It can be a single sound… the hum of guitar strings just after they’ve been strum, the echoing cling of pipes, the soft whisper of a brush on a snare. Sometimes it’s it’s several chords, sometimes it’s only one, whatever it is, it grabs you. Your breath catches in your throat, your heartbeat quickens, you feel the irresistible urge to close your eyes, and you can’t help but stop what you’re doing and let it have your full attention.

This is music at it’s finest, it’s music that you know to your core because it’s not just speaking to you, it’s moving through you. It is your pulse, the rhythm your life and the language of the something, though you might not be sure what. One thing that you can be sure of is that not everyone hears this the way you do, not everyone is listening the way you are, and you get it because you know where it comes from, you know what it cost to carry this particular sound from where it started to where you are hearing it.

I like a lot of different kinds of music. So many different kinds, in fact, that I often have trouble answering when someone asks me what I like. It can be a little frustrating sometimes, especially considering that every social networking profile asks you to list the things you like. A lot of what I like doesn’t fit anywhere, I can’t organize it into any of my neat and tidy iTunes categories by genre. There’s no genre that can contain it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a lot of popular music… some I should probably be ashamed of for some reason or another, but I tend to want to consider what I enjoy and what I like as two very different things. The way I see it, I can enjoy something without it necessarily being central to who I am. I can enjoy it for it’s association with other things. But I like something for itself. For example, I might enjoy jumping up and down to a song in a club that I’m at with a group of friends on a night that I’m in a really good mood, but I wouldn’t necessarily like the song on it’s own.My enjoying it is directly connected to the set of circumstances I’m experiencing it in.

A lot of what I like about music is in the details, which gave me an idea an idea that helped sort out my unsortable music tastes. I’m a person who deeply appreciates metephores and analogies, and I also like using them, so while I was thinking of how to classify the music I like that seems to have no place in the genre world, the first thing that came to my mind was, “music couture”.

Couture fashion is something you have to understand in order to really appreciate it. The vast majority of people don’t get couture fashion because the vast majority of couture fashion isn’t mainstream, it isn’t wearable, it isn’t what you’re used to, and while it may not be particularly offensive, it doesn’t quite make sense either. Appreciating, liking, couture fashion isn’t about seeing something on the runway and thinking “I could pull that off, I could wear that.” It’s about understanding the process.

Someone who truly “gets it” is someone who can see the craftmanship, they understand what it took to create the lines of a particular piece, or they see the detailed stitching in another. It’s about understanding the processes and appreciating the outcome based on the process of creation and not just the creation itself.

This is the music that awakens that core reaction,that gets me to really stop and listen instead of just enjoying it at face value; music that is the manifestation of the process. Music that is simply the outcome of the process can’t be classified by genre, and it is difficult to find. It’s like a diamond in the rough, you can’t see it’s value unless you know what to look for.

If I can, I’ll try to make clear what I mean by “ can’t be classified by genre”. A specific genre dictates a specific outcome, which thus gives the process specific guidelines within which it can work, and what you end up withis a Pop song, or rock, or what have you. Certainly there are different factors that can be played in to make one song distinct from another within a genre, but the guidelines are still the same.

It’s like making a skirt… you already know that your end result is going to be a skirt, so you buy a skirt pattern and you follow the rules for creating that skirt. You have choices, will it be an a-line skirt, or a pencil skirt? You can choose the fabric, the color, the length, but at the end of the day, what you’ve made will be classified as a skirt.

If the process is left to lead, without the dictating voice of genre, what do you classify the outcome you arrive at as a result? At this point my idea begins to overwhelm me a little and I feel like I need the opinion of someone who is really right in the thick of the process, there’s only so far I can take this from the sidelines. So I asked a musician friend what his thoughts were on the idea of couture music and this is his take:

Years ago, when music was expensive and took effort to acquire, people who weren’t all that into music would sit down every once in a while and do nothing but listen to some music. While, people who were really into music had it on all the time but didn’t pay much attention to it. Now that music is cheap/free and easy to get, the roles are reversed in some sense; casual listeners are awash in music everywhere all the time. Stores all have music, bars, restaurants. People have iPods on the train, in the car, at the gym, and so on. But they don’t really seem to care much about what it is that they hear. It is all completely disposable and it comes and goes. Now, people who really like music may still listen all the time; but they’ll own certain, special, music that was hard to get and maybe expensive, and when they listen to that they stop, and sit, and listen. That’s what couture music is to me; the stuff that, in a culture -buried- in music, will make someone stop, and sit, and listen.

I’ve been harboring this idea in the back of my mind for literally months now. I started working on it before I moved to Dallas and have finally had the energy to come back to it. Honestly, I feel like there’s a lot more to say about it, but I don’t have adequate words to give it further shape, so I’m leaving this open ended and inviting the opinions of anyone who might take time to read this. =)

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