Making settled things strange

Music is about transportation, transcendence, and transformation of matter and consciousness. That's the commodity you're dealing with in music, transforming lead into gold, the great alchemical work. In the hands of certain people that happens from time to time.
That subtly qualified explanation comes from Mickey Hart*, who supplemented his role of drummer for the Grateful Dead with pioneering work in ethnomusicology and producer of seminal World Music albums. In the notes for 'Wagner Transformed' sound alchemist J. Peter Schwalm describes how he uses electronic processing as a tool of de-familiarisation - sample via this link. Before a base metal can be reconstituted as something precious, it must first be transformed from its familiar guise. Today, reinforcing comfort zones with yet more that is familiar is seen as the way forward for classical music, and de-familiarisation is a neglected tool. Yet appreciating great art requires imagination, and as G. K. Chesterton told us: "The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange".

* Quote comes from Peter Lavezzoli's The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). No review samples used in this post. Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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