Less is More (or the Tale of an Artist-Insulting Curator)

24Feb10

Let me start with a disclaimer about my musical beliefs:
I believe an album is a singular piece of experiential art that should be taken as a whole. This is especially important when approaching musical releases as a critic but is also the approach that I find to be more rewarding as a consumer. Like a painting on the wall of a museum, various pieces and portions can be studied and enjoyed in isolation, but to get the full experience, the viewer must step back and see everything inside the frame as the artist intended for it to be arranged.

That being said, I have been struggling with Joanna Newsom’s new album entitled Have One on Me both as a critic and consumer. I sat down with it the other day and this was my experience:
Disc 1 swept me away with heavy doses of the tender magic that only Newsom could create. By Disc 2, the album became background music and Disc 3 was, unfortunately, as good as non-existent to my ears.

The human brain is masterful at filtering out repetitive sensations once they lose their meaning to us. The ticking clock is quickly forgotten once our mind shifts away from questions of time. It’s a good thing because otherwise we’d be in a constant state of sensory overload and confusion!

I don’t want Have One on Me to be forever placed in the ticking clock category, but I am afraid that Newsom has released an art piece that I simply cannot consume as a whole. Because this is the case, Disc 1 becomes the main course, Disc 2 is dessert, and Disc 3 is reduced to leftovers. Disc 3 might be incredible, but I’ll never know that as long as I attempt to apply my preferred listening style to it.

This leaves me with a choice. Should I write it off all together? Should I just accept Disc 2 as dessert and Disc 3 as leftovers? Or, heaven forbid, should I be my own curator and chunk the album in a way that maximizes my personal enjoyment?

Curators of the World, Stand on Tables.

You guessed it, I have chosen the latter.
For the time being, I am limiting my listening access to Disc 1. That is the painting on the wall, so-to-speak, that I will be evaluating and enjoying in-and-of-itself.
Sometime in April, I will dig out Disc 2. And sometime in June, Disc 3 will make its way into my iTunes.

This may make me an artist-insulting curator, but it also gives me a chance to fully enjoy this potential masterpiece. I’ll take the trade-off!

Tk

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