Monday, November 11, 2013

Music the Gateway Drug to Listening?

Frank J. Oteri writes Music is the Gateway Drug to Listening in reaction to Neil Gaiman's essay in The Guardian about how fiction is the gateway drug to reading.  Just as reading is important, listening is also important.  Oteri talks about the buzz lately (or even in the past century): our ways need to change in listening to music.  The age of analyzing music happened in the Enlightenment era and is not on par with our culture anymore.  There are suggestions of a new era in our time where change is imminent and our "high society" music is too inaccessible to people.

Again, there is the topic of music being accessible nowadays coming up over and over.  On the other side of the spectrum are musicians that call music "too accessible" not artistic and complex enough.  In my opinion, accessible can also be complex, and not inartistic, cheesy, or for entertainment purposes only.  How we listen to the music changes the way we view the music.

Even when we listen to or practice music, we develop the skills to notice and describe music.  First we hear the different layers and textures of the lines, harmonically and melodically.  We proceed to think of the rhythm, meter, timbre, instrumentation, phrasing, style, and the list goes on.  If the music evokes certain emotions, we use what we notice to explain why the music evokes these emotions.  In order to convince others how we feel about the music, we must know the concrete reasons on how the music portrays it.  I believe being a musician is as much emotional as it is logical.  Our ears and listening skills put to use these emotional and logical aspects.

Another way to develop listening is through teaching or mentoring.  In order to analyze and help others become better technically and musically, we must listen intently.  Listening intently to aspects such as tone, phrasing, and technical abilities is important, but so are their mental thoughts.  As Eric Booth puts, on teaching artistry,  "'Listening, not imitation, is the sincerest form of flattery.' Fully focused listening holds an open space in the mind that is without judgement, free (as much as possible) of encumbrances from the listener's past and unclouded by personal preference. Aesthetic listening brings our whole selves to hearing not only what is said but also what has not been said."

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