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Power of music (Read 2082 times)

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Power of music
« on: May 31, 2016, 02:44:38 AM »
Powerful enough to penetrate through terrible disease:

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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #1 on: May 31, 2016, 02:56:28 AM »
Makes peace with enemies and brings back loving memories.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #2 on: May 31, 2016, 03:05:07 AM »
The healing power of music
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Offline ted

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #3 on: June 01, 2016, 09:09:32 PM »
This thread is both timely and important. Fame, money, finger dexterity, arguing incessantly about which sorts of music we like or dislike, making reverend gestures toward this or that way of playing, this or that magisterium of common practice or avant-garde - the underlying reason we play and listen to music is unconnected with these things, and is utterly ineffable. Thank you for reminding us of it.   
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Offline josh93248

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #4 on: June 01, 2016, 09:11:24 PM »
This thread is both timely and important. Fame, money, finger dexterity, arguing incessantly about which sorts of music we like or dislike, making reverend gestures toward this or that way of playing, this or that magisterium of common practice or avant-garde - the underlying reason we play and listen to music is unconnected with these things, and is utterly ineffable. Thank you for reminding us of it.   

Absolutely!
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Offline chopinlover01

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #5 on: June 01, 2016, 09:59:48 PM »
Agreed. Let us all listen to one of the greatest instances of this ever: Brendel playing the Appassionata.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #6 on: June 03, 2016, 03:21:52 AM »
This thread is both timely and important. Fame, money, finger dexterity, arguing incessantly about which sorts of music we like or dislike, making reverend gestures toward this or that way of playing, this or that magisterium of common practice or avant-garde - the underlying reason we play and listen to music is unconnected with these things, and is utterly ineffable. Thank you for reminding us of it.  
Cheers ted! Unfortunately online people forget what music is really about and keep posting about their favorite so and so and what's the best fastest most difficult etc. As you can see this thread doesn't get much response since I'm sure many don't know the real power of music and just think it's for entertainment, a tool for comparisons or to show off with. The Internet has become quite a stupid place lolol.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #7 on: December 08, 2020, 05:57:43 AM »
Marta C Gonzalez, a former prima ballerina who danced with the New York Ballet in the 1960s, sitting in her wheelchair at a nursing home in Valencia and listening to the finale of Swan Lake through headphones. As she does so, she begins to go gracefully through the choreography she learnt decades ago.

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Offline pianopractical

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #8 on: January 09, 2021, 10:00:17 AM »
I have a question which, so far, haven't been able to find an answer (or even anyone else asking the question). Has anyone performed a piece in such a way that it elicits tears of JOY from the audience? It's straightforward to make people cry with minor-scale pieces, nostalgia, etc., but how about the opposite?  For example, I equate it with the tears a new parent cries at seeing their baby come into the world, or reuniting with a long-lost loved one. The work performed can be anything- one of the classical composers or an original piece.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #9 on: January 09, 2021, 12:12:46 PM »
Has anyone performed a piece in such a way that it elicits tears of JOY from the audience?
From my own experience yes this has happened many times and not only from piano playing. I used to sing a lot when I was younger in a little folk group and a number of the adult audience members would cry at some of the songs we sung like Cootamundra Wattle which makes people think about their past. It is a mixed bag of feelings though in this case not just simply joy.

It's straightforward to make people cry with minor-scale pieces, nostalgia, etc., but how about the opposite?  For example, I equate it with the tears a new parent cries at seeing their baby come into the world, or reuniting with a long-lost loved one. The work performed can be anything- one of the classical composers or an original piece.
When I was concerting for a living many people who never attended a piano concert would come to my show. I remember one lady who came up to me at the end of a concert and told me how much she was in tears and had to leave the concert hall at one point. She said she could just feel an "energy" coming from the audience being controlled by the music and it was so unexpected for her it was too much to bear. So this to me is almost like the birth of a child as you put it, but instead of anticipating something precious was to come, it was totally unexpected.

I remember going to a house to inspect a piano that was for sale. I randomly started with some Clair de Lune and the man selling the piano left the room, only to return wiping tears from his face. It was a piece his mother played a lot and she had only just passed away, so he felt almost some message from another world reaching out to him, it must have brought a lot of joy as well as sadness since he was experiencing something he loved but is now gone. This sort of situation has occured a few times over the decades, I play some strangers piano and it happened to be a piece that meant something dearly to them. Is that some psychic link or message? Who knows, it's rather unusual when it happens, almost like some greater force inspired me to play something I didn't know meant something to that that person. It most probably is just a coincidence and what happens with large numbers (in this case playing for many people over the years) but that feels devoid of any emotion for me and I much prefer a super natural type reason!

This is a great power of music that you can feel both positive and negative emotion at the same time but ultimately feel a lot better after the experience. Not much in this world can make you face your pain but also enjoy doing so. The effect music can have however on people is super natural and mysterious to me even though I see it happen all the time.
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Offline neap tide

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #10 on: January 09, 2021, 12:15:05 PM »
Any score that resonates with a person or persons may elicit tears or exhilaration. Lily Malaine played on a kazoo might cause an old soldier to tear up as related thoughts impose themselves. Any song is subjective to the times, the person(s) and circumstances in which the music is heard.

Theory of harmony, Arnold Schoenberg will shed light on the hows, the listener might tell you the whys -- but powerful, no doubt.

Offline pianopractical

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #11 on: January 09, 2021, 12:27:26 PM »
Thanks so much for your replies and sharing personal experiences. You're getting close to what I mean, but taking it a step further to induce this same reaction in someone who has no frame of reference for the piece, and in fact may have never heard it before in their life. As mentioned, the reaction is entirely unexpected. If I may include my personal experience, I have played classical music in Latin America for people who have never heard anything but bachata, salsa, etc., and they are surprised to find themselves crying with joy. There is some sort of magical resonance or alchemy that seems to occur. As the pianist, I don't actually feel anything other than the usual enjoyment of performing, which is interesting. I have a theory: a number of years ago scientists discovered that humans have brain cells in their heart tissue (!). Is it possible this "second brain" is what responds to the way a piece of music is played?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #12 on: January 12, 2021, 07:15:22 AM »
Yes perhaps there is a connection between the two brains as you say. Certainly the heart is the strongest source of electromagnetic energy in our body and we do feel it being effected when we experience all sorts of emotions.

I think if people can comprehend and connect with the music then they are open to a strong emotional response (as neap tide suggested earlier). I remember watching some video of tribesmen listening to opera singing, some sensed a spiritual connection in the music and others merely could offer simple appreciation since they didn't really connect with it. It is interesting that music can so easily break through the language barrier.

Certainly when someone has never heard a type of music before it may shock them since they experience something new that inspires emotions from sound. Perhaps it is even like experiencing a colour they have never experienced before. Have you seen the videos of colour blind people seeing colour for the first time (with enchroma glasses)? Basically the vast majority of them are so overwhelmed with emotions that they cannot help but cry.
 
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #13 on: January 12, 2021, 03:04:41 PM »
To anyone interested in this thread, I would strongly suggest reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. He has tons of great examples of various such phenomena. It's a fascinating topic.

I have a theory: a number of years ago scientists discovered that humans have brain cells in their heart tissue (!). Is it possible this "second brain" is what responds to the way a piece of music is played?
Pretty much, no. As far as I've seen, the areas of the brain involved in emotion and music are reasonably well known. That kind of overwhelming sensation or emotion is usually associated with a great increase in brain activity, possibly of multiple regions. I don't think all of this detracts from how music itself is mysterious, though.

but taking it a step further to induce this same reaction in someone who has no frame of reference for the piece, and in fact may have never heard it before in their life. As mentioned, the reaction is entirely unexpected. If I may include my personal experience, I have played classical music in Latin America for people who have never heard anything but bachata, salsa, etc., and they are surprised to find themselves crying with joy. There is some sort of magical resonance or alchemy that seems to occur. As the pianist, I don't actually feel anything other than the usual enjoyment of performing, which is interesting.
At the initial stages of learning to play the piano, I was really preoccupied with how to create an effect in a listener who had never before listened to classical music. I didn't have any classical music listeners among my community, but I felt that there should be something universal which could cut across those barriers, and I felt that if my playing would only interest a select group of "educated" people, it would be a travesty.

I think I've only been mildly successful. There needs to be some level of willingness and affinity from the person listening, and I think that music largely works on familiarity and association. We all have that one song which is really not special at all, which we love nevertheless because it was the backdrop for significant moments of our lives.

I still find the reasons why someone likes a piece of music to be rather mysterious. I have played for people who have listened to classical music for several years, who yet seem to have a surface level understanding. I have seen people who can compare different interpretations of the same piece very well by intuition with zero background. I have had people ask me why I needed to play the accompaniment in the first place, and why I couldn't just play the melody. Then, there are those people who simply dislike the sound of a piano or hate the fact that you can not bend notes.

I've found that there are certain common things. Everyone understands a sudden shift in dynamics to be something significant or interesting, most people appreciate an evocative melody regardless of which country it's from. I think when you perform a piece for a layperson, you need to simultaneously play the piece, and "educate" them. By "educate" I mean that you need to place extra emphasis on the themes (and perhaps demonstrate with your facial expressions as well) so that they pay more attention to them and realize that those are the things which will be used as thematic material throughout the piece. You need to play in order to try and make it "obvious" to the listener. I've also observed that culture affects musical perception significantly. People with certain cultures will not appreciate music if it isn't sophisticated enough musically, rhythmically, emotionally, etc. I've found that "music" is universal, but the kind of musical language which a person has internalized varies widely.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #14 on: January 14, 2021, 05:55:30 AM »
...I felt that if my playing would only interest a select group of "educated" people, it would be a travesty.
When I listen to a ton of blues, the first few minutes is great to start with then eventually I start to feel a little tired and bored, my interest wanes. I have even caught myself a number of times in the past being bored at a piano solo recital listening to people rattle off large scale pieces which go on forever. I feel that I am an educated pianist and listener since this is my profession but I have musical tastes which are mostly unaffected by education.

I think I've only been mildly successful. There needs to be some level of willingness and affinity from the person listening, and I think that music largely works on familiarity and association. We all have that one song which is really not special at all, which we love nevertheless because it was the backdrop for significant moments of our lives.
I think the "willingness" is just being able to sit quietly and listen. To slow your thoughts down and allow it to be affected by the music. The reason why I think people connect to pieces they know well is that they are anticipating the sounds constantly and this allows them to immerse themselves in the music. When you play something they have never heard they are not sure what they are listening to or what to expect or what may come next. It can be a confusing experience especially if you play something very demanding and since they have no expectation as to what will come next their minds can wander and their effective listening then comes in waves. If you extend the period of time which this kind of situation maintains itself you may even bore the listener no matter what brilliant technical acrobatics you throw at them.

I still find the reasons why someone likes a piece of music to be rather mysterious.
With instrumental music we are dealing with wordless music but this kind of music is marginalized from mainstream music. There certainly can be an incredible power behind music and words put together and certainly a huge reason for how the majority of people connect to music. As a pianist the pieces I connect with the deepest are those which I can hear the emotional images, sense the many situations of life in sound.

This process is not so immediate for someone to connect with when first playing a piece let alone when first listening to it and it would help a lot if both are told something about the music beforehand. When I concerted for a living I would describe a lot about the pieces and composers I was presenting, to help set up the imagery people could have while listening and help direct where they can apply their attention while listening. Describing real life situations which effected the composer and may have inspired the creation of their works allows anyone to connect on some emotional level without even hearing the music and then when the music starts they have their attention focused and can connect. You do a good service for others who listen to pieces you play for the first time doing things like this, I have always found it helps them listen and experience the music much better.

Of course there can be full appreciation of a piece for someone who doens't think of it in terms of emotions or how it relates to their life or others. The music can simply stand for itself and nothing else matters to them. I had one person in all my years of concerting come up to me at the end of the concert and tell me that and I agreed with them with a however. I find that the majority of people appreciate some backstory to a piece which has no words connected to it except maybe a title or heartless catalogue numbers. Even if people have heard the piece many times I had some tell me they never knew that it had a backstory like that or a way to consider it and it made the experience all the better.

I think when you perform a piece for a layperson, you need to simultaneously play the piece, and "educate" them. By "educate" I mean that you need to place extra emphasis on the themes (and perhaps demonstrate with your facial expressions as well) so that they pay more attention to them and realize that those are the things which will be used as thematic material throughout the piece.
I think this is too subtle of an education to give to listeners who are not instrumentalists themselves. If you describe the music before playing it as I wrote in the previous quote I responded to, I think this will help them a great deal more.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #15 on: January 14, 2021, 11:20:36 AM »
I feel that I am an educated pianist and listener since this is my profession but I have musical tastes which are mostly unaffected by education.
This was one of the issues I had with my previous teacher haha. She thought that your idea of where music should go changes a lot with time and instruction, and I felt that mine basically hasn't changed much over the years I've played piano, but rather progressively refined itself. I don't look back with distaste at the music I liked starting out -- in fact, I sometimes think I had better music taste back then because it was unhindered by musical education and I was experiencing it more directly. Now, I tend to try to get myself to like things while back then I just had this raw sense telling me what was good and what wasn't, and I think it was actually pretty good because that was what I used to develop my own sense of how I should play the piano which has worked quite well for me so far.

The reason why I think people connect to pieces they know well is that they are anticipating the sounds constantly and this allows them to immerse themselves in the music. When you play something they have never heard they are not sure what they are listening to or what to expect or what may come next. It can be a confusing experience especially if you play something very demanding and since they have no expectation as to what will come next their minds can wander and their effective listening then comes in waves.
I remember trying to listen to Beethoven and understand it. I was trying to load all kinds of musical fragments in my short-term memory in order to be able to appreciate it (without having heard it before). It sort of worked, and I was able to follow a few aspects of the music. However, it didn't 'click' as much and I didn't have the same appreciation as I do now once I can play sections of the music in my head from memory. Something similar happened with the Chopin ballades, which took about a year to figure out.

There certainly can be an incredible power behind music and words put together and certainly a huge reason for how the majority of people connect to music. As a pianist the pieces I connect with the deepest are those which I can hear the emotional images, sense the many situations of life in sound.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that the very reason I prefer instrumental music is because it is abstract, and does not tell you what exactly to think. That allows you to engage in it in a more personal way, open to interpretation, rather than vocal music for which doing that is much more difficult. Bach's counterpoint just is, but the ways people interact with it and get an emotional payoff are very diverse.

Describing real life situations which effected the composer and may have inspired the creation of their works allows anyone to connect on some emotional level without even hearing the music and then when the music starts they have their attention focused and can connect. You do a good service for others who listen to pieces you play for the first time doing things like this, I have always found it helps them listen and experience the music much better.
For me personally, I like to try and just listen to a piece in an unfamiliar style firsthand, but that may just be my bias as I have a certain knack of (and have developed a sort of method for) being able to understand a broad variety of music.

For some people, I have been successful by going over a piece with them and asking them to go with their visual imagery, or suggesting a very wide term such as "water", and demonstrating a motif, followed by asking them to listen to it carefully. However, this may require a talent in itself, and I have seen that often even people who are trained in music take it too literally -- one person I showed my improvisation to was very confused because it didn't have much resembling major or minor scales, so they didn't know what to feel. It also works better with one-on-one interaction.

It feels rather weird. I remember that Jeux D'Eau made perfect sense the first time I listened to it. I showed it to someone else and they were utterly confused.


The music can simply stand for itself and nothing else matters to them. I had one person in all my years of concerting come up to me at the end of the concert and tell me that and I agreed with them with a however.
I think this may be the purest way of experiencing music. We are limited by our vocabulary and words can very well fail to express an emotion. Just listening to a piece of music and trying to let it wash over you, experiencing the emotion as it comes by, is imo the best way to listen to music. It is of course very difficult to do with unfamiliar music most of the time. Note that the emotion is still very much there, it's just that it's being experienced in a sort of direct fashion without language of any sort occupying your conscious thoughts.


I think this is too subtle of an education to give to listeners who are not instrumentalists themselves. If you describe the music before playing it as I wrote in the previous quote I responded to, I think this will help them a great deal more.
Perhaps you're right. But it's the sort of education I've had. Gusts of wind and other wistful analogies musicians like to conjure up are often far too vague to express the kinds of emotions pieces generate, and I've found more success by making up my own mind by listening to pieces. In a way, I trust my ear absolutely. It's the only way I see forward, because if you doubt what your instinct tells you about a piece of music, it's very hard to form a progressively refined interpretation or sense of music, because you will always be stuck questioning basic things (does this modulation to a minor scale mean it should be more 'sad'?). In my experience, the best results come when you are certain of where your inner ear is taking you, really listen, and follow it through. It is much more likely to result in an internally consistent interpretation which will speak to the listener.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #16 on: January 14, 2021, 12:13:01 PM »
I've had a couple of great experiences playing for people without a big classical music background or interest. I live in a very rural, sparsely populated corner of northern New England. Most people are not very aware of classical music. I gave a short recital in the nursing home where my mother lives. After I had played the first movement of Bach's fourth French Suite, the cook shouted out from the kitchen "Hey Bill, now I have beautiful music in my head." She's a kind woman, generous to the inmates (er, residents), but definitely not a big follower of classical music. A few months later I gave a house recital for friends and neighbors. While I was playing the Chopin Nocturne Opus 9 #1 in Bb minor, I noticed that our nearest neighbor, a dairy farmer, was in tears. After the recital she told me the music had brought back her whole childhood to her.

I think that in small, personal settings it is quite possible to communicate classical music to people who aren't already fans of it.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #17 on: January 15, 2021, 02:47:57 AM »
This was one of the issues I had with my previous teacher haha. She thought that your idea of where music should go changes a lot with time and instruction, and I felt that mine basically hasn't changed much over the years I've played piano, but rather progressively refined itself.
I think the more we explore the repetoire the more we find that we like. So the education is just exploring the music rather than the playing/practice/theory/history improvement. I think we can appreciate hidden meanings in music the more we research into it or into the lives of the composers. I really feel that the larger part of music enjoyment is just innate. If it wasn't and there required education and playing of an instrument to appreciate then I think people just wouldn't bother with music since there is too much effort required before enjoying it.

I don't look back with distaste at the music I liked starting out -- in fact, I sometimes think I had better music taste back then because it was unhindered by musical education and I was experiencing it more directly. Now, I tend to try to get myself to like things while back then I just had this raw sense telling me what was good and what wasn't, and I think it was actually pretty good because that was what I used to develop my own sense of how I should play the piano which has worked quite well for me so far.
I notice that as my sight reading improves I can enjoy playing pieces I otherwise would never bother with, they can be played with good results immediately and there is no real effort or barriers to overcome. This is especially true for J.S Bach which I disliked when I was much younger (since part writing memorization without good reading sklils is very annoying) but enjoyed a lot more when I could read through his works.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the very reason I prefer instrumental music is because it is abstract, and does not tell you what exactly to think. That allows you to engage in it in a more personal way, open to interpretation, rather than vocal music for which doing that is much more difficult.
Yes I like the idea of not being told what to think or feel but be pushed a certain direction and you can "fill in the gaps".  I actually enjoy listening to piano music and vocal music just about the same although I prefer piano because I can play it myself. There is something about having a piece recorded within yourself, some strange power of music. To be able to produce it from within your minds eye is quite amazing especially when one is in a quiet enough space physically and mentally to do so, but to also then feel it in your hands, its like some magical physical gesture which you may not have to actually feel in your hands but you can feel from within. Weird stuff!

Bach's counterpoint just is, but the ways people interact with it and get an emotional payoff are very diverse.
Polyphony has some weird way to allow you to split your brain into parts but still appreciate it as a single entitiy. When listening you could focus on particular voices, combination of voices and as a whole, that is an interesting experience compared to melody vs support type playing where you are encouraged to follow just the melody. You can listen to counterpoint in many different ways which is I find very interesting.

For me personally, I like to try and just listen to a piece in an unfamiliar style firsthand, but that may just be my bias as I have a certain knack of (and have developed a sort of method for) being able to understand a broad variety of music.
I mean you are a pianist and play an instrument, you have a lot of listening experience with piano music, so you have the capability to do things like this. I am the same as you, I just have to listen, I don't need to know anything about the composer, why they wrote it what the music is about etc, although afterwards if the music really interests me these things can really add some "polish" to my appreciation of the work. Someone who never listens to piano music or classical music, or hasn't much interest in music to begin with I feel that they really do benefit from some verbal lecture that provides insight into the music and helps set them up to connect with it.

For some people, I have been successful by going over a piece with them and asking them to go with their visual imagery, or suggesting a very wide term such as "water", and demonstrating a motif, followed by asking them to listen to it carefully. However, this may require a talent in itself, and I have seen that often even people who are trained in music take it too literally -- one person I showed my improvisation to was very confused because it didn't have much resembling major or minor scales, so they didn't know what to feel. It also works better with one-on-one interaction.
When I played Gaspard de la Nuit in concert I would recite the poem and provide imagery which helped the audience follow the progression. For instance: Ondine is at the waters surface, she sees a human man she falls in love, the approaches him and asks to take him down to the underwater castle, they journey down, they come to the grand castle, they ascend back to the surface, Ondine cries as her love is denied, she laughs and dives back down into the water. These powerful images can be certainly hear progressing through the peice. Not all pieces are written with such beautiful imagery but I like to think we can make up our own stories if needed.

I think this may be the purest way of experiencing music. We are limited by our vocabulary and words can very well fail to express an emotion. Just listening to a piece of music and trying to let it wash over you, experiencing the emotion as it comes by, is imo the best way to listen to music.
Yes, ultimately I think enjoying music comes simply from listening and nothing else. Most people who don't listen to piano music much actually enjoy the experience. Because it can be something very new and they might be much more accustomed to listening to vocal music which helps them understand what they are listening to, giving them those words to fill in the gaps can help them understand the wordless piano music on a level they are accustomed to.

Perhaps you're right. But it's the sort of education I've had. Gusts of wind and other wistful analogies musicians like to conjure up are often far too vague to express the kinds of emotions pieces generate, and I've found more success by making up my own mind by listening to pieces. In a way, I trust my ear absolutely. It's the only way I see forward, because if you doubt what your instinct tells you about a piece of music, it's very hard to form a progressively refined interpretation or sense of music, because you will always be stuck questioning basic things (does this modulation to a minor scale mean it should be more 'sad'?). In my experience, the best results come when you are certain of where your inner ear is taking you, really listen, and follow it through. It is much more likely to result in an internally consistent interpretation which will speak to the listener.
When you look at music from Debussy or Ravel, they write pieces which often conjour up artistic images very strongly and that seems to be their very aim with music given the impressionistic art period. The titles of their works encourage you to listen and expect to hear musical ideas which give the title. For example Debussy's preludes are simply fully of these images. Other composers don't aim to create images and they can be more difficult to connect to with words and images if you don't have an imagination (and those who don't listen to much intrumental music may lack practicing that imagination), however since music does ultimately stands on, if people can connect with them in some way these pieces don't lack any of the power that is within music.

What is that "connection" that people who don't listen much to piano music is very intriguing to me and whenever I get the chance I will test people out. Through my explorations I have found that the vast majority of "non-piano music listeners" like music which is gentle and pretty sounding without too many complications. They don't actually relate to a complicated Liszt or Chopin etude as readily as they do with something from say Yann Tiersen, Ludovico Einaudi. They even prefer the simple structures of Phillip Glass a lot. Most non-piano music listeners need to be gently introduced to the art and I think that music which is structured in a simple way with memoriable melodies is the way to go. I think all performing pianists had some reaction to this fact when it hit them the first time: we may study many hours on very difficult works only to find that these non-piano listeners really connect better with our much simpler pieces.

This may merely be the natural progression of someones interest with piano music. For me for instance I started playing piano at 3 years of age, so much of my experience listening to music was my own playing. I didn't start with high level pieces and built up from very easy works. So my listening experience built up from a very low point. So when we throw at someone who hardly listens to piano music something very elaborate and complicated it often has no more effect on them than if we play something much more easier. That is to me a very interesting observation of the power of music.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #18 on: January 15, 2021, 02:58:03 AM »
I've had a couple of great experiences playing for people without a big classical music background or interest. I live in a very rural, sparsely populated corner of northern New England. Most people are not very aware of classical music. I gave a short recital in the nursing home where my mother lives. After I had played the first movement of Bach's fourth French Suite, the cook shouted out from the kitchen "Hey Bill, now I have beautiful music in my head." She's a kind woman, generous to the inmates (er, residents), but definitely not a big follower of classical music. A few months later I gave a house recital for friends and neighbors. While I was playing the Chopin Nocturne Opus 9 #1 in Bb minor, I noticed that our nearest neighbor, a dairy farmer, was in tears. After the recital she told me the music had brought back her whole childhood to her.

I think that in small, personal settings it is quite possible to communicate classical music to people who aren't already fans of it.
I enjoyed reading your experience brogers70 and good on you for playing in nursing homes. I think it is amazing that music can bring back memories in people and allow them to connect with the past. It is one of the few things which allows us to break through to those who have passed on.

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Offline ranjit

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Re: Power of music
«Reply #19 on: January 15, 2021, 10:23:02 AM »
Really nice post, liw!
What is that "connection" that people who don't listen much to piano music is very intriguing to me and whenever I get the chance I will test people out. Through my explorations I have found that the vast majority of "non-piano music listeners" like music which is gentle and pretty sounding without too many complications. They don't actually relate to a complicated Liszt or Chopin etude as readily as they do with something from say Yann Tiersen, Ludovico Einaudi. They even prefer the simple structures of Phillip Glass a lot.
Yes, although notable exceptions I've found to this rule are young guys (sorry about the gender bias, but I have yet to see a girl fit this description) in their 20s, especially those who listen to guitar-based music (rock or metal). They tend to relate quite well to energetic Chopin or Liszt. In general, it would make sense that high-energy people would like that kind of music more imo. There are again some pieces which are exceptions: everyone likes the second Hungarian rhapsody.

I think all performing pianists had some reaction to this fact when it hit them the first time: we may study many hours on very difficult works only to find that these non-piano listeners really connect better with our music simpler pieces.
Definitely! I'm sure this fact is behind the existential crises of many a pianist. Although I think that this can be offset by imbuing the more difficult pieces with the kind of lyricism we use more commonly in simpler ones. I consistently find that casual listeners tend to really like how I play pieces, and pianists tend to see all the mistakes!


This may merely be the natural progression of someones interest with piano music. For me for instance I started playing piano at 3 years of age, so much of my experience listening to music was my own playing. I didn't start with high level pieces and built up from very easy works. So my listening experience built up from a very low point. So when we throw at someone who hardly listens to piano music something very elaborate and complicated it often has no more effect on them than if we play something much more easier. That is to me a very interesting observation of the power of music.
This is interesting. Initially, I thought most music had something unique to offer, and I kind of liked most music because I felt there were things to learn from all of it. I think the reason was because I had this notion (as I do with most things) that unless I could create it myself, I hadn't truly understood it. And I couldn't create equally compelling melodies on my own. Eventually, my improvisation grew to the point where I was preferring listening to my own improvisations rather than some songs, and I think that was the turning point where I lost interest in those songs. That said, still I think there is a lot to learn from them, and people give up on them prematurely or out of some sense of elitism. Playing a song I've heard on the radio is still one of the ways I test out a piano, because I find that it allows me to think about voicing and phrasing in a very natural and intuitive manner.