Monday, March 01, 2010

On Music and Listening

Today, I have a guest blogger: my daughter, Lauren.

On Music and Listening

I came up with an interesting theory the other day, and I am curious to hear your thoughts.

My mother and I were driving home from another college audition, and she began to read Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen for in Music” out loud to me. As I was listening, I thought about how listening closely to someone reading is like listening to someone playing a piece of music, or even listening closely to your own playing.

People have often told me that I “have a good ear” or “listen well” in musical situations. I’ve always wondered what caused me to have such a good ear, and whether it is something innate or something I have been trained to be good at over time. As most of you know, I was brought up in my musical education using the Suzuki method, and there was never a moment in our home when music was not being heard or played. My mother, as a good Suzuki parent, always ensured that I listened to good music. But she also did something else; she read to me.

When my sister and I were little, my mother read to us all the time. We would pile on the couch and listen intently as we looked at the pictures in the books. Perhaps that focus, that intent listening might have helped my brain become better at listening, not only when listening to someone read a book out loud, but also when listening to music. Wouldn’t it be logical that you would be using the same part of your brain in both situations?

When listening to someone read out loud, you are essentially multi-tasking. You must listen to the words you hear at the present, comprehend them, remember what happened just before that, and anticipate what is happening next. If your mind wanders off, you lose the story line and you forget where you were going. Of course, you still hear the words, but they pass through one ear and out the other without a second thought. I think music may be virtually the same phenomenon.

It is in my opinion that good ear can certainly be acquired. In my case, I think it is simply something I’ve always done. (Listened, that is.) That part of my brain has always been exercised and stretched from the time I was born, which has allowed me to listen so well.

What do you think?

1 comment:

pita-woman said...

What do I think? I'm thinking that I hope YOU were doing the driving and your mother was the passenger if she was reading Copland to you. ;)


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