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Thread: Music and walking

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    Default Music and walking

    This thread is meant to be a broad discussion of this topic. Anything in your experience to do with music and walking, such as:

    Do you have any experiences you want to share regarding music and walking?
    Do you think walking is an important aspect of music and composing?
    What are the wider and deeper issues behind the connections between these two things?
    What are the pieces of music that make you think of walking?
    What are pieces that you like to listen to whilst walking?
    …and so on.

    I think these two have tended to go together for composers, a number of whom where avid walkers. Some obvious examples are Beethoven, Vaughan Williams, and Satie. Beethoven’s Symphony #6 “Pastoral,” Vaughan Williams’ Symphony #2 “A London Symphony,” and Satie’s Gymnopedies are like essays in musical form about their walks.

    In terms of some more strenuous walking you’ve got composers like Mahler and Webern who did hiking in the mountains. You’ve also got the young J.S. Bach walking 200 miles from Anstadt to Lubeck to hear Buxtehude play the organ (and Bach took a month’s leave from work to do just that, apparently!).

    In terms of musical tempo markings, the meaning of Andante is close to being walking pace. Literally it means ‘to go’ or ‘moving along.’ One piece that brings to my mind walking is the slow movement of Brahms’ Symphony #4, and I just checked and wasn’t surprised its an andante!

    Other things to do with music are walking down the aisle of a church. Here, sacred music comes in, as well as non-sacred. Philip Glass’ ironically titled piece Mad Rush was composed to accompany the Dalai Lama as he walked down the aisle of a church while on a tour in America. He was giving a public address in that New York church.

    More generally, walking is a way of reaching out and interacting with your environment. Be it a city or rural environment. For composers, it’s a way to get out of the music room or ivory tower and embrace the communities and landscapes around them.

    I see this reaching out aspect of walking as being important, and in some way connected with music. No less a political leader than Gandhi proved that the humble act of walking can change the world. His famous salt march, literally a walk from inland India to the sea, was an important political act on the road to achieving Indian independence. Gandhi first began to walk to and from work as a young barrister in Bombay. He started doing it to save money but it ended up being one of the most important things in his life. Gandhi argued that walking made him connect with people along the way, taught him about frugality, and also kept him in good health. Gandhi reflected that he learnt much more important things on those walks than he ever did working in the law courts!

    So, TC members, what are your experiences of and thoughts about walking, specifically in relation to music?

    Many people use ipods and iphones with earbuds to listen to music as they walk. But it can also be other things. I have had some interesting experiences walking. Sometimes I have caught a snatch of the same music I was listening to at home the previous day on a walk coming out of an apartment window, being played on radio in a café, or (in the case of non-classical) from a beer garden. I think of these as interesting coincidences, and they wouldn’t have happened if I had taken transport.

    So I’m inviting you – now that you’ve read this far! – to discuss anything to do with this topic…
    Last edited by Sid James; Aug-02-2013 at 02:05.

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    My most memorable experience was the first time I heard Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. I was listening on my iPod. Shortly into the second movement, I was so struck by the immense beauty that I stopped and just listened standing still. I lost all track of where I was and what I was doing.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    My most memorable experience was the first time I heard Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. I was listening on my iPod. Shortly into the second movement, I was so struck by the immense beauty that I stopped and just listened standing still. I lost all track of where I was and what I was doing.
    We hope not in some particle accelerator!.

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    Senior Member EricABQ's Avatar
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    I tend to take a lot of long walks. When walking in a wilderness area I do not listen to music because I like the natural sounds, and I like to listen for birds I may get to see.

    However, I do a lot of my walking around a large open space here in the neighborhood, and there the only thing I would hear there would be traffic noise, so I take the iPod on those walks. I find those a great opportunity to listen to longer pieces that I don't normally have time to listen to all the way through. So, those are good times to listen to symphonies and long concertos.
    I enjoy those times very much.

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    I especially enjoy the stillness of the forest and the sounds of nature, but about a year ago, I finally bought a Sony mp3 Walkman with speakers (I dislike earplugs and headphones), hence I have discovered the pleasure of walking in the forest to classical music. It is recommended to make noise to ward off bears, so I allow myself the indulgence, but I still like the natural sounds, too.

    Some of my favourite pieces for walking are:

    Bach's Brandenburgische Konzerte
    Xenakis' Persepolis (an outdoor favourite!)
    Messiaen's Chronochromie
    Beethoven's Violin Sonatas

    ...and many others.

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    I don't walk and listen to music; my mind tends to drift. It seems like many composers liked to walk and think; that makes more sense to me.

    As far as walking music, the second movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony sounds like walking.

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    I walk at a moderate pace, no matter what the tempo. Ok, maybe I walk slower during adagios and such, but that's it.
    And I love walking and listening, just to view the world around as I listen to the music. It's best when the mood of the music fits when I'm walking (A bright summer day vs a cold winter night vs. a rainy grey autumn day etc)

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    Walking, then and now, is one of the ways -- sometimes the only way -- an individual can get away from all people, at least directly, turn their back on all aggressive media coming at us from all directions, and literally get a different viewpoint, a further horizon, a sense of isolation (desired.) Non-westerners who have learned their various forms of meditation don't need to leave the house to attain a similar state.

    So it is not necessarily nature as inspiration, but just getting quiet time to yourself with yourself only that is needed. One does not need to be any sort of artist in order to benefit from it greatly.

    "More generally, walking is a way of reaching out and interacting with your environment."
    That is your personality talking, your personal take, I believe. It at least fits with so many of the subjects and themes which most often find you engaged.
    There is another reason for a walk: to get away from house, urbs, people, and getting out to the country, or more remote hiking, does just that... you are in solitude on the planet relieved of human edifice, company, all social structures. Many a composer (and non-composer:-) often walks, then, either in solitude or primarily to get solitude.

    Many a tempo is still generally related, for feel, to the body, walking fast, running, strolling. Andante moderato is quite the match for a modest walking tempo... so many a movement in that tempo is likely to be apt to remind us, one way or another, of walking.

    Then there is the walking bass, a device I delight in whenever I hear it, that steady pulsed near melodic line, usually drily accented, or at least non-legato, which in about any tempo is going to grab the listener with the association of locomotion, usually pedestrian.
    Last edited by PetrB; Aug-02-2013 at 06:46.

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    I recently moved back to New York after 3 decades in the Lone Star State. (I moved down there for my job.) During most of those years I had a dog or two, and went on at least four "walkies" every day with them. We walked through many different neighborhoods. In all those years, I now realize, I never once heard anything resembling Classical music drifting through the windows of the houses/cars on our walks. Not once. Plenty of Country, rap, hip-hop, metal, etc. But no Classical. Ever.
    "If I follow the dictates of my government, I will be violating the dictates of my god."
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    "Were my Maker to grant me but a single glance through these sightless eyes of mine, I would, without question or recall, choose to see first a child, then a dog."
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    I rarely listen to music via the smart devices and walk together. It's too noisy with all the traffic and surroundings. I think it's dangerous to drown out traffic noise with music as I have seen walkers nearly get hit by cars etc.
    "If a composer is not moving in the right direction, he will be killed, metaphorically speaking." — Pierre Boulez

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    There are so so many pieces of music that I listen to and instantly think of walking. Marches and march-like pieces are obvious examples, but there are so many more pieces that I get the same reaction. If I didn't restrain myself, I would probably stand up and start moving to the music.

    I was listening to this piece recently:

    At 3:20, when the piano comes in, I immediately thinking of walking down the streets of a city, feelin' smooth... mmmmm.
    An easy stroll.

    CONVERSELY:

    At 6:54, I ALWAYS see walking too, but of a much different spirit. I see someone swinging their arms, grinning, never missing a beat, more like a run-walk. Happy-go-lucky, on top of the world! Listening to this, I wanna get just get up and do what I just described!

    Just 2 examples.
    "Music is an art, and art is forever. Music should not succumb to fashion, which is passing and forgotten."
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    This! Wouldn't mind walking into Heaven accompanied by:

    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mYUMctFm60[/yt]
    "If I follow the dictates of my government, I will be violating the dictates of my god."
    -Chiune Sugihara

    "Were my Maker to grant me but a single glance through these sightless eyes of mine, I would, without question or recall, choose to see first a child, then a dog."
    -Helen Keller, quoted by Dr. Andy Mathis

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    Quote Originally Posted by CypressWillow View Post
    I recently moved back to New York after 3 decades in the Lone Star State. (I moved down there for my job.) During most of those years I had a dog or two, and went on at least four "walkies" every day with them. We walked through many different neighborhoods. In all those years, I now realize, I never once heard anything resembling Classical music drifting through the windows of the houses/cars on our walks. Not once. Plenty of Country, rap, hip-hop, metal, etc. But no Classical. Ever.
    I hope you've had a happy return to New York! At the least, I predict a dramatic increase of interesting concerts in your future!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Huilunsoittaja View Post
    There are so so many pieces of music that I listen to and instantly think of walking. Marches and march-like pieces are obvious examples, but there are so many more pieces that I get the same reaction. If I didn't restrain myself, I would probably stand up and start moving to the music.

    I was listening to this piece recently:...At 3:20, when the piano comes in, I immediately thinking of walking down the streets of a city, feelin' smooth... mmmmm.
    An easy stroll...
    @ Huilu - Another coincidence is the youtube clip you posted. The slow movement of Ravel's Concerto in G makes me think of walking, same as Satie's music, the dappled sunlight on the pavements. The Gershwin is to me like a sultry summery evening, it really makes me think of summer in the city. Smooth and bleusy it is though, I agree there.

    Quote Originally Posted by EricABQ View Post
    I tend to take a lot of long walks. When walking in a wilderness area I do not listen to music because I like the natural sounds, and I like to listen for birds I may get to see.
    ...
    I'm the same. The sounds of nature have a rejuvinating quality in themselves, its a thing that makes that kind of walking so good.

    Quote Originally Posted by CypressWillow View Post
    I recently moved back to New York after 3 decades in the Lone Star State. (I moved down there for my job.) During most of those years I had a dog or two, and went on at least four "walkies" every day with them. We walked through many different neighborhoods. In all those years, I now realize, I never once heard anything resembling Classical music drifting through the windows of the houses/cars on our walks. Not once. Plenty of Country, rap, hip-hop, metal, etc. But no Classical. Ever.
    Its rarer here too than the other types of music, but I have heard classical in that way on walks in town. But its more common playing on speakers in cafes, in shopping malls (I wonder if Satie thought of his muzak as accompaniment to walking down the aisles - supermarket aisles, that is? I think he'd be amused with this) and also large railway stations (that was in the past, I haven't come across that in recent years, they did it to make people move on and discourage loitering and gathering).

    I have also walked past houses or apartments where obviously someone is practising on an instrument. I have recognised some classical pieces I know in that way (esp. on piano). Sometimes they are things I recognise but can't name. It adds another dimension to walking (maybe a bit frustrating, the question of what piece it is stays on my mind as a kind of nuisance!). But with increased urbanisation and density of living, this can be noise pollution for the neighbours rather than something interesting as for a passer-by like myself.

    Anyway, to give some more pieces relevant to this thread, the middle movement called deposition (grablegung) from Hindemith's Mathis der Maler symphony makes me think of a walk, probably a procession of some kind. & in terms of walking in the inner core of some noisy and busy metropolis, Varese's Ionisation for percussion fits the bill, the siren is like a fire engine screaming by (and I don't particularly like those, but its all part of the buzz of walking in the city!).

    In terms of visual art, Gustave Caillebot's iconic image of flaneurs or boulevardiers in the increasingly urbanised Paris around fin de siecle period (Satie's Paris!) is a good visual equivalent of some of these pieces of music:


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    I don't like or enjoy listening to classical music while walking. I need to concentrate on what I listen to when it comes to classical or jazz for that matter. If I'm walking nature trails I prefer to not spoil it by bringing technology along. I don't even like bringing my cellphone, but as I often walk alone on nature trails (because my wife doesn't really enjoy it) I have one on me for emergency reasons. You can find yourself in trouble very quickly, especially in areas that are not heavily traveled, if you are not careful. I also do not want my one of my senses hindered. I don't especially enjoy having people come up on me because I did not hear them. I think it can be foolish and dangerous in this day and age. Too many crazies out there in this world. I was chased by a gang one time at night and it was a very frightening experience. I know I'm dating myself here but had I not had my Sony Walkman on me I may have been warned early enough to have either taken another way or hid myself. Don't think it can never happen to you! I was young and foolish to believe I was safe and invulnerable. It was a long time before I walked at night again and still to this day don't really trust people as much as I used to.

    Kevin

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