I like to play a lot of music that I like to call “weird”.  And that weirdness comes in a lot of different forms.  But I use weird without its negative connotation.  I guess what I really need is a word that is closer to unexpected.

I’ve thought a lot about what makes something weird.  And the only thing I can come up with mostly relates to expectation.  If I expect to see a symphony orchestra concert and the orchestra plays an hour-long, indeterminate, micro-tonal piece, that might be weird.  But if I expect to see a concert of contemporary, micro-tonal music, a piece like that would be perfectly normal.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who are frustrated and disgusted by some contemporary music.  But if what those people expecting to hear is quote-un-quote “classical” music, it is no wonder they are frustrated.

When people confess this frustration to me, I am tempted to calmly recommend that they remove the sticks lodged in certain parts of their anatomy.  “Open-mindedness” is, after all, a virtue to most of our culture.

But I must concede that everyone is entitled to their opinions.  So I have to recommend that we meet in the middle of this expectation conundrum.  Modern orchestras have to tell their audiences what to expect.  Very often marketing strategies aim to get people in the seats at all costs when they should perhaps aim to set up the right kind of expectation.  As a field recordist, I rarely do any composing so I refer to my works as “projects” or “events” rather than “compositions”.  It is technically more accurate.

And on the flip side, the highly-trained musicians who think they know (or have an expectation of) what “good music” is, maybe still need to work toward removing those sticks from those certain parts of their anatomies.  Not all the way, just a little bit.

Because to go into something with an expectation of it is to close oneself off from the possibility of enjoyment.  Having no expectation allows a pure and immanent judgment to be made.

We are allowed to think these are “weird” with whatever connotation we want as long as we arrived at that conclusion free from the burdens of expectation.


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