<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Begin with large-scale questions

When you drive, you shouldn’t stare at the road immediately ahead of you. Doing so causes your steering to be very erratic. Instead, you are taught to focus on a more distant horizon and also check your mirrors constantly for what is behind. You never lose sight of the road just ahead; but you subsume it within a larger perspective. This is a good metaphor for listening to music. Details are hard to remember and keep track of, especially when they begin to accumulate; it is also easy to lose sight of their overall relevance. Drawing your attention to large-scale issues of form, recurrence and destiny will help you keep your attention throughout an entire work; it will also keep you from becoming quickly disoriented when sounds are shocking or unfamiliar.

Be an adventurous listener

We live in the richest time for music ever: Thanks to recorded and broadcast media, it is almost impossible to have a day without music. As long as people care to listen, new music will always be written. Just as in every other profession, people reach beyond previous generations, challenging limitations and pre-conceptions and speculating about new possibilities, so too do living composers. People often ask about a new work, ”But how do I know if it will be any good?” It’s fun to watch the replays of a ballgame already played. But there is a special excitement when the action is unfolding live, and the outcome is uncertain. Bring that same spirit to the concert hall.

Closer study

Ask one question at a time

Deciphering music “holistically” can be a daunting task: There is a great deal of information—rhythmic harmonic, melodic, instrumental, formal, both short-term and large-scale--to consider. However, if you patiently ask one question of the piece at a time, you will be surprised at how much you can apprehend—even by ear. Begin with large-scale issues and gradually sink down into the details. In this way, you will build a comprehensive and confident aural analysis. Be patient with the process. When you learn to drive, it takes time and conscious effort to master each skill. Eventually, though, you internalize the skills into fluid actions. Similarly, “one-dimensional analysis” may seem laborious at first; but with practice, you will be able to consider multiple issues simultaneously and gradually develop “fuller” listening habits.

Do not limit yourself to a chronological analysis

If you have the opportunity to study a work in depth using an audio recording, do not limit yourself to chronological hearings. Listen carefully to expository and climactic statements, because these most clearly establish the identity of musical material. If you identify recurrent sections, play them side-by-side for closer comparison.

Build your subjective opinions from objective facts about the music

The more an interpretation is grounded in objective, verifiable observations, the stronger it is. Otherwise, it risks telling us more about the analyst than the music. In the module “Time’s Effect Upon the Material,” we discussed how the opening of the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is compressed to half its length when it returns. This is an objective fact; anyone can measure it. By listening carefully and consciously articulating what you hear, you will be able to bring many crucial facts to light. Build your subjective point-of-view from these.

When writing about music, support your interpretive statements with concrete observations. “The music sounded like flowing water” is too vague. “The music sounded like flowing water because the rhythms were rapid and continuous, were in a middle register so as not to sound too anchored and flowed in long phrases” provides support for the subjective image with statements about the music that anyone can verify. None of these observations requires a musical background, just careful attention.


Equipped with these principles, you will be better prepared for the biographical, historical and theoretical contexts with which music is often described. The specifics of a style or era will resonate with the generalities that encompass all music. A Baroque "Da Capo" aria, in which the singer embellishes the return, is an example of repetition without redundancy. A Classical Sonata form is divided between expository and developmental sections. Leitmotifs enable Wagner to rhetorically reinforce the action in his operas.

Our environments are often so saturated with noises and activity, we spend a great deal of time trying not to hear . To get a measure of peace and autonomy, we learn to block out the voices and sounds around us. We tend to favor familiar stimuli, because repetition is easier to sublimate. Music is an invitation to listen with our full attention. Listening actively to music changes the way we hear our lives: At its most meaningful, music shows us how to recognize the rhythms, patterns and recurrences of our experience.

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now

Source:  OpenStax, Sound reasoning. OpenStax CNX. May 31, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10214/1.21
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Sound reasoning' conversation and receive update notifications?