>Agreed...however, what I am suggesting is a sort of "force feeding"
>which requires active listening. I cannot help but wonder if listeners
>might be better served by developing the ability to listen to music on
>its own terms, versus having aids to a work. That way, they can develop
>a road map for all music, not just a single piece.
Force feeding is not a good idea for general audiences. Maybe for
trained musicians. I am reminded of my piano teacher who insisted on
my learning everything the hard way and did not seem pleased with my
success in playing a particular piece (Bizet) which I played well
just because I had known it intimately by acquaintance since early
> I am reminded of some great music writers that, after hearing a work
>>> once, were able to comment on it intelligently.
This reinforces my point: great music writers...
>True, there were some expectations
>what a Symphony by Brahms might be like, but then, what could have
>prepared anyone for the Beethoven Third or the Berlioz Fantastique?
Indeed. A significant point. I would say that the defeat of expectations
is what marks the recognition, on the part of the listener, of inventiveness
or originality in the composition. The defeat of expectations is highly
attention-getting. This can get to the point of actual bewilderment,
as in the famous case of the listener at the premiere of Beethoven's 5th
who went to put on his hat and couldn't find his head, but that can be
a challenge to the listener if it doesn't turn the person off altogether.
>It seems to me that we often judge too much by comparison
I am strongly inclined to believe that all judgment is a matter of
comparison, odious or otherwise. Without comparisons, what basis for
judgment have you got?
>Sometimes I think we might overlook music because it is "too
>conservative" for its time, or out of step. We might find a
>certain performance aesthetic to be appropriate at one time,
>and yet inappropriate for our time.
>For me, listening without having advanced information as to the name of
>composer or the performer, might lead listeners to being less passive
>and more involved in the process of the music.
One would hope so, but I fear that the requirement to do this would more
likely result simply in more empty seats at concerts. It is all performance
groups can do to get an audience for unfamiliar music at all. So much
so that some orchestras, to my intense irritation, lose their nerve and
advertise only the warhorses on programs, even though some of us attend
mainly to hear the works not mentioned.
>I cannot help but wonder if the passive consumption of music is its
>worst enemy and that anything we can do to encourage and promote
>active listening, to music on its own
>terms, will ultimately benefit the art.
I can agree that there is too much passive listening and that this will
lead to the kind of over-familiarity that breeds contempt. It then can
be very hard to listen carefully enough to learn the structure of a
>Is it too much to expect people to listen to music on its own
>terms? Or has the recording, and our lack of active participation
>in the process of making music, left us with, almost exclusively,
>listening on the narrative, or sensual level? If so, are these
>ways of listening less desirable?
Not sure what you are including in the notion of music on its own terms.
I do think music can be over-intellectualized, with analysis sometimes
the enemy of immediate satisfactions. This need not necessarily be the
case but it surely happens.
My early experiences with "music appreciation" tended to make me feel
both frustrated and stupid, because they stressed nothing but thematic
development, which is only one element of music, however important
to some musical styles, particularly the classical style. The music
that appealed to me, though, strongly tended to have notable rhythms,
instrumental color, and interesting harmonies that undoubtedly departed
from the "rules." Melodies were all very well but they often more easily
became boring than other elements--and it was all these elements together
that gave lasting satisfaction.
Your reference to the "sensual level" reminds me of Brahms' dismissal
of Bruckner's music, which, it seemed to him, led simply to wallowing
in the passing sounds. Debussy's La Mer has struck some listeners this
way also. For myself, I much prefer Brahms to Bruckner, and I love
Debussy--yes, for his sensual delights.
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