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Why does listening to music have to be so complicated?

To answer this question, you ave to understand what I go through just to turn on the itunes while i slave away playing crossword puzzles online.  For me, it is like choosing a paint color for a room in my house.  "What if I pick the wrong one, and then I am stuck with it?", or "I don't want to pick a color that is too much like the rest of the colors in the house."  You may be wondering "What are you talking about?  Just turn on a different song...", or "Who cares what you listen to, listen to whatever you want....dork."  That may be fine for you, dear reader, but it is not quite that easy for me.


Listening to music is like food for me.  As a composer, my compositions are driven by whatever it is that I am listening to at the time.  Almost to a fault.  For example, right now I am writing a euphonium concerto that I am hopelessly stuck on.  At the beginning of the process, I was listening to a steady stream of Elliott Carter.  It wasn't happening.  But, now, I am listening to Stravinsky almost exclusively (when I am listening with purpose), and the piece is starting to take shape.  If I listen to music that distracts from the mood, genre, or what-have-you, I get stymied.  It's crucial that I listen to music that is going to help me stay on target for what I am composing at the time. 


It is also important to me to listen with purpose.  I always have a reason for listening to music.  Most of the time, it is to supplement the poor excuse for orchestration training I have received in music school.  If I have a score handy, I ALWAYS look at as I listen.  Sometimes I pick up things through osmosis, or by simply listening closely to elements of the music that interest me.  I can almost always hear something new no matter how many times I have heard a particular piece.


This may sound simplistic to you.  Or, you may think me overly impressionable.  The simple fact is, I agonize over what my listening diet is going to be for some strange and unfortunate reason.


So here is what five pieces I am listening to lately (in no particular order), and why:

1.  Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, "Sacraficial Dance" - to ascertain how Stravinsky orchestrates his brass to obtain that famous sound of his.

2.  Mahler, Symphony No. 5 - Melodic development...'nuff said.

3.  Leonard Bernstein, Selections from "Wonderful Town" - I thin one of the best Bernstein musicals, and a masterpiece of form and orchestration.

4.  Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11 - Orchestration, pure and simple. (Anyone have the score?)

5.  Schoenberg, "Chamber Symphony No. 1", Op. 9)


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Comment by SEDstar on August 25, 2011 at 4:05pm

when i drove a cab for a year? It was cool to listen to the classical station 10, 12, 14, 16 hours a day working. It... kinda "programs" me somehow a little bit.


I always say half jokingly, that beethoven should have statues erected in churches, and people should be forced to kneel and worship him as a god, LMAO... THEN tyler Hughes on here? Tyler! You DEVIL!!! (lol) anyhoo... Tyler sent me a link to Stravinskys spring rites sacraficial thingy... god, I'm glad I was sittikng down... i was just blown away.


GOD, theres 2 parts of me, for wanting to listen to it over and over again...


ONE part of me wants that piece to "suck in somewhere" and try to get some tiny GRASP of what the *&^% is going ON in that piece, you know? I dont know what I am HEARING. is it 2 simultaneous tonal centers? are they in polyrhythm? one moving clockwise around the keys, the other moving counter clockwise? Everytime I think maybe I have an inkling, I try to make a basic "experiment" on vst piano, but... *shrugs* I wanna have something sink in, so i can get "1%" of that swirling chasing energy he gets going!


The other part? Thinks its beyond me and pointless, and that it will just be self torture to listen to it repeatedly, LMAO.



PS - good lord, I looked at a link to the sheet Tyler *helpfully provided* (lol), and its just ridiculous. I mean, it looks like "note soup" and "key soup" and "complex random time signatures, a new one every measure"...


can anyone explain, in some basic way, what the *&^% is going on in that piece? I mean, I just wanna try to grasp the most basic CONCEPT of what ballpark that is in...


But yeah, i can dig where your coming from. Your watching what food your givin your ears and brain, like parents try to watch what kids their own kid hangs out with, lol. Doug suggested no music, a vacuum. Me? I'll toss out mybe listenin to an entirely new genre your not familiar with, maybe one you dont even LIKE, but appreciate on some technical merits...

Comment by Doug Lauber on August 22, 2011 at 11:29am
You're already an accomplished composer, so I suggest doing the opposite. See what happens. Try writing and arranging in a vacuum. Listen only to your own work, each piece as it develops. It could be an interesting experiment for you. ...Hey, just a suggestion.  -doug

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