The City Below

If you examine any syllabus for a music class, they require a lot of listening. The students can be given a CD with their textbooks but that is not always the case. Most of the time one is asked to access a piece or composer’s work on their own. 

How can this be done?

A Spotify playlist can be formed for the class. An album could be downloaded from Itunes or ripped for free from a website. Performances from amateur videos to professional recordings could be accessed from Youtube. Word of mouth, a recommendation from a friend, could lead to a discovery stellar interpretation of a piece. Maybe even a blog post leads to a recording online. Social media could bring awareness to a local concert of the music that will be taught next week. And perhaps the album could be bought from the local music store or Amazon.

And the list could go on and on. There is so much beyond the music’s own content. How we access and maneuver through music today is just as crucial to our understanding of it.

It is a perspectival shift similar to what French thinker Michel de Certeau pondered when it came to cities. He thought that the panoptic view of a city, much like that of an urban planner, missed what was actually going on. We focus on the architecture and design but what of the people moving in the city below?

To grasp this missing part, focus has to be shifted to the level of an inhabitant. Certeau believed that inquiry into the operations of ordinary life would create a city that maps and statistics fail to mention. A new and familiar city altogether

Music has been topographically examined. Its structure analyzed and eras distilled to pieces, composers, and ideas. What happens when one is brought down from the panopticon, brought to the level of a person trying to access and listen to music? What practices are happening? What experience is taking place?


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