0810858797 448p. 8 fig. US$49.95 January 2007
Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press
101 Ways of Hearing a Dog Bark
Walking the Dog
Strings, Surfaces, and Empty Spaces
Impressions of Beethoven
This series is about how and why we listen and how to listen to music creatively and confidently. It is designed to develop reasoning skills through programmed exercises in critical thinking and listening for readers of every culture, whether or not they have formal musical qualifications. The six-books-in-one format can be read randomly as a source of provocative ideas, or sequentially as a series of learning packages leading from discussion topics about the hearing process to critical engagement with actual pieces from classical and world music. A listening program is easy to set up, stimulating to take part in, and can greatly improve student confidence and writing skills.
Classical music has a strong effect on me mentally. The music seems to motivate me and many times it inspires me when I am on the verge of quitting.
I somehow feel like a better person.
FROM Book One: 101 Ways of Hearing a Dog Bark
What you hear is the truth.
The rest is up to you.
A dog barks:
An unseen dog that barks
is still a dog.
If you can hear it,
then you can hear.
In a bark,
a dog exists.
FROM Book Two: Walking the Dog
What you hear is the truth. The rest is up to you.
In order to come to a decision at all about what a sound is, or what it appears to be, you first have to believe that what you are hearing is a real event, and that your ears are not playing tricks. . . .
A dog barks: Woof! Woof!
. . . When a dog barks, there are usually two parts, a Bow and a Wow. A repeated action such as this is a basic indicator that the source of the sound is a living creature and not a random natural event. Here is a proverb: A tree falls only once. Some natural sounds repeat, like a bouncing table-tennis ball or a dripping faucet. In that event we hear the sound not as a random event, but as an organized process.
An unseen dog that barks is still a dog.
A sound is not the sign of an event, but the event itself. The name we give it, dog, is the sign. A recording of a dog barking is also a sign, not the sound of a real dog. You do not say of a real dog barking that it sounds realistic.
If you can hear it, then you can hear.
The world of sound is a picture in constant renewal. Sounds come and go. Our eyes tell us that the environment stays in place and is always complete; but for those who cannot see, the real world is a constantly-changing mosaic of momentary impressions. The more dependent we are on the sense of hearing, the more appreciative we are of what we hear.
In a bark, a dog exists.
In identifying a disturbance as a dog barking, the listener in effect calls the dog into existence. That notion of a revealed reality is the underlying meaning of the bible creation myth. . . .
You learn logic, reason, and a sort of sensitivity to the passage of time
from listening to classical music.
FROM Book Three: Strings, Surfaces, and Empty Spaces
All music is intentional.
All your responses
You are the advocate,
Seeing is believing;
hearing is comprehending.
Music is about
Music is about
FROM Book Four: Reflections
All music is intentional.
Music sounds like that because somebody wanted it to sound like that.
All your responses are true.
When you listen to music for the first time, your responses are telling you something that is true of the music, of the listening situation, and of yourself.
You are the advocate, nobody else.
Whether or not a piece of music or a work of art is to a person's taste is not the issue. The point is how you deal with it as critic or advocate. In order to convince anybody else, you have to convince yourself. And that involves acknowledging what, in fact, it is.
Seeing is believing; hearing is comprehending.
. . . What you see at a concert of music is a group of people, mostly seated, making movements with objects of various kinds in their hands or held to their lips, forming more or less coordinated gestures on cue from a person who is standing with his back to the camera like a surgeon in an operating theater. What you see is a mystery. What you hear is coherence, harmony, and change: a dynamic of structured and constant renewal that is made necessary, in the absence of any spoken narrative, by the simple fact that sounds do not last for ever.
Music is about information management.
The earliest attempts at notation were intended to record the dynamics of formal or intoned speech, to preserve in written form how a voice inflects to express the precise meaning of a text. . . .
Music is about people management.
. . . Music notation introduced new possibilities of complexity in the organization of groups of musicians. These musicians had to be able to read music, in real time, from the printed page, and at the same time stay coordinated as an ensemble. . . .
FROM Book Five: Sound Bites
Book Five: Sound Bites provides a core programme of critical approaches to over 100 easy to find audio and music clips representing 60 composers and 26 national and ethnic traditions.
A Drum all alone
Mohammad Esmai'li, zarb solo. 4:55 minutes. In Iran: Persian Classical Music. Elektra Nonesuch 9 72060-2 (track 4).
What can you say about a piece of music with no melody, no words, and no harmony? Is it music at all? This music track is from Iran. The zarb is an open-ended, bottle-shaped earthenware drum with a skin stretched over the wider end. When you first start listening, all you hear is a drum. The more you listen, however, the more you hear. The art of drum music is like the art of drawing with a pencil: you have only one basic color. . . .
A Shinto chant
O-hitaki matsuri: Ceremonial chant from the Fire-burning festival of Kobe, Japan. 3:00 minutes. In Kagura: Japanese Shinto Ritual Music. Hungaroton HCD 18193 (track 3).
This track also challenges conventional definitions of music. It is a live recording of chanting on one note by a small number of unison voices led by a priest. Because there is only one note being sung, there is no melody, and because the prayer is being chanted to a constant pulsation, there is no rhythm either. . . . So: no melody, no rhythm, no harmony, no variation in loudness. The image is constancy in all things. . . .
Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto No. 1 Spring. 3:44 minutes. From The Four Seasons. Early 18th century. I Musici, Felix Ayo. Philips 438 344-2.
This music is exactly contemporary with the Bach Brandenburg concertos. Bach is German, and the German mind enjoys complexity. . . . Vivaldi belongs to the Italian tradition of direct expression. The sound of massed strings is diffuse and atmospheric, and the movement also embodies echo repetition, adding to a sense of space. . . .
The Artist as hero
Ludwig van Beethoven, Overture Coriolan Op. 62. 8:26 minutes. Early 19th century. Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Stephen Gunzenhauser. Naxos 8.550072 (track 3).
The romantic hero is an idealized superhero, larger than life, with immense charisma and the authority to restore and maintain order. . . . Beethoven's epic scale of gesture is as grandiose as Goya or Turner. He sees the world in terms of benign but overwhelmingly powerful natural forces. . . . There was also a personal side to the big gesture, the obsessive repetitions, the refusal to back down, the apparent indifference to others. He was deaf. When you are deaf it is a struggle to communicate: you shout, you gesture, you repeat yourself.
Movement in all directions
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Flight of the Bumble-Bee. 1:24 minutes. From Tsar Saltan Op. 57. Early 20th century. London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn. RCA Victor VD 60487.
. . . Describing continuous movement in three dimensions is a feat that even a Monteverdi would have found hard to match. . . . The composer relies on careful observation of real movement, expressed in changes of timbre (tone color), loudness level (dynamic) - and, to a certain extent, on the actual trajectory of the melody in concert from instrument to instrument. . . .
Music reaches beyond the improvement of academic performance to a realm of improvement of the human condition.
FROM Book Six: Impressions of Beethoven
A collection of 101 adult responses to the slow movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in B flat. It offers a unique insight into the gender, culture, and nationality issues that influence listener perceptions. The Beethoven movement is a representation in music of conflict and conflict resolution with class and gender implications. The solo piano represents the artist, the orchestra the masses.
A conversation of emotions. The cellos [string orchestra] create an initial impression of strength; the piano answering back with an almost transparent sound which builds up and takes the spotlight . . . The music ends quite frankly. The piano did suggest qualities that are feminine, the cello, more deep, like a man. Respect between the two comes at the close.
. . . The orchestra is trying to make the piano see reality, but the piano has a heartfelt but naive view of the world in general. The slow tempo gives the piece extra attentiveness.
At the beginning of the song the strings play together, to show unity and strength. . . . The piano has a long solo. It plays fast and scattered, but then goes back to harmony. Near the ending of the song both orchestra and piano play taking turns. They play softly and slow. They harmonize creating a beautiful ending.
. . . The solo piano has the liberty to do what it wants, but the orchestra is forced to follow the same line.
They meet and blend in harmony in the final notes. When two opposing elements meet in the middle, that is learning rather than debating.
I heard a story about a test done on two sets of lab rats. The first set of rats were made to listen to classical music for several weeks, then were placed in a maze while that same music was playing. The rats solved the maze in a matter of minutes. The second set of rats listened to Death Metal music for several weeks, then were released in the same maze. They wandered aimlessly about the maze and attacked one another viciously.