When you are as used to the structure imposed on music by the demands of style and the market place, it leaves us woefully unprepared for listening to and appreciating the work of contemporary composers in the field of electronic music. Even those of us familiar with orchestral music or avant-garde jazz are ill-prepared for the demands of the genre. For even within the apparent anarchy of the wildest jazz there are still sounds which we can identify. No matter how far afield the music might drift from any rhythmic pattern we recognize, the fact that we can still distinguish the sound of a drum, or other instrument we know, gives us a comfort level that we can build from in order to obtain a level of comprehension when listening to the music.
So when faced with the electronically produced sounds of the modern composition we become close to illiterate as our brains have no understanding of the language being used by the composer. For most of us, the harder we try and understand what a piece might be, the more we frustrate ourselves as we continue to try and impose what we know onto something alien. Like somebody learning to appreciate abstract art after years of only looking at realism and portraiture, we have to forget what we know and try and appreciate the experience on an emotional instead of a intellectual level.
Take for example Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu's latest release, Wounded Breath, on Aucourant Records. At first listen the five compositions on the disc might sound to you like little more than a collection of electronic noises that have no meaning. Squeaks, squawks, and Gods know what other sounds issue forth from your speakers following no pattern that you can understand and not forming anything that you would even dream of calling a melody.
The key to listening to this music is to try and get past your preconceived notions of what music is and then to go forward from there. Anyway, you'll soon find that there are recognizable patterns and rhythms in the music, it's just a matter of learning what to listen for. Now I don't mean to make it sound like it's work to listen to Helvacioglu, because although it does require more of a commitment than listening to your average pop tune, that doesn't mean it's hard work. Unfortunately for many of us the act of listening has become a passive activity and we have forgotten how it can also make us active participants in the music being played.