Personal Development

Listening concerns

Today, I read over one of the learning resources provided by the O.C.A. entitled “making notes on listening to classical music”. The reason for my doing this is that its been a long time since I have had to take written notes on music. My main concern is that i will need to rebuild my critical listening skills.

I found the step by step guide on listening most useful as it breaks down the process in to east to manage chunks. This gives me an idea of how to format my page;

First, I need to analyse the basics. What instruments can I hear? What is the tempo? Is the harmony consonant or dissonant? How clairvoyant is the message of the piece of music i am listening to. What are my opinions on what I am hearing?

The next step is to think about the personal experience that I encounter as I listen to the music. I.E. how does the piece effect my emotions or what images develop as the piece progresses?

Thirdly I have to pay attention to the technical aspect of the piece of music. This is where, without a score, I may struggle until a re-build my critical listening skills. I aim to develop my ear as it will help when I conduct my band or when I perform on my own instrument. The technical aspects which I will need to understand include;

  • What is the main Melody line?
  • How is this piece structured?
  • How are the instruments used? (what does it represent)
  • Are there any solo lines or key instruments?
  • How often do the Harmonies change?
  • How are the chords voiced? (inversions? suspensions or resolutions?)
  • How is dissonance used in the piece?

My next step is to think about who the audience of the time would have been. Where would the piece have been performed? who would perform the piece? I then have to compare the music to a modern day performance. After these steps, I can form my own opinions IE what I like and dislike.

The next step is then to talk about other works including influences on other composers & comparison to their work. Can the message of the music be heard? Is there a political agenda to the composition or does it create a picture of any sort? Can I hear any influences from other pieces and styles of music?

After I have noted these factors, I need to analyse my own opinions. Have they changed? did I miss any detail(s) that I now understand? Can the experience help me analyse other works of the same composer. Has the music left a lasting impression on me?

After having read this material I now feel more capable of critically listening and analysing the music. Through reading the music notes and reflecting on them, I have realised some of my strengths and weaknesses. I can identify key instruments well and I feel I have a competent understanding of the relationship of harmony, but, I struggle when I have to analyse the extremely subtle parts of the technical aspects of an advanced score. This is a skill that I aim to develop as the course progresses.


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