Author: Campbell, Bruce

In Which I Praise the Pear

It must be just the right time of year for pears. The past few weeks I have included a pear in my lunch every day, and they are wonderful! They’re sweet, but not too sweet – there’s a duskiness “behind” the sweetness. They have a fruity aroma that is not cloying, and the skin is firm enough to provide a good textural balance with the meat of the fruit. My mouth is watering while I’m typing this..

I didn’t always like pears. As a kid, they didn’t appeal to me – they always looked “beat up”. Whereas the apples and oranges in the store had been cross bred to flawless, shiny perfection, the pear would not be tamed. They always looked too asymmetrical, and their skin always had some blemishes, as they had to fight their way to the fruit stand.

Well, that very aspect is what I like about pears. I don’t know why modern agriculture can’t produce pears and blandly perfect as apples and citrus fruits, but the pear has earned my respect. I checked out the California Pear website, and it’s hilarious – all the pears they show are as airbrushed as a pinup model – it’s the same sort of false advertising!I think I prefer my fruit with some rough edges..

I told you that to tell you this – my musical tastes have followed the same path, all through my life. Every genre of music has practitioners – expert practitioners - who are able to render music so perfectly played that it is awe-inspiring. But too often, the rough edges that are removed in this aural polishing also take the yummiest parts away.

There are also musicians – equally as expert as the practitioners referred to in the previous paragraph – who can deliver music with stunning skill, but somehow keep the interesting edges intact.

The difference between these two extremes is hard to quantify, logically. It would seem that one of those musicians whose work seems too smooth only needs to make a few mistakes to make their music more interesting. But the difference isn’t mistakes. The purveyors of the rawer forms of the art don’t infuse it with errors – they infuse it with something else. What, exactly, is that something else? I really only know it when I hear it.

It seems that the music performances that really move me are more than just a collection of notes, delivered in tune, and in time. There’s a sense of the artist reaching deep – and sometimes, how deep they reach is hinted at in places where seems like they’re barely in control. To listen to music careen towards that precipice, and not quite fall off, is thrilling.

It’s not fair to fault a musician for playing too well – everyone should play as well as they can. Maybe, though, it’s wise to aim for a “feel” or “groove” and make that as important (if not more) than technical perfection.

For me, I’d rather hear music that’s like a crooked, discolored – yet delicious – pear, than a perfectly shaped, shiny buffed apple any day.

Posted:  12/7/2011

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