September 09, 2003

Listening Assignment

The following is what I wrote for my Music 101 listening assignment:

Over the long weekend I tried to tune in to the music all around. Were it not a conscious effort on my part, some of what I heard might never have made it any further than my sensory buffer. There are times and places where music is intended to take to the forefront of our experience and others where it subliminally affects us from the background. In my state of conscious awareness I encountered instances where the music was the star and still others where it added to the backdrop. I was not expecting to discover that music could also serve to detract from an experience, and despite the negative connotations with that word choice, I found that it is not necessarily a bad thing when it does.

While heading home from campus on Thursday, my boyfriend stopped by a station to fill up on gas. Up until the point when he turned off the ignition we had been listening to Pachelbel Canon and Other Baroque Favorites. Afterwards I overheard a recording of the Bee Gees singing "You Should Be Dancing" emanating from what I suspected was a nearby car. I craned my head around to see who it might have been. All of the other cars that were initially parked at the station had pulled away in the amount time it took for us to finish pumping our gas. That's when I determined that it was issuing from speakers up above and not from another vehicle. I don't recall ever having heard music coming from a gas station itself before that day. I personally do not enjoy listening to the Bee Gees (much of their music is considered disco, which I deeply dislike, but I do believe it all fits underneath the rock genre), however, it completely took my mind off the smell of gasoline. I suspect the music was really provided to take peoples' minds of the monotonous act of pumping gas.

Scarcely a day goes by when I don't hear the little girl who lives one apartment above and one over from mine practicing on her upright piano. I can clearly hear her live performances from either of our two bedrooms during her normal rehearsals. Most often I find the sound to be merely annoying, but it can be frustrating because it tends to break my concentration. In the three years that I have been audience to her playing, she has made dramatic improvement. I used to cringe, whenever she missed a key she intended to hit, from the resulting dissonance. There are other times that I feel proud of her accomplishment and commitment to practice. I can't recognize any of the pieces she has played by title, but they definitely seem to fit under the classical category.

I spent Labor Day afternoon reading sonnets on the grounds surrounding the Netherlands Carillon (located in close proximity to the United States Marine Corps War Memorial). The Carillon was gift from the Dutch of a stationary set of fifty chromatically tuned bells hung in a tower that are played from a device called a clavier (essentially a keyboard). Not only I was I present for the bells being struck on the hour, but beginning at 2:00 p.m. and going on until 4:00 p.m. I listened to Edward M. Nasser, an esteemed carillonneur, perform a live recital. Many of the songs that he played were patriotic, which I believe fits under the category of traditional. At first I found that the music distracted me from my reading. Later, I found that I was able to shift it to the back of my awareness where I was still able to enjoy it, but also focus on what I was doing.

Earlier this evening I went out to eat dinner. I happened to overhear music playing in the background of the conversation my companion and I were having while awaiting our meals to be served. I can't say that I had previously heard any of the recorded songs before. There was quite a mix of genres represented from rock, to R&B, all the way to reggae. I distinctly recall having heard the steel drums being played in a few of the reggae numbers. When our mouths were too stuffed to speak, the music helped to fill the aural void.

Over the extended weekend I had made a conscious effort to hear the music all around me. What I discovered is that the presence of music serves many purposes. Music can be the center of attention, it can also exist to provide background static to another activity, or it can help to call attention away from something else that may not be so pleasant. In a world without music there would certainly be a lot more uncomfortable silence.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 12:08 AM