Hearing what we listen to

We usually know what we like, if we’re talking about food, color, or favorite holiday, but can we speak with the same level of confidence about the type of music we like?

Everyone likes at least one kind of music. Usually it is the type of music with which we are most familiar, and it often becomes the only kind of music we like to listen to. In other words, we know what we like, but we also like what we know.

Classical music requires listening skills, because hearing what happens to the sound is the very essence of this type of music, and thats where many people realize that hearing and listening are not the same thing. Unless we have a strong background in music, listening receptively is going to require some effort, such as for example, developing the habit of listening to the specific features of each particular piece. Among those features are:

the nature of melodies

the texture of the music

rhythm and its patterns

changes in dynamic

tone qualities

the form

We usually don’t pay attention to this features while listening to the popular music, we understand it with just ” absorbing” it.  In order to learn how to listen to classical music in a contemplative way, we need to improve memory for music. At any particular moment only a millisecond of piece can be heard. What sounded before exists only in our memory, and what will be heard after that, can only be a guess based on what was heard previously.

Each note in a musical work evokes some response if it is noticed. The change in rhythm, note in a chord, or the instrument playing a melody, affects a listener’s response. A sensitivity to what is heard in music is nearly as important as remembering it.

Eventually you will be able to recognize broad, general styles of music according to historical periods, by listening, remembering what you heard, connecting the dots and placing it in the right context.

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