Gramophone guest blog

Why does pop music move us?

Moritz EggertTue 2nd October 2018

Moritz Eggert explains how he came to write Muzak

When I started to write Muzak, I originally intended it to be a kind of parody. I personally hate Muzak with a vengeance, all this stupid shopping mall and elevator music that is intended to soothe us like sheep. The piece was supposed to be my revenge – in the past I have often taken musical styles that I abhor (like German 'Schlager') and tried to convert them into something I liked. This was the plan here as well.

But when I started writing, something strange happened. The piece became more and more a piece about pop music in general instead of Muzak. Pop music is very often used as Muzak. Most of the time we don’t really sit down to listen to it but it’s running somewhere in the background, in cafés, in bars, in supermarkets. And it soothes us because it invokes something which I would consider to be a mutual 'memory of yearning'. The basic themes that pop music conveys are the basic themes that we all long for or can identify with: love, happiness, joy, sadness, anger. Sometimes they can be truer in their simplicity or triviality than a very erudite and intellectual statement could ever be, or, as the film critic Georg Seesslen put it: 'Where there is no kitsch, there is no truth'.

So in this piece I became a collector of simple truths, and of strange snippets of lyrics that we all somehow know from pop songs, but that are also kind of exchangeable. I’m a collector of many things myself (whiskies, board games, comics, and more) and that part of the composition process came very easy to me and is an aspect that I also explored in my piece The Collectors. There are no direct quotes from pop songs, but everything sounds like we have known it for a long time, though slightly crooked through my personal artistic perspective, which is sometimes ironic, sometimes serious, sometimes exaggerated and sometimes critical, even reverent in a larger section of the piece which can be understood as a homage to David Bowie (to whose memory the piece is also dedicated).

I tried to get to the essence of what it is that moves us in pop music. At the same time it also became a kind of Abgesang on what we call 'ontemporary classical music', or Neue Musik in Germany, so Muzak is a truly post-modern work that can also be read as making fun of a lot of the clichés of how to compose 'properly' that have been with us since Adorno.

But you don’t have to know that to (hopefully) enjoy the piece, as there is another story you can listen to, and that story is better told in music than in words. This is why I ended the piece on a hopeful note, harkening to the eternal power of our imagination: “Dream a little Dream of me”.

Muzak is out now on Neoshttps://neos-music.com/

To find out more about The Collectors, please visit: https://trptk.com/shop/the-collectors-download/

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