I’ve heard it at CD tables, after (and during!) live music concerts, at festivals and weeklong music educational events.
People pick up a CD and say, “I don’t know any of these songs.”
They pick up another one and say, “I know these songs, but I already have 10 recordings of those songs. Why do I need this one?”
One concert attender leans over to another and gives a review: “these are just the same songs they always play!”
Or they opine, “I wanted to hear the stuff I know (which I like!) and all they played was their new stuff. It was unfamiliar. I didn’t like it.”
They take a class and complain: “The instructor only taught us things that I didn’t know.”
Or they return from another workshop and report, “it was all the same old stuff everybody does.”
Humans are an interesting, loyal and simultaneously fickle lot. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” the adage acknowledges. “You can’t get too much of a good thing,” we stomp and declare just before we feel the inevitable discomfort from eating too many potato chips or ice cream, illustrating the economic principle of diminishing marginal utility.
At war within us are the poles between the novel and the threadbare; the strange and the comfortable; the unique and the familiar. And bouncing between these poles like iron filings between the poles of an electro-magnet is our attention and our loyalty.
When we are tired of the commonplace, we crave newness. When our lives are destabilized, we latch on to the comfort of the familiar.
There is nothing groundbreaking here. We can observe this several times a day in ourselves and in others.
What can get us stuck is assigning ultimate value to either pole by seeking to resolve the inherent tension into the good of either one.
And we artists? We seek to give voice and witness to the whole of life, but in specific and concrete ways that help us both to notice and enhance the tension, then offering resolution, only to set up more tension that leads to more resolution.
Thus, the dance of life continues in its eternal way.
(And it would be nice if folks would buy the CD, enjoy the concert, learn in the class no matter what!)
©2014 Steven B. Eulberg