How to Listen to Music

I’d like to start my first article with a controversial statement: Americans do not know how to listen to music. I mean, there must be a reason behind local orchestras all across the country closing down because lack of income and most importantly, lack of an audience. This, of course is an unfortunate sign, not just for classical music, but for all music in general as an art because the purpose of music is slowly becoming an obsolete, crude form of entertainment to party with. Dictionary.com defines art as something “considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness”. It is meant to inspire and provide imagery to the vast depths of the human imagination, wishes, and dreams. However, the only forms of dreams that people our age experience come when listening to classical music puts them to sleep. Regrettably, these people do have an excuse. They just do not know how to listen to music.

Let’s compare listening to music with reading a book. When you read the text pictures should be painted in your mind. For example, “The somber warriors marched through the scorched desert towards their final demise. Their swords gleamed against the rising sun, red, a beautifully ominous color. They raised their sagged looks from the ground up to the kingdom, the enemy was coming.” Obviously, the imagery in your head will be exactly what you just read, minor differences between people here and there. Now, if I played the ever popular movie trailer hit, “O Fortuna,” for everyone in the world at once, at least one person would conjure up this imagery in their head. See, the beauty of music is, unlike other art forms, it will give different visuals to everybody individually. Which is one reason, “O Fortuna”, or variations of it are in every action or adventures films nowadays; it can fit with any dramatic scenery.

[If you’re ignorant and not willing to take a chance with classical music, please don’t hesitate to skip the next part.]

Speaking of dramatic scenery, believe it not, one can play out an entire movie with just a screenless iPod Shuffle. A great example is the Lord of the Rings.

Step 1: Illegally download the Lord of the Rings Soundtrack y Howard Shore.

Step 2: Pop in those headphones and close your eyes.

Step 3: Imagine the scenes playing out with the music.

It’s fairly simple. The beginning of the movie has those happy little melodies, which represent the hobbits living in their secluded peaceful world. All of a sudden, BOOM, a wide panning of Isengard and all the frolicking suddenly disappears. Hear Enya’s voice and you know the elves have arrived. Even if you don’t know the fantastic tale written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the music is still there and you can use it to play out your own story. A few other great pieces to try this with are “The Swan Lake Suite” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky

[If you’re ignorant and not willing to take a chance with metal music, please don’t hesitate to skip the next part.]

So if classical music bores you and you just aren’t artistic enough, hope lies in many other genres. Most important of them all, and believe it or not: metal. True metal music, and I DO NOT mean metalcore, screamo, or any other Americanized noisy hard rock. Metal tends to explore all emotions of the human extent. Some examples:

• Power Metal – Fantasy and Happiness
• Gothic Metal – Love and Pain
• Doom Metal – Despair
• Thrash Metal – Anger and Fun
• Progressive Metal – Pretty much everything

The list goes on and on; of course the genres aren’t restricted to these particular emotions. To me metal is just a wild version of classical music and sside from providing visual imagery, metal, and I emphasize, true metal, very often provides beautiful poetic imagery and tends to linger quite a nice mixture of musical imagery with uses of choirs, orchestras, keyboards, and female vocals. If anyone is looking for an example, try “Sister Nightfall” by Sirenia. Be sure to keep up with the imagery within your mind’s eye.

Now, obviously classical and metal music aren’t the confines of beautiful art. There are tons of songs not written with the technical expertise as classical music and metal are, however, these songs may contain lyrics suitable to enlighten the mind. Now these, are the songs you must look for and listen to and even with simple music structures, these songs can develop quite extensively within your mind. The key to these songs are the vocals and lyrics because the tone of the singer and the poetry expressed within the lyrics can say a lot. Even with simply written music, the music serves as the mood setter for the music. Picture going to a poetry reading and listening to poetry with a perfect instrumental soundtrack for each piece. Giving examples for this serves no purpose as songs like these are everywhere, from Celine Dion to Lady GaGa. I’d like to include Taylor Swift, however her music just doesn’t produce the imagery music should. She is beautiful with a great voice but her lyrics lack luster unfortunately.

You wonder why I only criticize America.
1| Metal doesn’t exist in America.
2| Many American Idol winners have absolutely no musical experience; having a good voice and personality, leads them to victory. Let’s take Jordan Sparks for example (I don’t think she has a good voice), she won American Idol, it was her dream, I’m happy for her. But she doesn’t write her own music! Originally the song “Party in the USA” was to be given to Jordan Sparks, but last minute it was given to Miley Cyrus instead. I think the song would have been liked more if Jordan sang it and FYI, I personally love the song, makes me dance, its fun, but artistically its pathetic.
3| 0 x 100 = 0. We keep producing these un-artistic stars and no one questions it and these people are growing exponentially, just look at Ke$ha.

One final beautiful way to connect to the world through art is by listening to international folk music. The sounds of different folk instruments are amazing when played behind vocals in different languages. Sometimes, you may not even understand the language, but you can take great guesses at what the song may be about through the imagery the music produces within your head. YouTube the song “Ederlezi” by Dikanda, a Polish band that sings in Romanian. A different version of this song was actually used in the movie Borat. Folk music tends to keep the original art in music because they are based on old traditions and not new age crap.

I hope I have enlightened some people to listen to music in a whole new way and become aware to the messages songs should produce. Happy listening.

-As Published in the Rutgers Observer.

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~ by Dreamflights on January 26, 2010.

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