Sunday, May 09, 2010


From the perspective of almost 70 I want to tell you that change will come. I want to encourage you to keep listening.

Music and art are not so different. I often go to museums and just walk through them looking at the art. The idea is that by looking at the art, just by looking, my eyes will learn about the art. I try to guess the painters, and gradually I get better at this. If I like something, I stop to see who the painter is and when he painted.

It can be the same with music. Listen to the music and let your ears absorb it. I remember the first Philip Glass large piece I ever heard -- Satyagraha -- and what complete gibberish it seemed to me. And now the years have passed and other works have come into my awareness -- Koyaanisqatsi, Orphée, Appomattox -- and returning again to Satyagraha it had transformed into something meaningful.

By listening I have learned to love the serious operas of Rossini.

I begin to wonder to myself was the recent Porgy and Bess really so much better than other previous performances of it, or is it just that my ears have changed.

Step out of your comfort zone. Listen to things you don't think you like. Your perception could change.

My perception of pieces and performers changes almost every day. I was not interested in Cecilia's Vivaldi album at the time of its release. It was too different from my expectations for her. But now after the incredible pleasure I have found in Sacrificium I have gone back to hear it again, and find it a joy. I remember how much I always liked Il Giardino Armonico, the instrumental group on both albums, how much they mesh with her spirit. I'm glad she has returned to them.

I have never been one to attend multiple performances of a single work in a series, but now I wonder if this might be a mistake. I should try it and see. Maybe after 10 performances of The Tempest, I would learn to like it.

With art and music it helps to place a work in its context. Where and when is this? What other things is it like? If you want to pour over things and study them, learn to identify chord progressions or understand languages, I won't discourage you, but try to remember you can learn a lot just by listening.


mamascarlatti said...

The same thing happened to me with Philip Glass - but with Akhnaten. And I've just come to Wagner after years of resisting (although it helped that I learned to listen primarily to the orchestra rather than the singers). I'm now on y thrid version of the Ring on DVD and like you, the more I listen the better I like it.

Lucy said...

Thanks for this interesting and encouraging post! I've often adopted a strategy of just an "absorption" listen before trying to engage deeply with a work... good to know a more experienced listener feels similarly! It inspires me to keep listening to Glass and the serious operas of Rossini!