukas Perry - From Modality to Tonality: The Reformulation of Harmony and Structure in Seventeenth-Century Music

22 commenti:

  1. Risposte
    1. If your skills of listening are good in both horizontal and vertical directions you should not have any issue in enjoying the entire Beatles discography plus solo careers.

    2. Abbey road could be a good substitute of Dark side of the moon but I prefer Pink Floyd for training since it is more evident that they had DEEP understanding of what they were doing.

      John and Paul relied much more on instinct.

    3. In the beginning I was considering using Carlos Santana Abraxas as the first record of the set, but I realized that it is a little bit biaset towards vertical development.

    4. In this method there is not such a thing as "testing your progresses" or "forbidden artists".

      If you succeed in understanding any music, just go for it.

    5. It is the third day I run the sequence and there is no need to distinguish between Dark and Light too...

      For example I can enjoy and understand perfectly also stuff like Lady Gaga or My Bloody Valentine, U2 or Nirvana.

      Simply I am not so interested because I have something else to listen more powerful.

    6. Listening to weak music is not like smoking cigarettes or eating beef.
      It cannot harm u in any way.

      The important thing is not to forget about strong and powerful music...

    7. I have to regret about something:
      listening to Velvet Underground and Nick Drake is really worth it.

      They are great artists with a strong aesthetic view.

    8. To make another example I can enjoy Marquee Moon by Television but it nothing special. Nothing more than an ordinary Guns n' Roses or Bon Jovi album.

  2. Risposte
    1. Everything is valid. Also weak and bad music.
      The method consists in listening to the playlist every time you want.

      You'll be able to get all the emotional content of any music, even RED and BLUE (for example Slayer and Shakira).
      So you are free to listen to whatever you want.

      The only thing you will realize is that music talkers (Pitchfork, Rateyourmusic, Ondarock, Scaruffi, Allmusic) systematically fail in ranking records according to their power... but who cares?

    2. Great musicians are very often very good rankers.

      You want to know about good blues guitarists? Just read what Santana and Clapton say. Do you want to know about good jazz players? Just read what Jarrett and Marsalis suggest. Do you want to know about good minimalist? Just read Steve Reich's point of view...
      You don't need music talkers. You have musicians.

    3. A guy once wrote that 24th piano concerto was Mozart's best and that 8th symphony was Beethoven's best.

      The name of this guy is Ludwig van Beethoven.

      He was a good ranker.

    4. Anyway ranker is a false friend, evaluator is the correct word :D

    5. I am listening to Spiderland by Slint. It is good but it is the same as King Crimson only 15 times weaker.

      I tried Morton Feldman too, it is the same as Ligeti or Glass but very weak.
      Very good as a lullaby or ambient.

  3. Still I think about VU as noisy music, for many things, and underpowered with respect to Beatles and others.

  4. (Why we made transition to English? :D)

    1. A lot of people started using google translator to read this blog. Moreover someone asked me for an English version.

      I think better in English than in Italian.

    2. Sometimes, me too. I also tend to have some concept easier to think, or to refer to, in English rather than in Italian, and this can lead to not-so-nice English/Italian mashes that can be uncomprehensible to the most elderly interlocutors.

      Nice to see this blog also have foreigners followers, it's a good feedback.

      Anyway, what about some "ancient" dance Music for beginners? Probably that's because i'm so "ancient" inside, but i think it can be a good start to a stronger listening level.

      When i'm down i usually listen to some of these ones.

  5. Denkst du, dass Brahms ein guter Kenner der Musik ist?

    1. Yes but probably biased towards tonal language.