June 18, 2005


A few days ago I wrote that I didn’t much like Coldplay’s new X&Y recording. In fact, after the first listen, I thought that I didn’t like it at all.

Well, after a few more spins I’ve grown to like it quite a lot. There are still a few songs that I skip over, and that falsetto voice is overused, but the musicianship of it is impressive. The songs are mostly enjoyable. It’s gone from maybe a three- to a seven-out-of-10.

Which of course all comes back to piping and drumming. How many of us have heard a top band’s medley and not liked it on first listen? But after a few times with it, you start to hear new things, and you begin to look forward to certain elements. It begins to make musical sense.

Conversely, how often do we love a band’s selection on first listen, but then, after hearing it again and again get annoyed by its predictability? When contending bands trot out the same selection for three straight years it can get really irritating.

It would make a lot of sense to give bands a way to preview their new medleys to judges. Some very fine and sophisticated pipe band selections are not fully understood or appreciated on first listen, and far too often those medleys are heard by both judges and audience at the World Pipe Band Championships for the first time. Because of the need for a positive first impression, bands strategically have to sacrifice musical sophistication for musical predictability.

Perhaps it’s a subtle rule in all art, whether it’s Coldpay’s X&Y, Picasso’s “Guernica,” or Joyce’s Ulysses: the things you don’t understand at first inevitably improve after the second, third, or fourth listen, viewing, or reading.

Predictable art is art that fizzles. Great art requires patience to be appreciated.






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