Instructional listening

2 Aug

I had a teacher who played “I Hope You Dance” for us as a parting well-wishing after she was re-assigned to another class. It was a somewhat awkward experience, sitting at our desks watching her watch us, while the song blared over the speakers.

I think it was awkward because music isn’t visual; you don’t have anywhere to direct your eyes. It also isn’t something you can have a timed reaction to. There’s no obvious wisecrack or tearjerker the audience can respond to in parts or as a whole. When there’s something in a song that touches you, it comes rather quietly.

I observed the following responses amongst my girls when I played “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “In the Bedroom After the War” for them as a compare and contrast exercise recently:

a) Bopping their heads/swaying to the music,
b) Singing aloud/making up their own tunes,
c) Staring very hard at the lyrics on the paper,
d) Staring thoughtfully into space.

These observations were made via sneak peeks; I instinctively felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate to look them in the eye – such is the intimacy of musical experience.

The most comfortable way to share music is when you’re driving, because both people can look out of the window, not at each other, and continue the conversation. I once had a friend more or less demand why I didn’t have a more visible reaction to these songs. But I feel that the portable nature of music now means that you listen when you’re on your way somewhere, in the middle of something else, and it sinks in subconsciously. You don’t really applaud when a piece of music is over. You do what’s more effective – absorb and take it somewhere else.

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