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Thread: How to listen to classical music

  1. #1
    Senior Member SamGuss's Avatar
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    Default How to listen to classical music

    I admit it... while doing some searching on the internet I found another forum. While I didn't join (didn't seem near as active as this one), I did run across an interesting thread that brought up the question:

    "How to listen to classical music"

    Basically the person was trying to understand "how to get it" in terms of listening pleasure and was self-evaluating his style. In turn a couple of replies and sharing their way. It brought up in my mind whether or not I "get it". After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that I don't. I know what I like and can pinpoint some things about it that I like - in probably what is a very layman's version and language.

    So anyway I thought this would be a great subject to explore over here and discuss with those interested in sharing their experience knowledge and for us newbs to reflect and speak on as well.

    Sam

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    i listen in different ways.

    in no order -

    the orchestra sound
    the emotion i feel within myself
    intellectual interest

    ...unless it's 'love shack'...that's just plain fun.

    dj

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Sometimes it's just a matter of keeping interested until you've fallen in love with a piece, as opposed to immediatly dismissing a piece on the first hearing.
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    In no order:
    Analytically
    Emotionally
    Uncommittedly

    With the last, I mean that I don't get emotionally overwhelmed, nor do I analyze. I just let it wash over me and I just enjoy its presence.

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    I have two ways of listening.. sometimes im doing someting and im listening to some classical music.. then its just background music for me and i dont even know that im listening something.
    When i really want to enjoy music, i need to focus on the music and i actually need to listen to it note by note. When im listening like then, then i can find all the beaty and passion in it.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    The way you listen to classical music could well determine your taste in music.

    For example, an overly analytical listener might enjoy Bach, Beethoven and possibly Schoenberg. This could be opposed to an overly emotional listener who might prefer Schumann or Rachmaninov.

    Just a thought!

    I think Yagan Kiely has the right idea - you just need to have a broad field of acceptance to fully enjoy all the fruits of classical music!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    For example, an overly analytical listener might enjoy Bach, Beethoven and possibly Schoenberg.
    Schoenberg and Beethoven don't have much to offer an analytical listener. Bartok and Wagner would be better. Bach yes.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    I love analysing Schoenberg - so there!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Oneiros's Avatar
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    An interesting question... Personally I don't 'get it' either. Some people like to listen to music and analyse its technicalities, but for me this brings no real understanding of the music, its sound, its purpose. Nor does emotional pleasure bring any lasting rewards - it comes on like waves, then subsides, leaving nothing.

    I saw a video of Jacqueline Du Pre playing Cello the other day... her 'presence' was terrifying (by presence I mean being present for every note). I couldn't really hear the music that she was playing on the Cello, and this didn't seem to matter. To listen to, or rather perceive, something like that, is unforgettable...

    Well, I really don't know how to listen to classical music... Whatever your heart tells you, I guess.
    Listen for the stream
    that tells you one thing.

    Die on this bank.
    Begin in me
    the way of rivers with the sea.

    ~ Jalaludin Rumi

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    I love analysing Schoenberg - so there!
    Yes, but unlike Schönberg, there is always something new in a Bartok piece. Something clever that takes the whole of western art music and folk traditions into consideration.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yagan Kiely View Post
    Yes, but unlike Schönberg, there is always something new in a Bartok piece. Something clever that takes the whole of western art music and folk traditions into consideration.
    Indeed - excluding serialism, avant-garde and British/American/Western Europe traditions!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Avand-garde wasn't a tradition yet (was it ever?) serialism is relatively new. British and American folk music no.
    Western Europe? Where do you think hungary is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SamGuss View Post
    "How to listen to classical music"

    ... It brought up in my mind whether or not I "get it". After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that I don't.

    Sam
    I gather you like music from the Classical and Romantic eras. If you want to gain extra appreciation, and begin to "get it", it's useful to know something about the key building blocks on which the music was based. There are several but one of the principal ones is the common use of so-called "sonata form". Most pieces, whether symphony, concerto, chamber, piano sonata, included an opening movement based on "sonata form". This is an important compositional device developed principally by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and followed by most of the later 19th C composers and beyond.

    There are a number of variants but all essentially involve a three-stage procedure of "exposition", "development", "recapitulation", with some works having a fourth part, the "coda". Being able to identify these components often helps improve one's understanding of the work as a whole. For example, the "exposition" sets out normally two consecutive "themes", one fast and one slow in opposing keys, which themes are later "developed", and then finally repeated and summarised in a slight different guise.

    To understand this more fully, you also need to know about "keys", major and minor "chords". It's not difficult to pick up the basics. However, I would suggest that the best way to get stuck into this subject is not by relying on chance comments made by sundry members of discussion boards but by a bit of diligent reading. You might start with Wikipedia, which is a great source of information on classical music and containing generally far more reliable and comprehensive information than much of the casual "comment" that normally gets posted on Boards. Start by typing in "sonata form" in Google and follow the links. It's worth it.

    To continue slightly further, Haydn and Mozart normally stuck pretty tightly to sonata form principles they developed. Beethoven and Schubert remained largely faithful but each stretched the compositional rules in rather different directions. Beethoven remained largely Classical in compositional form, although in outward appearance some of his mid/late period works have a more Romantic flavour, eg S6 and S9. In his orchestral work, he relied mainly on "motivic development" (i.e. variation of motifs like the famous one at the beginning of S5), rather than stringing together a series of melodies, in order to provide that strong forward dynamic so characteristic of his music. This trait is often what attracts many newcomers to Beethoven. On the other hand, after a while it's not uncommon for some people to tire of that sort of music, and to look for something more relaxing. A contemporary, Schubert, chose to rely partly on melodic development, and partly on experimenting with more varied and distant keys. He made little use of polyphony (counterpoint), but this was no weakness as he didn't need to use it since his melodic ability was so outstandingly good that it provided all that was necessary to achieve extremely good results on their own.

    Thus, while Beethoven in his music was driving and energetic, Schubert was soothing and melancholic, all within a broad common framework of composition. The two composers complement each other wonderfully, and I love them both. I have seen references elsewhere to your appreciation of Dvorak. He was a big admirer of both Beethoven and Schubert, as too were Schumann and Brahms.

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    Some composer's music I was mysteriously drawn to their soundworld without knowing why,(Mahler)...and others such as Stravinsky I didn't like whatsoever when I was discovering Classical music.Overtime I came to except their music without first time 'impression prejudices'.
    Others were a mixture of being instantly attracted to their individual styles and repeated hearing.
    I mainly listen to the music under the influence of cannabis and alcohol,which greatly focuses my concentration on my hearing experience of pieces that i'm not familiar with,which in turn reduces the amount of times I have to listen to it before I can say I know the piece.
    All in all, Emotional attraction to the way the music sounds,not being bored by what I'm hearing and repeated listening is the way I 'get' classical music.(which is I suppose the way I listen to 60's to 00's Rock music too.)

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    Senior Member Rachovsky's Avatar
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    I saw this on the other forum as well...I absentmindedly listen to it, try to think what the composer was thinking when he wrote it, and listen to it for the emotional effect. Sometimes I will listen to a piece so much that I stash it away for a year because I know every note that is coming and there is no more emotional effect, its just the same piece I've heard so much. My Play Count on iTunes of Beethoven's 9th is over 100 and I must say, I'm tired of Beethoven's 9th for now. I agree with Oneiros. When the music subsides the emotional appeal is gone and it's nearly impossible to understand what the composer meant other than if he was happy, sad, mad, etc.

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