I simply don’t know everything. I don’t know everything about music or anything else. I try to learn everything I can, be as knowledgeable as I can, and have something useful to say here on my blog. Every once in a while, no matter how much you think you know, there is something that humbles you and reminds you of your small place in the world.
Duetsche Grammophon is a highly respected recording label in the world of classical music. Some of the most fantastic recordings available are on this label. I try to have the most open mind possible about music, about new music, and about music I have not heard before. So when I saw the album Aerial on the Duesche Grammophon label by the modern composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, I decided to give it a try in spite of the fact I knew nothing about it. I was trying something new, based only on my knowledge that this was modern music on a respected recording label.
This is about as new and cutting edge music as one could find in the world of western classical music. The album was released just this month, November of 2014. Music as new as new can get. I think the word that best describes this stuff is “ soundscapes”. If the Yusef Lateef Nocturnes album was atmospheric and evocative, the music of Thorvaldsdottir is simply ethereal. My esteemed musical brother Mike can correct me if I am wrong, but I think our composition teacher would have been critical of this album. One of the things I think he would have said is, “It doesn’t seem to matter if it ends now or goes on for ten more minutes”. This is the same thing my professor would have said about the minimalist music of Philip Glass.
My dear mentor would have been right, in the sense that this recording doesn’t seem to have the usual melody and accompaniment type of musical form that we study so hard in music school. You have to divorce yourself from ideas like form, key, harmony, counterpoint and so on to appreciate this album. Things move at a glacial pace, and seem to evoke the broad empty horizons of a Icelandic landscape. A quote from Thorvaldsdottir’s own website:
“Anna Thorvaldsdottir is an Icelandic composer who frequently works with large sonic structures that tend to reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.”
I’m not really sure if that quote does anything to enlighten us as to what is on this album. This music is like a Pink Floyd album, or the trip hop of Portishead, only for orchestra, and slowed down. I’m not sure if sobriety is the best state of mind to listen, if your mind is anchored firmly to the here and now. This is a slow moving and mind expanding experience. Here is the first track on the album.
I know that in my current state of being, I would be absolutely no good at trying to write music like this. But taking the time to listen to it is a very worthwhile experience. I am left feeling like I have forgotten the minute details of everyday life. Time seems to flow at a slower pace. The sounds are dreamy, unusual, mind-expanding, and completely out of my area of expertise. I think it is healthy to get out of your comfort zone from time to time. This album certainly does that for me.
I think that makes it a very worthwhile listening experience.