12. Music Appreciation
The language of music passes on information just like human speech does. In just the same way, we perceive it and process it with our sensory organs. The shorter and simpler that it is, the easier it is to memorize, and the more quickly it gets on our nerves after hearing it repeatedly.
Hearing and appreciating a complicated work of music isn’t simple work. One must understand the separate fragments, which are more easily grasped by the perception. And it isn’t as simple as knowing the main themes - one must be able to mentally recreate them, or to sing them with one’s voice in order to truly appreciate them. To be able to do this, the melody should be listened to many different times so that it can be memorized. Each new turn of the musical thought-process, each nuance finds its place within the consciousness. The most sophisticated form appreciation can be achieved if you can learn to play the work on the piano. It must become a part of you. And finally, you begin to sense and understand the composer – the state that he is in, his feelings, his hopes. It’s as if you are communicating with the composer himself! Then, the work is finally heard.
At school, each composer is allotted about an hour or two of class time. From the very beginning the lectures wander into beautiful tales about the epoch of his life and music in general, and then the students are allowed to listen to a few fragments of his work. These fragments aren’t memorized, or ever played again for the students. Could it be that these lessons might awaken his interest in serious music, and that he will go and buy some more recordings? With the exception of rare occasions, this is unlikely.
If people have never been taught to hear serious music, then they won’t teach themselves to do it on their own. Hearing and understanding music involves the same effort from a person’s consciousness as reading a good book. But abstract talks about books won’t teach anyone to read them!
A work of music is an entire theatre of live images. The composer doesn’t simply combine a few melodies; he develops them, transforms them, sometimes clashes them against one another, and even has them interact with each other like actors in a play. In order to derive pleasure from listening to music, the person must catch the twists and turns of the plot. Without a good sense of hearing, memory, and understanding of music language, you can’t adequately perceive complex music, much like a child can’t listen to a lecture full of unknown words.
Teaching to conscientiously listen to music should take up a serious portion of a musical upbringing. The work that is selected for listening should be studied deeply. Its main themes should be either sung out or played. If this doesn’t happen, then lessons about music are just babble, useless for any sort of musical development. If a person isn’t given a proper education in music, we can’t teach him to understand it, nor truly appreciate it.