Ainsley's Slapdown: Too Many Notes
October 03 2010
The Pianobabbler and Ainsley had a bit of a tiff.
How much music is too much music?
You'll remember Ainsley. You met him in Pianobabbler 125. British diplomat. Music lover. Pat Metheny zealot. Smart. Articulate. Quick. Master of the pithy verbal smackdown.
We dined the other night with Ainsley and his wife, the chic, French, Anne-Sylvie.
An excellent meal. Crostini with fresh figs and gorgonzola. Cumin lentil moussaka. Glazed steamed carrots. Green beans, sauteed. Heirloom tomato salad, balsamic vinaigrette. Panna cotta. Ontario wine (although Ainsely was drinking Ontario Coca-Cola.)
A sparkling evening. Until.
"How's the food?"
"It's wonderful, Ainsley, thanks. Who'd have ever thought the British could cook so tastily?"
"We aim to surprise."
"You're damaging your country's reputation."
Ainsley tacked landward.
"Any gigs coming up, Pianobabbler?"
"We're at Trane on Thursday. My trio, the new one. The Blue Modules project. More electric than my other trio. I want to capture the original spirit of jazz, as an extension of pop and dance. I want to explore songs people under 30 can actually identify. Jazz standards have become museum pieces."
"Right. No more Summertime and Misty."
"Precisely. We play Grandma's Hands, the Bill Withers' tune. Coldplay. Viva la Vida-"
"Yup. Waving the colonial flag. Some Stevie Wonder. An 80's pop song, Making Plans for-"
"Nigel. XTC. The XTC Making Plans for Nigel?"
"Yeah. You know it?"
"XTC are one of my all-time favourite bands. I mean, I have a soft spot for all 80's pop, but XTC sit right at the top for me. I have all of their recordings."
"Not that I don't have plenty of other recordings."
"In some cases, yes. But I listen to a lot of music, all styles. Jazz, pop, world. I don't discriminate. Classical of course, being a violist."
"Right. You did time in a professional orchestra."
"I probably have eight thousand or so CDs by now. A mountain of LPs as well. All ripped to my hard drive. Legally, of course. I've probably given away an equal number of CDs. Ones I didn't want to keep. Want to see?"
Ainsley shot up. We eyeballed the spouses. They blinked permission. He hied me to his basement.
Wall upon wall, shelf upon shelf, row upon row, inch upon inch of CDs.
"That's the pop section." He pointed to an entire wall. "I separate out 80's pop into the last three shelves. I have my jazz on the next wall, mixed in with world. Metheney has his own row. That next wall is classical."
Ainsley radiated the joy he derived from his collected music. He knew every disc. Listened to them all. Vertically and horizontally. Held passions for or against, sometimes for and against, each one. They were the outside extension of his aesthetic inscape.
The Pianobabbler lacks the collector's gene. He harbours no instinct to accumulate.
"Ainsley- do you think this might be excessive? So many CDs, I mean. Can one person really absorb all this music? Doesn't it straitjacket you into superficial listening? Eight thousand CDs- ignoring all the other recordings -that's 8,000 hours of straight listening. About... eight thousand divided by twenty-four... three hundred thirty three days, give or take. Almost a year of uninterrupted listening. You'd have to play all your CDs for almost a year, 24/7, before you could take a second listen to even one of them. Impossible. Isn't the music better served, aren't you better served by choosing, say, 30 or 40 CDs and getting to know them deeply, with more and more intimacy?"
Ainsley grinned. He looked downward.
"Too many notes, you mean?"
"This isn't Amadeus. That line of Peter Shaffer's ridicules musical shallowness. I'm not being shallow. On the contrary. I'm asking whether music should be subject to high volume consumption, pun intended."
"Music is large. Not my fault."
"And it's crosswired. If I am going to know Brahms, I'm going to know Beethoven and Haydn. XTC, then I'm going to know the Beatles. Oscar Peterson, then I'm going to know Art Tatum."
"True again. But just because every author read an author before them, it doesn't mean we have to read every book ever written."
Another grin. Another look downward.
"Pianobabbler- narrow is easier than broad. Small is easier than big. My world would be narrower and smaller- poorer if I didn't have all this music in my life. I listen to it all. I have listened to it all. I love it all. Besides, how do you think it was I came to listen to you? Should I have stopped at Glenn Gould or Erroll Garner, and never moved on to your music?"
Grinning still, he fixed his gamma ray gaze on me. I answered with a slow closing and opening of my eyelids.
I said nothing else. Ainsley turned, and pulled out favourite CDs for me to look at. Impressive. He played in the viola section of one of the more interesting recordings in his collection. Mahler. I forget the conductor. Sinopoli, I think.
I used to own the recording, until I gave my entire LP and CD collection away over a decade ago. I did keep my Glenn Gould Bach, Art Tatum, and Take 6 recordings.
The Pianobabbler has babbled.
The Pianobabbler is a RonDavisMusic production. The Pianobabbler's blog posts appear weekly at pianobabbler.com. Please remember to leave your comments and thoughts below. Subscribe to the RSS feed. And subscribe to RonDavisNews by clicking on the Mailing List link, above right. And follow us on Twitter.
blog comments powered by Disqus