In October of 2018, in the good old days when we could roam the world at will, Bernhard Wöstheinrich arrived in the Hudson Valley to record again with David Rothenberg and Jay Nicholas, who call themselves Cool Spring. That round they opened for Soft Machine in Baltimore, performed in Brooklyn and Beacon, then spent two days holed up recording this album.
It has taken two years to sift through what happened, and in this vastly different world it’s time for the world to hear it.
But how to listen to music in these days when there is far too much of it?
The recommendations we tend to get from those digital authorities seem to be an answer to questions like “what is the music good for?” Will it help us find our center, finish our homework, fall asleep, or fall in love? Will it make our food taste sweeter, will it turn darkness into light, will it end poverty or fight global warming? “Trust the science” says Greta Thunberg, but the science on how to make music is rather inconclusive.
Repetition is good, says Princeton professor Elizabeth Hune Margulies. Random repeats were added to contemporary pieces by living composers, and nearly all listeners, including some of these composers (who ought to know better?), preferred music where the same sounds came back over and over again. Why we like loops I guess…
Algorithms still aren’t so great at predicting what we’re going to like or dislike. And some people think we should free ourselves from likes and dislikes, how else might we discover something knew?
Our music is an answer to a different question, “Are we there yet?” You might want to answer at once, “where?” but when I hear that phrase I remember my brother and I as giggling little kids in the backseat of the family car on some long drive to a distant mountainscape or beach, with hours ahead to go, asking over and over again the same question… knowing full well the answer would be—“no.”
What happens when we do get there? Will we have figured out how to engineer the perfect music to fulfill your complete listening desires? Will we get you satiated so you will have no need to listen to anything else? Or will we merely meet the criteria for today’s simple success… offering a taste of something tantalizing, to make you keep listening, ever wanting more, happy to be alive and hoping to find that answer that will ultimately satisfy?
Music, like philosophy, may be far better at asking questions than answering them. That’s why we keep making more of it, hoping, ever slightly, to brighten up your days and nights.
Mixed and mastered by Michael Prawos
Artwork by Bernhard Wöstheinrich