On my coffee table (more like empty glasses/laptop table) are small stacks of CDs that include Garrick Ohlsson‘s recording of Chopin's Nocturnes and Glenn Gould’s “The Young Maverick” set.
There are also CDs by living composers on the table. I had been reluctant to open the new music because I had never heard it, and in that moment I didn’t want to be disappointed. I wanted to be fulfilled. I wanted the familiar.
After admitting to myself that I just didn’t feel up to doing the work of listening, I did it anyway. I took that plunge and opened a CD of new music. It was a disc of music by Chinary Ung, a composer born in Cambodia in 1942 who relocated to the West Coast.
Chinary Ung composes chamber and orchestral music and says his music is a spiritual path. For a few days now, I’ve been listening to Ung's Child Song and I’m hearing new ideas and fresh conversations. Every time I re-listen, I search for something new while simultaneously listening for any fragment that I remembered from the previous hearing. As it turns out, even though the music is new, it can quickly become familiar and good. Whether the music is familiar or not, what do you listen for?