The Genius of Kind of Blue, and the Three Stages of Discovery

I have a theory about what coffee and wine have in common: With either, when you first try it, you don’t care what you’re getting. Once you get into it, you care what you get. Then, once you’ve gotten quite deeply into it, you don’t care what you’re getting.

Maybe there is something to this three-stage model of discovery, because an article by tech blogger Rian van der Merwe reminded me of the three stages of discovering Miles Davis’s album Kind of Blue:

  1. The casual jazz listener, on the advice of aficionados, acquires the album. It becomes his go-to album, because the textures are soothing and the melodies are accessible.
  2. The serious jazz listener, having the ability to comprehend and appreciate more complex styles, loses interest in Kind of Blue, partly because of its slow pace and mellow mood, partly because it is familiar enough to have worn out its first impression.
  3. The enlightened listener begins noticing subtle traces of genius beneath the album’s modest surface, and his ability to enjoy it returns with an updated perspective.


As I write this, I recall something similar I recently told a fellow musician during a barroom discussion of Mozart: “First you like him because of his pretty melodies, then you learn about music enough to recognize that the classical era is dreadfully boring, then you learn enough more to be able to pick up on subversive little touches, and you then realize why Mozart was so brilliant.”

Anyway, here is Rian’s article, in which he suggests lessons we can learn from Kind of Blue. This is a good read for anyone who creates, not just musicians:

Article: A story about Miles Davis and the nature of true genius

And if you don’t yet have Kind of Blue, for Pete’s sake, get it! You can purchase it through the link below for the price of a meal at McDonald’s, and you’ll be supporting the site in doing so:

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