Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to Listen to Music: A Vintage Guide to the 7 Essential Skills (condensed to 6)

Do you remember what was happening musically in 1982?

Musician BB King donated his personal record collection to the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company gave its final performance at the Adelphi Theatre after more than 110 years. Johnny Cash hosted Saturday Night Live. The musical "Cats" began an 8-year run on Broadway.

And this book, How to Listen to Music, was published. Like the "Art of Conversation," music listening is a practiced skill, which is part of what you'll re-experience in Kindermusik Educator training.

“Rediscovering” music, and learning to listen to it all over again, is one of the most unexpected benefits of training.

Excerpt and adaptation from the very inspiring "Brain Pickings" Web site, which recently featured the book, Music: Ways of Listening, published in 1982.

1. Develop your sensitivity to music. Try to respond esthetically to all sounds, from the hum of the refrigerator motor or the paddling of oars on a lake, to the tones of a cello or muted trumpet. When we really hear sounds, we may find them all quite expressive, magical and even ‘beautiful.’

On a more complex level, try to relate sounds to each other in patterns: the successive notes in a melody, or the interrelationships between an ice cream truck jingle and nearby children’s games.

2. Time is a crucial component of the musical experience. Develop a sense of time as it passes: duration, motion, and the placement of events within a time frame. How long is thirty seconds, for example? A given duration of clock-time will feel very different if contexts of activity and motion are changed.

3. Develop a musical memory. While listening to a piece, try to recall familiar patterns, relating new events to past ones and placing them all within a durational frame.

This facility may take a while to grow, but it eventually will. And once you discover that you can use your memory in this way, just as people discover that they really can swim or ski or ride a bicycle, life will never be the same.

4. If we want to read, write or talk about music, we must acquire a working vocabulary. Music is basically a nonverbal art, and its unique events and effects are often too elusive for everyday words; we need special words to describe them, however inadequately.

5. Try to listen objectively and dispassionately. Concentrate upon ‘what’s there,’ and not what you hope or wish would be there. ... Try to focus upon ‘what’s there,’ in an objective sense, and don’t be dismayed if a limited vocabulary restricts your earliest responses.

6. Bring experience and knowledge to the listening situation. That includes not only your concentration and growing vocabulary, but information about the music itself: its composer, history and social context. Such knowledge makes the experience of listening that much more enjoyable.

Learn more about Kindermusik Educator training on www.kindermusik.com

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