Does music need a listener?

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some guy
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Does music need a listener?

Post by some guy » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:41 pm

In an obvious riff off of THEHORN's recent melodic thread, I'd like to hear what people think about listeners and listening. Many posts about music contain assumptions about listeners; it might be enlightening, revealing, amusing to make those assumptions expicit. One that particularly gets my goat is the one buried in the assertion that modern music doesn't speak to people, or that modern composers don't care about reaching the audience. One? I just saw two or three there as I typed that, and there're probably even more.

Anyway, it seems to me that a lot of misconceptions about new musics particularly would not have gotten such tenacious purchase on so many minds were the act of listening better understood--and better practiced. You'll recall that even the easy-to-listen-to Copland had something fierce to say about the decline of listening skills.

Music is not a thing. It is not a score; it is not a recording. It is a relationship between a score and a performer and a listener. (Or, of course, between a fixed media recording and a listener or between an improvised performance and a listener.) Anything can go wrong at any point along this process, though mostly blame gets assigned to the composer of the score and sometimes secondarily to the performer. Rarely does the listener's role get the scrutiny it deserves. (Rarely does a listener want to hear, for instance, that it's her fault she doesn't appreciate Carter's music!!)

And anything can go right at any point, too, a thing that will happen more frequently if we can sort out who's responsible for what, eh? That's seems a good, if impossible, goal; to have everything go right at every point.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:58 pm

I ask myself that very question when I hear some of Bach's organ music and Art of the Fugue. I mean, was that really composed for anyone but Bach as amusement for himself?

Seriously, in the tree-falling-in-the-forest vein, of course it doesn't. Sound is sound regardless of whether it's heard. But music is a form of communication, so that fact begs the question, "who is the intended audience?" If it's just the composer, he can knock himself out. But if he wants repeat customers, it better be an experience that people want to repeat. I'm not even going to touch the patronage issue of who must be pleased if he wants to put bread on the table for the starving offspring.
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by piston » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:58 pm

Without any intention of derailing your good intention, I cannot help but draw a parallel with how rapidly realms of knowledge become obsolete and are "deleted." In fact, I worry about how our commercially-driven world is leading all of us in only one direction: the most atrocious "popular" trend of the moment. Let's face it, we live in a world where money commands everything. Or, as Living Stradivarius put it elsewhere, where "quantitative" minds, ie, number-crunching rationales, prevail.

I don't think there's any way around this capitalist trend, at the moment. Whole segments of knowledge are being discarded because of numbers!

In any GRE evaluation procedure, one is evaluated for: 1. verbal; 2. quantitative, and; 3. analytical skills. Unfortunately, the current conjuncture is driving a single-lane evaluation: quantitative. In the end, then, it no longer matters how intelligent, insightful, incredibly inspired is the philosopher, the political scientist, the linquist, the historian, the composer. NUMBERS RULE, BABY!
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

SaulChanukah

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by SaulChanukah » Thu Dec 03, 2009 9:50 pm

Everything creates music if it generates a sound, even birds, the ocean, and the wind.
The human that creates music by writing his music down must want to share it with someone, otherwise he would just improvise without recording his music in anyway.
Now in order to be different then the birds and the ocean and anything else that generates music through sound, the composer must be unique, and he must create music that no one else has ever heard before. That's where he must learn the basic laws of composition and the elements of music in order to create distinction through his creation.


There is no serious musician that creates music just for the sake of creating music without wanting to get his music an audience.
Therefore any musician that creates music with a distinctive style, must want an audience of listeners.

But even to this there are always exceptions. King David, The Sweet Singer of Israel, used to play the harp and the violin when he was a shepherd alone together with his flock, he composed music to his Psalms and he sang songs of praise to God, and only to God.

Therefore it is possible for a musician to create music not for human beings but a total spiritual creation intended for the All Mighty without any other motives.

But there was only one King David, and the rest of us do create music so that we could share it with other human beings.

So to your question I answer that yes, our music needs listeners.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by karlhenning » Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:56 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:I ask myself that very question when I hear some of Bach's organ music and Art of the Fugue. I mean, was that really composed for anyone but Bach as amusement for himself?

Seriously, in the tree-falling-in-the-forest vein, of course it doesn't. Sound is sound regardless of whether it's heard. But music is a form of communication, so that fact begs the question, "who is the intended audience?" If it's just the composer, he can knock himself out[....]
But you think no less of Bach for having apparently done so, right?

Tangentially, I'll go ahead and extend some guy's question (and Corlyss's remark here) to composers of the past, say, 100 years. For now, let's just say Schoenberg. It must be obvious that Schoenberg wrote his music for more than just an audience of one (and of the name Schoenberg). Probably I could find a passage of the composer's own writing in the compliation Style and Idea which addresses this, but clearly (a) there is an audience for the music, (b) the composer was confident that he was not writing solely for himself, and (c) the composer learned early on not much to care if very few of the listening audience in his relatively immediate orbit failed to understand or enjoy his music.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Brendan

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Brendan » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:19 am

What was the question part there, Karl? Just looks like praise/justification of the lack of success achieved for the lofty intentions and ambition espoused.

To get back to the actual question, where does music exist? In played notes, written notation, a recording, a performance, the mind, an interrelation of performance and audience and such or a combination of factors? If no one plays Beethoven's 9th but the score is intact, surely it can be said to exist. Yet if we lost musical notation as well as recordings, then no one could read it and may assume it's just weird ink squiggles.

Performance requires an audience for a second night, just as a recording needs to sell in order to press more copies and so forth. For a tradition to be considered "living" then folk have to experience it - and want to. I can make all the din I want in my own home, and in one sense it is music, but I know it's so badly played that I would never inflict my racket upon another and call it Music. Trained or talented musicians may feel very differently.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:58 am

karlhenning wrote:But you think no less of Bach for having apparently done so, right?
Mmmm. I would refuse to answer on the grounds that my answer would tend to incriminate me, but my . . . um . . . dislike for most Bach is rife on this board. Gimme J.C. Bach and the one that wrote all those nice string symphonies any day of the week over pere.
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by scytheavatar » Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:19 am

The rule is very simple: some music are unique and require a change in the mindset of the listener. But that doesn't automatically make it good. If it still doesn't connect to me after repeated listening, bad music is bad music and trying to past it off as good music is ridiculous.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:09 am

Some guy's [Michael's] post requires some deep thinking, all of which I see in responses hereon. It's a complex question. While Corlyss is well known among us as an EM lover, a low percentage—at least on these boards—don't seem to partake. I'm one of them. It's a difference in people and what appeals to us. I also have to concur with Lyssie about Bach's Art of the Fugue. I listen, but rarely. It's the one piece of his that has no attraction. Most everything else is in the groove. On the other hand, I know performers and professors who place the AOTF in the highest position of Bach's works. Someguy is deeply attracted to contemporary music, more than most people I know. Yet he also listens (truly listens to music from all periods. But he goes back to that which delights: contemporary music. There is something built in to each of us as music lovers. I don't particularly like most contemporary music but I listen to some of it and even have some favourites. In the end, the music that appeals to ME the most runs between 1750 (or a little less) deep into the Classic and Romantic periods and up to about 1940 or so. That's a period of about 200 years of all kinds of composers. Whatever it is about music within that period attracts me greatly. I have attempted to determine what draws Corlyss into EM. What is she hearing that is so appealing? Why cannot I hear it and enjoy it as she does? I go back to the beginning: it is something that is built in to us as individuals that acts as the magnet. Anyway, at this late hour of 3:00 a.m., the brain is slowing down and I don't know if I have even touched on the points of someguy's original thoughts. One thing is sure, however, and that is that it is exceedingly difficult to take dyed-in-the wool listeners (who really listen deeply and sincerely) to music. It is usually very difficult to convince someone the merits of music that fall outside those peramaters (or fences) where they want to remain. I am looking for someone to convince me that something Carter or Stockhausen writes is as good (maybe better) than what Mozart or Beethoven or Hummel or Brahms wrote. There are, of course, those out there who believe this. It's their conviction. And I'll never understand why some people become angry about that ... that we (I) can't share the same kind of enthusiasm as they feel. In the end, I DO think music needs a listener, especially that music which was meant to be heard ... composed for that reason. In the case of the WTC, Etudes and practice pieces, I believe those should be heard as well in order to have a better appreciation for all a composer's music.
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:35 am

Sod it! Happened again. Post got wiped because I got logged off.

Some interesting replies.
I rarely get a reply to my thoughts on new music so I'll keep it short.
some guy wrote: One that particularly gets my goat is the one buried in the assertion that modern music doesn't speak to people, or that modern composers don't care about reaching the audience.
But in another thread you claimed that the metaphor 'language' was suspect. Could it be that avoiding at least some of that semiotic/linguistic metaphor is even more suspect? Perhaps future musical education should shift to train listeners just to listen (as John Cage advised) and pick up on events/sounds etc.

Poukisa mizik-sa-a gwo tèt chaje? Se pa ti traka. Nou selman aprann tande non? Nou konn bay lodyans epi bay blag ou ka tande mizik nef!

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:09 am

Brendan wrote:What was the question part there, Karl? Just looks like praise/justification of the lack of success achieved for the lofty intentions and ambition espoused.
It does not seem to me that James Levine (for example) agrees with your tendentious remark that Schoenberg "lacked success." Your remark just looks like sour grapes/justification for your personal dislike of anything that doesn't have a I 6/4 - V 7 - I cadence.

Since you need a diagram, Brendan, my point is as follows; I don't mind connecting the dots for you, especially as I see now how easily you are led astray by your visceral need to vilify any music later than Brahms:

Does music need a listener? Certainly. As Corlyss remarks, art is of its nature some species of communication. But, music does need all listeners.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by John F » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:13 am

Corlyss's mention of J.S. Bach is right on the money. Not because of the organ music, which by its nature was written for performance in public places - because that's where organs are. But other keyboard works such as the Well-Tempered Clavier were not meant for public performance at all, and Bach actually published his keyboard partitas, many chorale arrangements, and even the Italian Concerto and Goldberg Variations in volumes titled "Keyboard Practice" (Clavierübung). Which would seem to mean that the only intended listener is the player himself. Unless he/she happens to be deaf. :)

No, quite a lot of music doesn't "need a listener," other than the actual players. Most of the chamber and solo music of Haydn and Mozart, now a staple of public concerts, was originally played privately by amateurs, with some nonplaying listeners perhaps welcome but by no means necessary.

Modern music is a different matter, and despite Milton Babbitt's notorious High Fidelity article with the headline "Who Cares if You Listen?" (which he claims was not his but some High Fidelity editor's), an audience is not only expected but sometimes actually incorporated into the music and its performance.

There is such a thing as "Augenmusik," music for the eye, that's not meant to be played and heard at all, only to be looked at. One piece of this kind is Geoffry Wharton's "Ode de Cologne," a score which when turned sideways depicts the Cologne cathedral. You can see it here:

http://images.google.com/images?q=Ode+d ... CCwQsAQwAw

The Ode is playable and has actually been performed and even recorded by the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, of which Geoffry is the concertmaster. But that kind of misses the point, doesn't it? You'd do better to buy the poster than the recording. :)
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:53 am

In support of composers themselves not doing enough:

Leigh Landy in his book “Understanding the Art of Sound Organization” in Chapter 1 under The “Something to Hold On To” Factor, talks of his perplexity re composers’ reluctance to give potential listeners helping hands toward accessibility.

Inter alia he says,
“…a side effect of “art for art’s sake” movement dating from the [20th] century’s early years: many composers chose to ignore the interests, desires, and perceptual abilities of the public, focussing on whatever new protocol(s) they were involved in at the time, a manifestation of the modernist epoch……
…….What makes this separation [of art and life] more troublesome in terms of certain aspects of twentieth-century music is the fact that a number of these composers took little account of what most people were able to process in terms of musical content.”

And, “Reading postgraduate theses, programs, and liner notes, one tends to discover the formulae, often obscure and in most cases inaudible, that lead to the construction of a piece, or, one or more aspects that inspire a work, but which are, again, not necessarily to be discovered by listening. Why this so often happens ... has always puzzled me. What is missing is the articulation of musical content and structuring devices that can be shared or discovered that would thus aid willing listeners in terms of accessing works.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:00 pm

Chanced to find this in an old folder:
Arnold Schoenberg wrote:... When just drafted to a reserve company during the war, I, the conscript, who had had many a bad time, once found myself treated with striking mildness by a newly arrived sergeant. When he addressed me after we had drilled, I hoped I was going to be praised for my progress in all things military. There followed a blow to my soldierly keenness; surprisingly, the tribute was to my music. The sergeant, a tailor’s assistant in civil life, had recognized me, knew my career, many of my works, and so gave me still more pleasure than by praising my drill (even though I was not a little proud of that!). There were two other such meetings in Vienna: once when I had missed a train and had to spend the night in a hotel, and again when a taxi was taking me to a hotel. I was recognized the first time by the night porter, the other time by the taxi-driver, from the name on the label of the luggage. Both assured me enthusiastically that they had heard my Gurrelieder. Another time, in a hotel in Amsterdam, a hired man addressed me, saying that he was a long-standing admirer of my art; he had sung in the choir in the Gurrelieder when I conducted them in Leipzig. But the prettiest story last: a short while back, again in a hotel, the lift-man asked me whether it was I who had written Pierrot Lunaire. For he had heard it before the war (about 1912), at the first performance, and still had the sound of it in his ears, particularly of one piece where red jewels were mentioned (‘Rote fürstliche Rubine’). And he had heard at the time that musicians had no idea what to make of the piece — the sort of thing that was quite easy to understand nowadays.

It strikes me that I need not alter what I believe about the semi-ignorant, the expert judges; I may continue to think that they lack all power of intuition.

But whether I am really so unacceptable to the public as the expert judges always assert, and whether it is really so scared of my music — that often seems to me highly doubtful.
(from My Public, 1930)

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Marc » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:21 pm

John F wrote: [....]No, quite a lot of music doesn't "need a listener," other than the actual players.[....]
other than, which I think means: performers are listeners, too. Which is a very important notion. No performing means no listening, and no listening means no performing.
When a pianist is playing the piano home alone, it doesn't mean that it's only finger-gymnastics (or whatever) he/she is doing or practicing.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by some guy » Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:42 pm

absinthe wrote:
some guy wrote: One that particularly gets my goat is the one buried in the assertion that modern music doesn't speak to people, or that modern composers don't care about reaching the audience.
But in another thread you claimed that the metaphor 'language' was suspect.
Indeed. That is one of the assumptions buried in that assertion. And notice the direction things travel in it. From composer through performer to listener. That's how that communication model works. (In its original form, it's transmitter, thing transmitted, receiver. Same idea. Same direction.) Now we all know stories of composers at rehearsals changing things in their scores to match what a performer has just (mis)done. We all know stories of composers buttonholing performers for their advice as a piece is being written. So we know that energy can flow both ways. But when it gets to the listener, the idea seems to be that the listener has nothing to do but receive, receive and judge. Hence the empty arrogance of "I've listened* to it several times, and it's crap," which we've all seen many times in many forms over the years. Surely there's more to the experiencing of music than that!
absinthe wrote:Poukisa mizik-sa-a gwo tèt chaje? Se pa ti traka. Nou selman aprann tande non? Nou konn bay lodyans epi bay blag ou ka tande mizik nef!
Exactly. I can only appreciate this as music. I can get none of its meaning (except that mizik is probably music--and look how far that gets me!) except a smidge of grammar, unless you translate it for me into English. (With "mizik" in hand, I can make a good guess that the language is Haitian. And when I find "aprann" in an online Haitian/English dictionary, I feel even more confident. But I still need a Haitian speaker to translate for me.)

But if you hear a piece of unfamiliar music, there's no translating into something familiar! The unfamiliarity has to be dealt with itself. It is not like learning a new language, which you do, in part, by translating into a language you know. Fortunately, there's a sense in which unfamiliar music is like the music you already know--it's all made up of sound waves. And sounds are higher and lower than each other. Louder and softer. Faster and slower. Even, though this changes radically from year to year, harsher and sweeter. (This year's sweets are last year's harshes.)

In any event, there's change and contrast. Even in LaMonte Young's Dream House (which is simply a few speakers in a room playing the same two or three "tones" continuously) there is change and contrast, though here the change and contrast are almost entirely inside the listener.

Long story short (!), music has no meaning in the way language does, which should mean (could mean) that learning to enjoy new music should be less of a chore than learning to understand a new language! (And less frustration of the kind you face looking at a sentence in an unfamiliar language. No amount of looking, no amount of saying the words over and over again, will get you any closer to its meaning. Only having someone who knows both languages translate for you will do the trick.)

*As you can probably guess, I find the word "listened" in this context to be highly suspect!!
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

Brendan

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Brendan » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:19 pm

Before 1907, everyone enjoyed Moazrt's 37th symphony. Then it was discovered that it was, in fact, Michael Haydn's 25th and was dropped from the concert halls.

So what were audiences hearing - Mozart's 37th as they believed or M. Haydn's 25th?

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:44 pm

some guy wrote:
absinthe wrote:
some guy wrote: One that particularly gets my goat is the one buried in the assertion that modern music doesn't speak to people, or that modern composers don't care about reaching the audience.
But in another thread you claimed that the metaphor 'language' was suspect.
Indeed. That is one of the assumptions buried in that assertion. And notice the direction things travel in it. From composer through performer to listener. That's how that communication model works. (In its original form, it's transmitter, thing transmitted, receiver. Same idea. Same direction.) Now we all know stories of composers at rehearsals changing things in their scores to match what a performer has just (mis)done. We all know stories of composers buttonholing performers for their advice as a piece is being written. So we know that energy can flow both ways. But when it gets to the listener, the idea seems to be that the listener has nothing to do but receive, receive and judge. Hence the empty arrogance of "I've listened* to it several times, and it's crap," which we've all seen many times in many forms over the years. Surely there's more to the experiencing of music than that!
absinthe wrote:Poukisa mizik-sa-a gwo tèt chaje? Se pa ti traka. Nou selman aprann tande non? Nou konn bay lodyans epi bay blag ou ka tande mizik nef!
Exactly. I can only appreciate this as music. I can get none of its meaning (except that mizik is probably music--and look how far that gets me!) except a smidge of grammar, unless you translate it for me into English. (With "mizik" in hand, I can make a good guess that the language is Haitian. And when I find "aprann" in an online Haitian/English dictionary, I feel even more confident. But I still need a Haitian speaker to translate for me.)
.....
Long story short (!), music has no meaning in the way language does, which should mean (could mean) that learning to enjoy new music should be less of a chore than learning to understand a new language! (And less frustration of the kind you face looking at a sentence in an unfamiliar language. No amount of looking, no amount of saying the words over and over again, will get you any closer to its meaning. Only having someone who knows both languages translate for you will do the trick.)
And yet we suffer no such pains with our native language because we picked it up very gradually from when it became important to us as kids.

Thanks for your painstaking reply - more than I deserve! I find myself confessing I was a bit facile presenting an unfamiliar language but you understood the point. I still believe that the system of tonality does subsume certain aspects of language – or perhaps semantics – that permit listener anticipation and expectation. It can display features of grammar in phrase and cadence which have developed over a period of time such that the listener isn’t actually aware of the details, just as we don’t need to parse a sentence to extract its meaning thanks to our prior knowledge of the language, clause construction etc. I sometimes think the extreme conservatism of popular music: regular beat, harmonic rhythm in well-trodden harmonic relationships, phrasing in multiples of 4 bars etc, makes it as 'easy' as it is for people - monosyllabic, almost!

To an extent you have to admit being an exception, able to assimilate contemporary music (let’s say Webern onwards), presumably by finding intrinsic qualities that appeal without having to work too hard, given that much is not available on record. You have but one chance to audition it. (If the music contains impromptu elements a recording is only a snapshot*.) Edit: Also unless the score IS the recording in which case it should be available for repeated listening on some media or another.[/edit]

I consider myself similar though admitting I don’t find everything to my taste. Doesn’t mean it’s crap, just that I don’t like it. But then I seem to be more of a mindset to accept sound events as they happen. I still find the strictures of Classical music more difficult to accept than music post 1880. I get bored with its regularity, knowing that once I’ve discovered how it works, that’s it.

Every age has problems with the novel but I think the 20th century with a radical rethink of how the elements of music can be manipulated; additionally with inroads into sound-based music as distinct from note-based, presents a bigger problem than earlier times.

* as of course, all recordings are, but more so with musical indeterminacy.
(Edit 2: typo correction)
Last edited by absinthe on Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:53 pm

Brendan wrote:Before 1907, everyone enjoyed Moazrt's 37th symphony. Then it was discovered that it was, in fact, Michael Haydn's 25th and was dropped from the concert halls.

So what were audiences hearing - Mozart's 37th as they believed or M. Haydn's 25th?
I always thought that Mozart wrote so much music given his age, that he must have farmed some of it out to agencies! Just as I think Rossini probably had a good supply of carbon paper...

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by John F » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:58 pm

Marc wrote:
John F wrote: [....]No, quite a lot of music doesn't "need a listener," other than the actual players.[....]
other than, which I think means: performers are listeners, too. Which is a very important notion. No performing means no listening, and no listening means no performing.
When a pianist is playing the piano home alone, it doesn't mean that it's only finger-gymnastics (or whatever) he/she is doing or practicing.
Well, it's hard to imagine a deaf musician, isn't it? Any more than a blind baseball player. Though I'm sure someone here will name a dozen of the former, and even some of the latter. The way musicians listen while rehearsing and playing is quite different from what some guy's topic explores - which could be rephrased as, "Does music need a listening audience?" And the answer to that question, as I've suggested, is "Not necessarily."

About Mozart's Symphony #37: while most of it is indeed a symphony by Michael Haydn as copied out by W.A.M., presumably for use in one of his concerts, he also composed the slow introduction to the first movement. So if you want to hear all of Mozart's symphonic music, you've got to include #37 as well, or at least the first few bars.
John Francis

Brendan

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Brendan » Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:01 pm

John F wrote:About Mozart's Symphony #37: while most of it is indeed a symphony by Michael Haydn as copied out by W.A.M., presumably for use in one of his concerts, he also composed the slow introduction to the first movement. So if you want to hear all of Mozart's symphonic music, you've got to include #37 as well, or at least the first few bars.
I am well aware of that, but it avoids the question I asked. What were people hearing: the 37th as they perceived it to be or (largely) M. Haydn's 25th? If Mozart's additions make it his 37th, why isn't anyone recording it as such (that I know of anyway)?

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:17 pm

^^^ Purely an aside but Naxos seems to have made a recording. MDT doesn't append any notes however so I suppose it is the Haydzart hybrid...

http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product//8550875.htm


It is another slant on this topic: if Mozart fans knew what was going on, would they bother to turn up for the concert. Slightly different in that the music should present them with few listening problems, purely affront!

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by ChrisX » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:27 pm

John F wrote:Well, it's hard to imagine a deaf musician, isn't it? Any more than a blind baseball player. Though I'm sure someone here will name a dozen of the former, and even some of the latter.
I know of only one of the former: Dame Evelyn Glennie

Image

But then again: she does hear but not in a normal sense but by using hear whole body as a vessel / conduit. There is an amazing documentary on her and in fact on the whole nature of sound and how we perceive it: Touch The Sound. Very much worth watching

Chris
"Remember what's been given, not taken away" (Brett Kull)

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by absinthe » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:34 pm

^^^ Likewise, Beethoven's hearing had gone completely by the time he wrote the 9th, am I right? Someone once told me he rested his cheekbone on the piano in the hope of hearing. Was that possibly why his interest shifted away from the piano to the string quartet, as he was only interested in composing and could loose his inner ear through that medium?

Alas, I'm straying off topic though.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by starrynight » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:42 pm

All music has a listener...its composer. How many more listeners a piece gets beyond that depends on circumstances.

Brendan

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Brendan » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:48 pm

I'm actually surprised no one has gone "quantum" on this and pointed out that making an observation alters the phenomenon observed, or more correctly that the outcome of an experiment depends on the point of view of the observer. It's always an interaction/relationship.

May not be relevant, but thought someone would have mentioned it.

To go sideways, if someone composes a piece that no one else even recognises or acknowledges as music, is it music? Certainly not to the observer. So is it the art establishment who get to decide what is and isn't music? I trust my own ears a little more than that, but is the listening public such a great judge? I used to hate opera and ignored most classical until adulthood.

Another thought was the story of the conductor finding an inconsolable Wagner after the premier performance of The Ring. The conductor asked what was worng, had he played it badly or incorrectly, to which Wagner replied "No, no. You were splendid. It just all sounded so much better in my head." (quoted from memory, so be kind)

Does the composer ever get what is truly in their head onto paper or into the hall - or is it just the best compromise they can produce?

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:44 pm

John F wrote:There is such a thing as "Augenmusik," music for the eye, that's not meant to be played and heard at all, only to be looked at. One piece of this kind is Geoffry Wharton's "Ode de Cologne," a score which when turned sideways depicts the Cologne cathedral. You can see it here:

http://images.google.com/images?q=Ode+d ... CCwQsAQwAw

The Ode is playable and has actually been performed and even recorded by the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, of which Geoffry is the concertmaster. But that kind of misses the point, doesn't it? You'd do better to buy the poster than the recording. :)
Just the mention of music for the eye revived a memory of Rooley set from 30 years ago:

Image
Sorry about the quality - it was the largest I could find

My idea of Augenmusik (except I know this was meant to be sung as well):

Image
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by some guy » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:34 am

Brendan wrote:I'm actually surprised no one has gone "quantum" on this and pointed out that making an observation alters the phenomenon observed, or more correctly that the outcome of an experiment depends on the point of view of the observer. It's always an interaction/relationship.
Me too. Indeed, I was going for the relationship thing from the get go on this thread.

Which is why I was intrigued to see your comment about the Mozart/Haydn symphony. It reminded me of the Paul Ignace story about his Symphonie Fantastique No. 2. It is simply the score to Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, but when it was performed, the audience was outraged, leading Paul to conclude that it wasn't so much the sounds of new music that the audiences objected to as the ideas!

Be that as it may, I have observed that many composers are very difficult to listen to, their music is very difficult to hear qua music because of all the narratives surrounding it. Schoenberg being only one example. Lots of composers whose music is leaps and bounds more "difficult" than Schoenberg's, one would think, are swallowed whole day after day, while Arnold's fin de siecle gorgeousness still gets processed as ugly.

Shostakovich is another example, and he's had two narratives--the first one that his music is the perfect Soviet music, the second, more recent one, that his music is full of hidden critiques of the Soviet system. All those Ds and E flats and Cs and Bs first in the service of communism then sharply critical of it. And still the same Ds and E flats and Cs and Bs. It's the rare listener, one fears, who can just listen to the music plain.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:15 am

Brendan wrote:I'm actually surprised no one has gone "quantum" on this and pointed out that making an observation alters the phenomenon observed, or more correctly that the outcome of an experiment depends on the point of view of the observer. It's always an interaction/relationship.
Okay, stupid question from the peanut gallery: How is this possible? I've heard that as a fact in Kerlian photography, and maybe quantum physics, but never with tables and chairs and elephants and, you know, real stuff.
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Brendan

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Brendan » Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:25 am

What do you mean by real stuff? The stuff made up of the quantum strangeness (everything observable and lot that isn't)? And, yes, physicists posit that an elephant could do the two-slit experiment if the conditions were right. That on the macro scale things are messed up by numerous quantum interactions doesn't alter the basic principles. Tables, chairs and elephants have a quantum wave function - just a really complex one compared to individual photons.

But at a basic level, if you, say, stick a thermometer into a chilled liquid to measure the temperature of the liquid, the difference in temperature (how would the thermometer be the same temperature as the liquid?) of the thermometer effects the liquid it is measuring and therefore the measurement.

The (inter)relationship between observer and observed is a really weird one, but fun to explore.

James

Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by James » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:08 pm


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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by karlhenning » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:26 pm

Brendan wrote:To go sideways, if someone composes a piece that no one else even recognises or acknowledges as music, is it music? Certainly not to the observer. So is it the art establishment who get to decide what is and isn't music?
There are always both performers and audience in between the composer creating, and "the art establishment" deciding. (Also, "the art establishment" is hardly a monolith.)

To a large extent, Brendan, part of the bottom line is that, yes, there is in fact an audience for a lot of the music which you wish might go away.

Cheers,
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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Marc » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:44 am

John F wrote:
Marc wrote:
John F wrote: [....]No, quite a lot of music doesn't "need a listener," other than the actual players.[....]
other than, which I think means: performers are listeners, too. Which is a very important notion. No performing means no listening, and no listening means no performing.
When a pianist is playing the piano home alone, it doesn't mean that it's only finger-gymnastics (or whatever) he/she is doing or practicing.
Well, it's hard to imagine a deaf musician, isn't it? Any more than a blind baseball player.
Well, since John Lennon a lot of people are able to imagine anything. :wink:
John F wrote: The way musicians listen while rehearsing and playing is quite different from what some guy's topic explores - which could be rephrased as, "Does music need a listening audience?" And the answer to that question, as I've suggested, is "Not necessarily."
Music itself has no needs.
But my guess would be, that in most cases the composer of the music wouldn't mind if his/her composition would be heard by at least some more listeners other than himself/herself or the actual players. Music is still a language, IMO. An abstract language in many cases, yes, but I think it's not meant to be played to just some chair.

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Marc » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:55 am

James wrote:
Well, I'm glad Bach wrote that one down, so that I can listen to it! :mrgreen:

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by premont » Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:44 am

Marc wrote: Well, I'm glad Bach wrote that one down, so that I can listen to it! :mrgreen:
But why is it necessary to play this piece of music in that sucking sentimental, navel-gazing way?

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by Marc » Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:00 am

premont wrote:
Marc wrote: Well, I'm glad Bach wrote that one down, so that I can listen to it! :mrgreen:
But why is it necessary to play this piece of music in that sucking sentimental, navel-gazing way?
Hey, don't ask me, I'm NOT the piano player!

But there are loads of Gould lovers around the world.
So I guess it's got something to do with the personal taste of the both needed musician and listener(s).

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Re: Does music need a listener?

Post by maestrob » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:33 pm

The answer to the question is yes, even if the sole listener is the composer.

To clarify: What's written on paper is the map, not the territory.

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