How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

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How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

Post by dulcinea » Fri Apr 24, 2015 7:00 pm

I visualize a novel or story, with the themes as the protagonists and the different developments as the adventures of the protagonists. It does not matter if the piece is not programmatic, as the different moods and climaxes of a piece always suggest the development of a plot. A YOUTUBE listener of the WINTER DREAMS Symphony of Chaykovskiy, who first listened to it on his car radio without knowing its name, wrote that it suggested to him a pirate movie.
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Re: How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

Post by SONNET CLV » Fri Apr 24, 2015 10:25 pm

Of course, it depends upon the piece -- and a lot of other dynamics. Such as ... whether it is a piece new to me, or an old favorite on an old and familiar recording or an old favorite in a new and previously unheard interpretation ....

Genre matters. I tend to approach a symphony with a different expectation than I will a piano sonata realizing that there is much more color and timbre complexity to ponder with the former than with the latter, but that the piano sonata will allow for a greater concentration immediately on form and such things as key changes and tempo fluctuations due to the lessened attention to tonal color. The wonderful thing about string quartets is that one can delight in the sound of the four instruments, placed in four distinct positions in front of the listener -- more complex than a solo instrument, but not so dense as a large orchestra.

Too, the instrument matters. Since I play some guitar, for instance, I tend to listen to guitar music with a different slant than I will to, say, oboe music for which I cannot appreciate the "fingerings" and thus that sense of the work falls outside of my thought process as I listen.

Too, time period matters, especially in terms of structure. A "classical" work will tune me immediately towards forms, such as sonata-allegro (wherein I will attempt to follow the two themes and the key change, the development and returning recap), rondo (with its expectant return of the first theme), variations, etc. While a contemporary work from, say, the Donaueschinger Musiktage or Darmstadt, will bring me to a greater sense of adventure about what to expect (which is often surprise after surprise in a way that no more "traditional" work allows).

If I form pictures in mind, it is (one) because the work's program or title (think Berlioz Symphony Fantastique or Tchaikovsky's Little Russian) provokes such pictures, or (two) because my own imagination makes correlations to what I hear and previous experiences. But forming mental pictures or stories about a work of music as I listen is a lesser expectation for me and remains the exception rather than the rule, as I tend to concentrate more upon the aural experience. When listening to a recording, I do often tend to imagine the performers at their instruments. Often while listening to a piece I see flashes of the score in my mind. But both of these pictorial experiences are less "story making" and more related to the aural sense of the music.

So, it's a complex endeavor, and in some real sense, each musical work each time listened to creates its own parameters for experiencing the work. And I'm happy about that.

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Re: How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

Post by maestrob » Fri Apr 24, 2015 11:01 pm

As a musician, it depends on whether it's a familiar or a new recording. I tend to listen to 2 or 3 new recordings a week, so those I analyze, listening for tempo first, then sound quality and structure. If the recording is successful, then I post brief thoughts (after several hearings just to check my first impressions). If not, then I rarely post, unless my reaction is overwhelmingly negative and I feel a duty to warn. Also, I tend to check things that feel or sound different in a new recording against a score if I have it in my library. My tendency is to let old friends wash over me, since I already know they're correct.

SONNET: That was an excellent post :D !

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Re: How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

Post by John F » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:20 pm

Attentively. I do not play classical music in the background - it immediately takes over the foreground. And I don't listen to other kinds of music at all. I visualize nothing, except that in an audio recording of an opera I may sometimes remember the setting or a stage picture of a production I once saw, but this almost never happens. Visualizing is a kind of day-dreaming, and inevitably it would draw attention away from the music.

The main exception would be music that is overtly intended to evoke pictures or tell a story. Musorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is an obvious example of the former, and I should think it's impossible not to visualize when listening to it - though what we visualize is certain to be very different from the Hartmann pictures Musorgsky had in mind. Dukas's "Sorcerer's Apprentice" depicts the events in Goethe's poem and makes no sense as anything but illustrative music. "Viviane," the symphonic poem by Dukas's contemporary Chausson, is intended to tell us of the princess and her enchantment of Merlin, but lacks any account by the composer of the images and events that the music is supposed to depict; trying to puzzle it out distracts from the music.

But all this is worlds away from imagining a pirate movie when hearing a Tchaikovsky symphony. The first two movements of Tchaikovsky's 1st symphony have titles provided by the composer, "Dreams of a Winter Journey" and "Land of Desolation, Land of Mists," and these are evocative enough. The finale uses a Russian folksong, and while it may merely have provided him with a theme, if you know its words you can see if they make sense of the movement's musical events. The scherzo was largely composed for a student work and recycled (in revised form) for the symphony; what it has to do with winter dreams is anybody's guess. So the YouTube commenter can hardly have been on Tchaikovsky's wavelength.
Last edited by John F on Sun Apr 26, 2015 4:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How Do You Listen To A Musikwerk?

Post by Heck148 » Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:13 pm

I don't visualize anything, as a rule...I listen to the sound - I just let my ear follow the path set forth by the composer or performer...try to take it all in, all the lines, the chord progressions, if there are any, what instruments or voices are doing what...try to make your mind a blank slate - even if you know the work intimately. I try to do this each time I acquire a new recording of a familiar work.
listening can have all sorts of different levels, depending on whether you are engaged in other activities, or if you just want to listen, undistracted....sometimes you are busy with something or engaged in conversation...all are rewarding in their own right..
if you really concentrate, it's very intense, but rewarding....sometimes I'll only listen to one movement of a work at a time...and really listen to it, with no distractions...other times, I'll be reading or engaged in some other activity

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