Gramaphone ~ Image by annavsculture via Flickr
In graduate school, one professor insisted that we listen to music in a certain way.
I resisted valiantly! I had good ears, and heard a great amount of detail in the music without “help.”
A child’s concert experience
Soon after that, I had students in New York. One of them, an 8-year-old, told me during her lesson that she had attended a Young People’s Concert at Lincoln Center. I was excited about that, and asked her to tell me what it was like.
Me: What did they do?
Student: They did this piece by this guy named Frederic.
Me: George Frederic somebody?
Student: Yeah, I think so…
Me: George Frederic Händel?
My student ran to her room, returning with the concert program.
I look at the program and see that they had sung the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Messiah.
Me: How did you like it?
Student: Wellllllll, it was boring.
Me: Why was it boring?
Student: They said the same word all the time!
What would you have said next? I couldn’t tell her she was required to like it… she had listened, after all, and besides that, she was correct!
We talked about how sometimes the words aren’t so important, and that sometimes they can just be there and the chorus can sing like instrumentalists.
A regimented listening requirement, in this case, may have ended with my student hating music!
On Tuesday evening, I was listening to a jazz program. The experience of hearing music that sounds completely different from classical got me to think about what I was hearing.
Since I am not completely conversant with the vocabulary used by jazz musicians or reviewers, hearing and reading about the genre is something I find refreshing.
One piece in particular caught my attention. Why is that?
The piece was:
not performed by a singer
recorded by a group I didn’t know
The opening was played by tenor sax in wah-wah fashion. How did he do that? The instrument didn’t sound at all like a tenor sax.
The drummer kept the same off-beat through the entire piece. The only variation was that he was louder toward the end.
What was exciting about this performance?
it was new to me
- and it was fun!
Listen on the merits
I think that since every genre, every hall, every instrument, every performer, every composer, and every group is different, each type of music and each performance deserves to be listened to on its own merits.
Our responsibility as teachers
Our role is to encourage our students to listen, and then to follow up. A student may be interested in different types of music, use different words, and not fit the mold we had in mind. What we need to do is listen attentively while they describe what they’ve heard in their own way. And then, without ever telling them they’re wrong, put negatives into perspective and guide their listening experience.
What do you think?
Do you listen to everything in the same way?
Do you listen to music that you think you may not like?
Do you talk with your students about what they hear?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
- The best time to introduce your child to music (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com)