Appreciation Gap

As I was saying, Stanklin & I have been discussing the need for a new term to describe music that you have to learn to love. Stanklin even took it one step further, wondering what to call those pop confections that you can’t get enough of for about two weeks, and then never want to hear again.

His best effort was “appreciation gap.” I thought this was actually pretty good in describing the temporal phenomenon. But it’s a bit limiting to use the same term for the flame-out of bubblegum as for the slow build of a masterwork.

We noticed that Pitchfork uses “grower” for the latter. Neither of us liked that. Too… jam-band. The terms don’t have to sound as derivative of an econ textbook as ours, but certainly someone else has already coined something fitting.


2 thoughts on “Appreciation Gap

  1. Chicago’s record snowfalls give one time for pondering.

    I shall tackle the issue of “appreciation gap” by at once dividing the type of repetitive muscial appreciation as being trifurcated between three alternatives: “decaying” music, “expanding” music, and “steady-state” music.

    We are, of course, discussing the appreciation of music, especially, the effect of multiple (say dozens to hundreds of) repetitive listening sessions of the same music by the same performer over a time period of several weeks to several years. It has been observed that music falls into one of these three categories: “decaying”, which means the song may be very nice to listen to, at least catchy, for a few weeks and then very annoying to unbearable, e.g. “Oops, I did it again”; “expanding”, where what begins as a tortured listening session eventually blossoms to a love affair, e.g. most anything Bartok ever wrote; and “steady-state”, whereby the music may be appreciated at first, and even after being heard many times, e.g. The Beatles, especially post-Revolver, excepting “The One After 909” (although they did play it on the rooftop). I am, of course, not considering music which is never appreciated at all, e.g. an aeolian harp.

    From what elements may we construct a theory explaining the resulting three categories of music appreciation? Without any basis what so ever, I propose that music has two basic positive qualities, “sonorousness” and “complexity”. By “sonorous” I mean that in the music which provides instant, perhaps biological appreciation. Examples include a C Major chord, a I-IV-V progression and a harmony sung by the Three Tenors. The second quality is “complexity”, that is, the size and structure of the melody, progressions, instruments, and lyrics. Examples of complex music could be Beethoven’s 9th, Take Five, and Tomorrow Never Knows.

    The “sonorous” quality of the music is what draws us, draws even infants, to listen and enjoy listening and wanting to listen again. You’ll often see children obsessed in this way with one sonorous song, they can listen to it or sing it hundreds of time without boredom (perhaps explaining NSYNC). The adult ear requires something more to prevent boredom, and this is where complexity comes in, where we may notice more and more features placed in the music that we didn’t notice before.

    So there you have it, sonorous is short lived, complexity grows over time, whereas sonorous complexity is always great, long live the Beatles! :-)

  2. What about the phenomena (or is it phenomenon?) that happens when you can’t get a song out of your head and it’s really annoying and it’s actually a song you wrote?

    That can’t be good, right?

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