The Old and the New

Today on the blog, we here at Music Traveler want to explore the pull between our old, familiar pieces of music and exciting, fresh ones that push us out of our comfort zones as listeners.

Just like picking up a book that you’ve read many times, listening to the same music over and over again is comforting. This music, the “bread and butter” of our personal playlists, often comprises part of a certain ritual: listening to Ella Fitzgerald while getting ready for a night out, or jamming to The Strokes in the shower. Whenever I write a paper for school, I immediately gravitate towards specific symphonic pieces, like Jean Sibelius's Violin Concerto, Sergei Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto, or George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F. Clicking away on the keyboard, sinking further into selecting the right words, and crafting a melodic sentence become that much easier when I have a soundtrack that propels me forward. Listening to old favorites is like wrapping yourself in a quilt of familiar sounds and emotions.

New music, however, excites me. I love bands that constantly evolve and push their sounds. It can be something as simple as adding a fresh, lower voice to your vocals (as Two Door Cinema Club has done with the singles released from their new album, False Alarm) or something that truly asks your audience to take the plunge with you, like writing a song with no meter or one that goes in and out of tonality.

 

 

My high school band teacher once told me that the evolution of music was really the search for an innovative, unheard sound. I think that’s a fair generalization. For a while, monophony, or music with a single melodic line, was the standard way to write nearly all Western vocal music. When polyphony -- or music with multiple parts -- came into use, many people thought it was sacrilegious and would never amount to anything. Today, it’s hard to imagine our favorite vocal music without multiple parts. Of course, everything started as “new music” at one point, and it is only through repeated hearings that we come to love anything. I find that when I’m doing something ritualistic, like writing, I crave my old, familiar favorites. But when I can devote myself to listening fully, I always want to hear new things. Today, I’m listening to Yamada’s sparkling "Inno Meiji" Symphony, rather than my standard loves, Prokofiev and Gershwin.

What do you think? Do you find yourself listening to the same pieces of music over and over again? How do you try to incorporate new music into your life? What new music have you discovered lately?

 

Written by Melia Wong