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Topic: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Silh's Avatar
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    So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    I'm just curious as to what everybody's mind does when listening to a piece of music. I know we got composers all around, people who play various instruments, recording engineers... How does your particular musical background, and perhaps usual/favourite genres of music, affect how you listen to a piece and how you appreciate it?

    For myself, I tend to hear the composition more than the performance. I'm not really sure if this is due to my musical background being in choral music, but my mind has a habit of just starting to pick out all the different parts. I'll forgive a mediocre performance if I like the way it's written, but woe to you if you've written a bass part consisting of 4 notes in total (just kidding, just kidding! Okay, not entirely, but it does make it difficult to listen to a lot of popular music...). I don't tend to focus a whole lot on the dynamics quite as much, or the nuances of each instrument's performance, though relative balance of each part gets noticed. Stereo/spatial positioning is totally lost on me... When I listen to vocal music, whether popular music or not, for some reason lyrics tend to get ignored until subsequent hearings...

    So as I think of all this, I have to make a conscious effort to pay more attention to the things I tend to overlook... especially for working on my own pieces. That's why it always is good to get other opinions

    What do you hear when you listen to music?
    -- Matt Wong

  2. #2

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    From student until now (still a student, hopefully) - as my education and musical experience (the triangle - playing/writing/conducting) continues, the depth and insight into all musical elements, through listening, constantly deepens and expands. I don't believe, if we are engaged, that this process ever ends.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    Good topic, Silh,

    I absolutely need to pre-determine in my mind how I'm going to listen to a piece of music, since there are so many ways to do it (speaking for myself!).

    I may just let it wash over me and let it play on my emotions, or the other extreme is to listen analytically and just plain figure out what is going on (arrangement, voicings, lyrics, bass clarinet part, etc.). In between, I more often than not visualize the musical performance by musicians ... as if I'm there live, not only hearing the piece, but actually seeing the piece performed as well.

    I could never do all these different (and other unlisted) ways simultaneously, hence the predetermination ... consciencously or not.

    Regards,

    Frank

  4. #4

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    I always end up hearing each part separately in my head and analyze it as the music progresses. I don't have good pitch so instead I essentially see the movements and colour of each note within a mental image in my mind.

    When vocals are involved, then this is where my listening capabilities become somewhat strange. As my mind focuses so much on analyzing the music, language processing seems to turn off. I don't hear words but rather hear the pitch, timbre, dynamics, and other properties of the note being sung. For me to understand the words and thus get the meaning of the lyrics, I have to take a second listen and focus solely on processing the language aspect of the piece.

    Interesting note: I can memorize lyrics not in English quicker than those in English when listening to music. And yet I'm a native English speaker. The human brain is just confusing.
    Colton J. Provias
    Film Score Composer, Location Sound Mixer, and Sound Editor
    Full-stack Web Developer

  5. #5
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    Well, I usually ignore the words, because so often the prosody is not good, and detracts from the music. Pop songs drive me bats. It is strange to hear somebody brightly and happily singing about how sad they are. In general, I like opera as long as I don't understand the words!

    When I listen, I listen on several layers. First, the overall package. Secondly, the blending of the parts I never try to put a program to the music. Pure music is all that really interests me, even though I sometimes give my compositions descriptive names. I listen carefully to the counterpoint. The rhythm is less important unless it is poorly done or does not fit the rest of the music. The harmony is far more interesting to me than the rhythm, and I really enjoy it when the harmony is derived from the interplay of several melodies. Lyrics are just something to hang a melody on. I don't have much appreciation of poetry, except the prologue and epilogue to Evangeline, and The Hermit of Shark Tooth Shoal.

    I nearly forgot; extremely important qualities for me are tone quality and intonation.

    If I say more, I may begin to sound virulent and vitriolic, so . . . . . .

    Richard

  6. #6

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    This is a great question as I have started to just listen to music again. It seems I was always analyzing pieces and while that's a good way to learn I just miss enjoying listening.

    So I'm back to enjoying listening again after about 15 years.

    If I'm composing then I'm analyzing right up until mixdown.

  7. #7

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silh View Post
    What do you hear when you listen to music?
    Huh?
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  8. #8

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    This is an interesting question.

    Like most who have already posted on this particular thread, it depends on my frame of mind. I tend to "listen in layers", especially if hearing, analyzing and critiquing music for the first or second time. Coming from a compositional background, when I come here and listen to the examples provided from fellow forum-members, I tend to be more "forgiving" with the production aspect of the music and focus my attention on the composition. But FYI, for those of you who do add your music to the GPO listening room, I will very rarely add criticism to the composition aspect of the music. I simply don't consider myself worthy to provide criticism to another person's compositional skills. Rather, I might offer suggestions on the technical aspect of the music; I might offer different choices for sequencing or mix-down, etc.. However, if and when a composition moves me, I will lavish positive comments to the composers.

    To be clear, though when I listen to commercial music on the radio and television, music that I DO NOT LIKE, where people and companies are making lots of $$$$, I hear different things. I hear LOUD voices in my head. I hear comments like, "This really sucks!" or "How can such untalented individuals make so much money from this CRAP!!!" or "A freakin' monkey can write better music than this dude!!" or "Even I can write better music than this dude!" or "I wish it was ME making MONEY for writing crappy music like this crap!!!" LOL!

    (In my mind, commercial music lends itself to be wide open for negative criticism when it's bad! There are way too many talented composers, who will never see one penny for the music that they write, that are better composers than those who write much of the crap heard now-a-days on the commercial radio and television! In other words, there are too many undeserving individuals making money for writing crap! ARGH!!!!!)

    But other than that. . . I tend to keep negative opinions to myself. . . LOL!
    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    Hi Again ...

    Ted: I enjoyed all your comments and agree in heart with all of them .

    I'll also offer a disclaimer for what's to follow: "There's good and bad music, commercial or otherwise, in all genres imaginable". It may be simplistic, but I believe that.

    My perspective on commercial music is a bit different though. I honestly feel that a lot of the poorly written and produced music (especially when you get into music for film/TV), is not so much the fault of the composer, but almost always, the faults of the producers.

    The order is almost always the same: "Create whatever you want ... as long as it sounds exactly like 'CSI-New Lebanon' (bet you didn't realize a CSI franchise is coming to your neighborhood soon!).

    When I worked with a successful dance music producer (his older stuff still plays on dance music stations), and although I did mostly recording for him, he occasionally would give me a song high on the charts and tell me to "flip-it". In other genres, the order would be to "turn it on it's side". I.E., original melody, but possibly rhythmically identical, usually identical harmony, and arranged and orchestrated just like the original ... Ughhhhh! (Some knowledge of retrograde and inversion is an asset LOL).

    Ironically, he wrote and had successes with very original songs, but every once in a while (and he had a knack for knowing the market at that exact point in time), he caved. He seemed to know just when the public wanted and was ready for another spoonful of crap.

    It's the very nature of the word commercial ... and producers and investors, wanting instant gratification ... and $$$ ... often want the composer to check his creativity at the door.

    Regards,

    Frank

  10. #10

    Re: So what do you hear when you listen to music?

    My perspective on commercial music is a bit different though. I honestly feel that a lot of the poorly written and produced music (especially when you get into music for film/TV), is not so much the fault of the composer, but almost always, the faults of the producers.
    I was thinking about this after I wrote my post, especially with regards to film and TV underscore music. I will also add that despite time constraints and producer-pressure , there are a lot of well-fitting film & TV underscore music, at least to my modest ears. For example, I like the music to "NCIS"! LOL! For the most part, it seems that the music fits the scene. Also, I LOVE the style of music written to the TV show, "Dead Like Me".

    When I worked with a successful dance music producer (his older stuff still plays on dance music stations), and although I did mostly recording for him, he occasionally would give me a song high on the charts and tell me to "flip-it". In other genres, the order would be to "turn it on it's side". I.E., original melody, but possibly rhythmically identical, usually identical harmony, and arranged and orchestrated just like the original ... Ughhhhh! (Some knowledge of retrograde and inversion is an asset LOL)
    I was involved with a group of nurses that wrote the "world's first musical about nursing and the current state of health-care." (The name of the two-act musical was "Who's Got the Keys?") I'm proud to say that this musical premiered at a humor in health-care convention held in Disneyland at Anaheim, California. It was well received by the audience. We even video-taped it and sold all 2,000 copies of the video. I wrote the music. As a way to guide his writing, the main lyricist wrote the words to one song which was based rhythmically and form-wise on a somewhat well-known Disney tune. Needless to say, I did a WHOLE lot of retrograde and inversion to the melody as well as re-harmonize the heck out of the tune!!! For the most part, it was a different tune, even rhythmically! But boy was it hard NOT to sound like that Disney song!! In this case, though we all WANTED to sound and be original, as much as possible. It seems that for some lyricists like my nurse-friend and co-writer of the musical that I mentioned, the rhyming patterns and meters of their lyrics are based on other tunes.

    We had a BLAST writing and performing that musical. It made itself known in the nursing world, 13/14 years ago. I hope to do a project like that one again someday.

    Oh well. . . memories. . .
    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

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