Tonight, I went to a performance by the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble, at Arizona State University. The performance was part of a festival celebrating the music of the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis.

This is not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but I have found contemporary music to be both calming and energizing. My first experience with this was when I was young. As a student, we were challenged to listen to everything around us, and to attend all kinds of events. One semester, our school hosted a contemporary music symposium, including both scholarly talks and performances of all kinds of sounds, from Tibetan throat singing to multiphonics in woodwinds. It takes a certain kind of listening to appreciate this music, and I admit, it takes repeated listening for me to hear any kind of structure (more about that in a later post) to this kind of music, but once I find that, I am usually hooked on the piece.

If you are not a fan of this kind of music, try this experiment: Find a quiet space sometime when you don’t have any pressing thoughts or tasks. Just sit quietly, and listen, really listen, to what is around you: the air currents, the traffic sounds, the building settling (if you are inside). Then listen to Xenakis again, and see if your perception changes. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with this. If they are anything like mine were, we just might see each other at the next ACME performance.

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