In response to my post on Petula Clark, sunlizzard
raised a question:
"I'd be willing to bet that you have also trained your ear to intentionally not listen at that particular level as well, making it an option you consciously choose or not, as your listening needs (or wants) change...but.... what if you couldn't turn it OFF, or didn't know how to 'throw the switch'... or even that there was a switch?
I've had this discussion with Guidz, who discovered (and not pleasantly) that once she had learned aural analysis, she couldn't listen to anything without that 'running commentary' existing side by side with the music itself. I could relate to that; when I was first learning some of the basic mechanics of writing, I found the (largely unwanted) Inner Editor perching on my shoulder, distracting and interfering, when all I wanted to do was enjoy the dang story. However, I did eventually learn to throw the switch--bug off, IE!--or at least reduce it to a concurrent whisper, rarely all that annoying. I think Guido will learn the same thing. Just takes time and practice.
What say you?"
On one level, the answer is easy. My critical abilities as regards music are undoubtedly far inferior to Guidz'; the last time I took a music class, I was in 6th grade. What I know, I've learned from (a few) books and from (much) listening, and I'm nowhere near the point she's reached. The same applies to my appreciation of literature; I can - more or less - follow, say, Wayne Booth's theoretical discussions, but it wouldn't occur to me to apply his methods unprompted. To analyze a work of art requires me to make a conscious effort, and I can lapse into - in fact, I default to - uncritical enjoyment without any effort.
On another level, your own experience suggests that, to some extent, it's possible to gain control over one's critical faculties - to "throw the switch", as you say. Not completely - works that you once enjoyed can fall down the rathole, never to be appreciated again - but well enough to regain something like the old appreciation, transposed to a higher level. That particular crisis, in these areas, I don't know whether I've passed.
What I do know is mathematics. The analogy isn't going to be perfect, because, though mathematics has a strong aesthetic component, it has other elements as well; but I think it's close enough.
Consider the following mathematical puzzle:
Write down a number with two or more digits, but make sure the first and last digits are different. Now write it down backwards. Take the difference. Now, add up the digits of the difference. If the sum has more than one digit, add them up. Keep going until you get a single digit. Then that digit is ( under the cut )
Now, the first time I saw that, I was impressed, and I spent a fair amount of time playing with it - constructing other, similar tricks, and playing with the underlying ideas. Now, though, it doesn't elicit more than a smile, if that much, from me. It's too simple, from my present vantage.
On the other hand, a few years back, another professor showed me this:
Let A and B be two positive whole numbers - for simplicity, let's say A=5 and B=7. Now double B, over and over. Sooner or later, you'll get a number that begins with the digits of A. In this example, you get 7, 14, 28, 56 - aha! That's the one. But it would work if you chose A=723 and B=1125, or any numbers you please. (It might take a lot
of doublings; there's no way to predict how many.)
He challenged me to explain why this happens. When I confessed failure, he showed me why. The proof came out of left field, using techniques from topology, of all things, but it was so simple and so beautiful that all I could do was shake my head and say, "That is slick
!" And I still think so; the years since haven't jaded me on it.
And so the question becomes: would I sacrifice the ability to appreciate that proof to regain the pleasure I took in that first trick, so many years ago? Not on your life!
The benefit far outweighs the cost.
Is the analogy close enough?