More Powers To You

Greg Sandow joins the list of music bloggers (Marc Geelhoed and yours truly) reading Richard Powers' The Time of Our Singing. Greg's post includes several quotes from the novel. They reminded me of this passage from Powers' The Gold-Bug Variations:

"The trick to listening," he said, lifting me by the hand, "is to hear the pieces speaking to one another. To treat each one as part of an enormous anatomy, still carrying the traces of everything that ever worked, seemed beautiful awhile, became too obvious, and had to be replaced. Music can only mean anything through other music." (p. 377)

The seeds of a way out of the shrinking audience problem, and the style wars that contribute to it, lie in the approach suggested in that quote.


  1. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Count me out of the tired modern project of "music means through other music" which is "music is only about itself" in drag.

    Music has meaning because it is a means by which we think about the world - it unifies its own kind of memory, the memory of gesture and dance, the memory of sound, the patterns of physical movement that are associated with sound. It creates an imaginative universe which is as real as the visual universe that reading allows us to see.

    Music means because it is incorporated into the very nerves that connect together to make up our brain, and in our joints, muscles and habits.

    A disembodied conversation between abstract entities is nowhere near as interesting as the whole of the world and our ability to move through it.

  2. I would disagree with the last sentence in the Powers quote, too. But I do think that hearing pieces as they relate to each other is one way to hear how music relates to our lives outside music, including the ideas you list about memory and patterns.