Imaginary Brazilian Revolution

Brazil is a state of carefree serenity. Brazil is attained by forsaking sanity.

Return . . . I will . . . to old . . . Brazil.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Poor Attention Span

One of the principal jobs I want music to do for me is to stave off boredom. The first thing an album needs to do in order to accomplish this for me is to keep my attention. If it doesn't do that, I end up bored but with noise. I don't have much of an attention span, so sometimes my music has to do some heavy lifting. I think this goes a ways toward explaining my affinity for dynamic, weird, and sometimes ugly music.

Music that is a lot like a lot of other music that I've already heard doesn't usually do a good job of capturing my attention. I think this is related to that one nervous system process that I can't remember the name of . . . maybe adaptation. It's where a sensation stimulus stops eliciting a nervous response after a little while and so persistent stimuli are ignored. The nervous system "adapts" to these stimuli. This helps prevent a sensory overload and allows us to focus our conscious senses on new stimuli. It's because of the adaptation response that we don't "feel" our clothes on us all day long or why we stop consciously smelling an air freshener while it's actually still emiting odorants. And maybe it's why I don't "hear" music that's not very original.

New and strange sounds arrest the hearing sense because they are new and strange. Sometimes new and strange is all it takes for me to really get into an album. Some music just grabs your attention and won't let go. Ugly or abrasive sounds also accomplish this. I don't know what makes ugly music enjoyable and some just ugly, but ugliness is often a virtue.

The thing is, though, that the nervous system adapts to strange, abrasive, or ugly sounds. Persistently abrasive music only captures my attention for a little while. If music doesn't change or do anything, it doesn't mater how strange or abrasive it is, it won't take long for my mind to wander. That's why dynamics are at a premium. Music has to move and change, both within songs and between songs.

I will complete this post, as all posts should be completed, with lists. Tomorrow.