Musical and Literary Endings

One my favorite bands is “The Bad Plus,” a genre bending jazz trio.  I love just about everything they have done.

I say “just about” because they have a few songs that end in a discordant or incomplete fashion, and to me that’s no ending at all.  I recall a story about a son who always knew how to aggravate his composer father.  He would play seven notes of a scale on the family piano and refuse to play the last.  His father, no matter the situation, would inevitably have to come back to the piano and play the last note.

My question — Is this a matter of taste?  Or is it “wrong” to end a song discordantly?  As far as my limited knowledge takes me, jazz is the only musical genre that does this, however rare it might be.  Can discordant endings be appropriate in certain musical genres and not others?

I tend to think that it is wrong to end a song discordantly.  Songs are like stories and should have a beginning, middle, and end.   The songwriter has a duty to their audience.  There should be wholeness, completion. Don’t get our attention and then not deliver.

But then I check myself, because I don’t always mind, and sometimes even like, movies or books with ambiguous endings.  Should ambiguous or endings be considered ‘discordant’ endings?  Why or why not?

 

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