Friday, April 30, 2010

What Makes You Ready for Art?

The taller of the short people has taken up the clarinet and as a result, we've been listening to clarinet music every morning on the way in. This has led them both to come to prefer swing. Not Duke Ellington or Count Basie's band, but Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey. After the 10,000th listen to "In the Mood," I decided maybe this would be a good time to expand things and for the last week, we've been listening to a five CD set spanning the history of jazz. We just got to the point where swing gives way to the pioneers of bebop. Dizzy went over o.k., but Bird and Monk not so much.

It made me recall my own history. In high school, while searching the upstairs at a discount record store I used to frequent (Chick's, for those who hail from the northwest side of Baltimore), I found a recording of Coltrane's '61 Stockholm concert. I couldn't make it through half of one side and just filed it away. A couple years later in college, one night, for no good reason, I put it on. It blew me away and I listened to it non-stop for a week.

What is the difference between my first and second listening? I have no doubt that one or the other of the short people will eventually come to love and appreciate modern jazz, but they are not ready for it right now. What is the change that occurs that makes one ready, receptive to the beauty in a work of art that one cannot perceive earlier? The same vibrations happen in the ears, the same signals are sent to the eyes. What is it that changes?