Do not confuse nonsense with deeper thought. It is difficult to discern the two before you explore the depths yourself, because both appear on the surface to display certain disconnects. We expect one plus one to equal two. When someone presents to us something that breaks from our expectations, it is not a safe to assume that the nature of that disconnect is a form of deeper thought.
My idea of what deep thought really is may be a bit different from other people’s. I readily acknowledge this right now, before I write anymore on this topic. It seems to me that most other people I know see “deep thought” as being emotional, not practical or rational. They associate “deep thoughts” with more strongly “felt” emotions. Not me.
To me, “deeper thoughts” are thoughts that explore the depths of each subject in levels. Deeper thoughts explore deeper levels of cause and effect, deeper levels of historic significance, deeper levels of implication, etc. Deeper thoughts are like playing chess with life.
An example of a deeper thought I try to expose my students to is the idea of deferred gratification. A LOT of what I assign as a teacher is dreadfully boring. If the students cannot think deeper thoughts than just “I’m bored, I don’t like this, I want to play music that’s fun”, then they will never experience the greater levels of joy that come with practicing the things I assign to them. That is a wonderful example of second level deep thinking. Shallow thinking says “I’m bored, I won’t do this.” Going one level deeper says “I may not enjoy doing this now, but I know I will enjoy the results of my effort in the future.”
To me, the more levels you explore in your mind in that way, the deeper your thoughts really are. This is in stark contrast to the more popular ideal of what deep thinking is. To me, what is labeled most often as being “deep” in the music community is actually EXTREMELY shallow. I believe that thinking only on an emotional plane is as shallow as you can get. Thoughts that are MORE emotional are not deeper. Instead, such thoughts dig their heels into that first level, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge anything meaningful beyond just the emotional plane.
Why We Confuse the Two
A lot of what is lauded as “deep thought” in the modern music world is nothing more than disconnected gibberish. It’s as if the composers/musicians have thought to themselves:
“deeper music sounds unusual and sometimes even out right weird [or offensive], thus, if I compose/perform music that is unusual and/or weird, then my music must also be just as deep.”
This is flawed reasoning and no amounts of emotional expression invested into the music will ever cause it to become more “deep” than just first level, emotional thought.
Music of greater depth is indeed often strange sounding because we often miss the connections at first. Shallow thinkers will have great difficulty recognizing the difference. It takes a deep thinker to recognize deep thoughts. To those who think only on the shallow, emotional plane, they respond to things which are mostly peripheral to the music itself. They respond to the facial contortions and body language more than they do the music. The musician who writhes in agony during a performance of strange collections of sounds is, in their mind, obviously a very deep thinking individual.
How are they to know the difference between that bit of weirdness and the weird disconnect they experience in a performance of true depth? How could they possibly recognize true musical depth if they have never explored those depths themselves?
Outside of Music
The same is true, of course, outside of music. Deep thinking is not emotional. It is a matter of exploring things in a way that leads to a greater understanding of possibilities. This is true in politics, science, history, relationships, anything you can think about can be done so this way.