General essays

The following are some general essays based on insights provided by OMS. I think the essays themselves are interesting; additionally they demonstrate the value of OMS to provide insight and well-organized analysis (which is comprehensible and to-the-point!).

Table of Contents:
[1] Definition of Beauty
[2] Ear-Love
[3] Why does my attention wander when I listen to a Brahms Symphony?

[1] Definition of Beauty

The following is a characterization of the concept of “beauty” via OMS:

Primary characteristics of musical works or passages that are considered beautiful:

[a] They impart significant pleasure

[b] The pleasure is intense or rich

[c] The pleasure is the the result of multi-stimulation: Not a single stimulation, but many kinds [melody, harmony, big structure, fine structure, sonic effects, “emotion”, “narrative”, “color”, “spatiality”, memory, … A complete high-level list could number over 100 kinds of stimulation]

[d] The above stimuli are organized or coordinated

[e] For the most part, [d] is “transparent” – i.e. the various stimuli can be be enumerated, described.

[f] However the is also an element of subtlety: Some elements of the stimuli are not easily described. I.e.  it is sometimes said that beauty includes an element of “mystery”.

[g] Possibly some qualifications on the “kind” of pleasure. If conditions [a]-[f] are satisfied, but the pleasure is “crude” or “lower-level”, the music may not be considered beautiful. (Not sure about this)

[2] Ear-Love

Music is a form of (primitive) love that is transmitted via the recipient’s ears.

Ear-Love is not the most “mature” form of human love. For instance, music is mainly one-direction (from the composer/performer to the listener, very little from the listener back to the composer/performer); more mature forms of love are typically bi-directional (e.g. love between mother and child).

But music does have many characteristics which are associated with love: It is mainly pleasurable; it provides a variety of stimulation; it is organized for the benefit of the listener (it is “listener-centric”); it is unconditional (possibly a payment to initiate the music, but after that, no conditions); it is intimate; it is deeply satisfying. There are additional characteristics, TBD.

“Ear-Love” is a partial explanation of why music seems to be so deeply significant to many human beings.

[3] Why does my attention wander when I listen to a Brahms symphony?

Why does my attention wander when I listen to a Brahms Symphony (or almost any long piece of classical music)?

Partial answer: Consider just about anything that is highly stimulating in a continuous manner (no letup). E.g.
[a] A perfect slow sunset
[b] NBA championship game, front row center court.
[c] Your loved one looks you in the eye and tells you for 15 minutes how wonderful you are.

In any of these examples, it would be natural for your attention to wander! In situations like this, sustained focused attention is just not doable for long periods.

The “problem” with a Brahms Symphony (or almost any longer piece of great classical music) is that the stimulation is sustained, without much letup. Sure, there are periods where the music is relatively “quiet”; but even then, there is plenty going on. Pick any passage from Brahms Fourth at random, and dwell on it, it is almost guaranteed to be a rich, satiating experience.

So the explanation for wandering-attention is: Too much sustained stimulation over a long period of time.