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.


At 7/11/2006 7:11 AM, Anonymous Susan M said...

I'm interested in your lists, cuz I think maybe your definition of (good) ugly and abrasive is different from mine.

Mine would include stuff like Big Black, Electric Wizard, Butthole Surfers--noise rock and doom metal, basically.

And maybe some Songs: Ohia.

At 7/22/2006 4:34 PM, Blogger White Man Retarded said...

Man we have to get together. I'm still trying to figure out how to get my Moog setup. Hmmm...

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At 8/18/2006 6:10 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

"Persistently abrasive music" -- I have a friend who listens to that in order to stay awake when driving long distance. He has been able to find music that remains abrasive to him. ;)

At 8/30/2006 4:26 AM, Blogger Standard Chuck said...

Dashboard Confessional...right.

You know, Tommy Boy, you really ought to develop your sense of patience and attention by challenging your listening biases. Take, for instance, a lovely band like Sigur Ros, who's beauty and artistry builds long after the ADD indie kids have clicked on the iTunes for the latest Panic at the Disco jiggle-out.

However, as for ugly/abrasive, how about Mountain Goats, Daniel Johnston, Tom Waits (his more eclectic songs), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club?

By the way, how you been? Haven't talked to you in a while...been golfing?

At 10/09/2006 3:04 PM, Blogger Standard Chuck said...

Such a long time since you post, utah.

I wrote about new decemberists album today.

go to


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At 6/12/2007 2:09 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

I think you should check out Rodrigo y Gabriela. They are a duo from Ireland that plays flamenco/heavy metal inspired acoustic instrumental music. I know it sounds weird but they are definitely amazing. They hit the top of the charts in Ireland and were just featured in the NY Daily Press. You have to hear their music to understand.
Here's a link to the article-


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