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Hear! Hear!

By Ian Nance - posted Thursday, 21 December 2017


If we're lucky, then what we hear is music.

Music, one of the most powerful emotional art forms created by mankind over the millennia.

It's a strongly sensual experience with a huge capacity to trigger emotion, and possesses a massive number of options ranging from blatancy to subtlety through a range of individual note and pitch renditions, rhythm or tempos, expressed by individuals on the one hand, and large orchestras on the other.

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The latter can be disciplined military bands playing strictly regulated renditions, or symphony orchestras often just as strictly regulated but also drifting into a wide range of individual minute variants under the guidance of a conductor, to the performance of, popular music groups such as dance bands, small vocalist backing ensembles , or solo renditions of favoured melodies.

I'll send you a link to a fun-filled example of orchestral conducting at the end of this story.

Each form tugs at the emotional heart strings in one way or another.

So what is the intent of my essay?

It is to raise awareness about the vast range of performance styles in the music that we listen to, and help us become a little more aware of occasional production shortcomings which can unconsciously blemish our perception.

For it is an art medium which can overwhelm appreciation of true quality in performance by its ability to dish up huge amounts of bland material – a sort of aural overkill, and it is this very consequence of which I hope my article will help you stay aware.

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I was fortunate to have spent a considerable amount of my career time in recorded music selection to accompany various radio, television and film creative projects which I directed or produced.

I am not a writer nor professional musician, nonetheless a fairly successful applier of mood generating music, possibly aided by my early career as a sound engineer in live and recorded radio broadcasting. .

Like many music lovers, I came from an early childhood of music studies, in my case the piano, and also enjoyed enormously the exposure to orchestral performance during frequent school excursions to learn the structure and functioning of symphony orchestras. To my pleasure, this did not tie me to classical music but prompted the developing of an interest and enjoyment of all styles

I believe that I walk a very wide musical path - from Mozart to Madonna - and can be as moved by a solemn requiem as by a soulful or bright country music number.

I enjoy thoroughly what is often referred to as 'electronic music' a style in which notes are generated and treated for effect electronically, or else sampled digitally from live instruments and human voices.

It is recent listening to examples of this style on FM radio which raised my awareness of certain shortcomings in what I was hearing, hence prompted my writing this essay..

The idea of music is extremely broad and difficult to limit.

Wikipedia, in a statement of the word's meaning, endeavors to give an accurate and concise explanation of music's basic attributes or essential nature. "Explications of the concept of music usually begin with the idea that music is organised sound. They go on to note that this characterisation is too broad, since there are many examples of organised sound that are not music, such as human speech, and the sounds which non-human animals and machines make" .

There have been many suggested definitions, but defining music turns out to be more difficult than might first be imagined, leading to ongoing controversy about how to define music.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as "the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds, or both, to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion."

However, the music genres known as noise music and musique concrète, for instance, challenge these ideas about what constitutes music's essential attributes by using sounds not widely considered as musical, like randomly produced electronic distortion, feedback, static, cacophony, and compositional processes using indeterminacy.

A thing which I realised is that so much of the music which we can access these days from our plethora of recording and playback systems, both broadcast as well as individually selected, is poorly produced, especially some 'electronic' music.

Too much of it is a boring repetition of micro-second-precise tempo resulting in a mechanical performance style, whilst the total absence of live individualistic human renditioning with its tiny flaws in tempo, note playing, loudness or softness or effect, often results in an uninteresting playout.

So often in music performance by artists of high merit, it is these minor irregularities which lead to the charm and enjoyment of such talent.

As well, the minor ambiences of room noise and natural reverberation in the staging of many 'live' performances lend a feeling of authenticity which many producers of 'electronic' music find exceptionally hard, if not impossible to incorporate in their compilation.

Music can have a similar relationship as an original painting or drawing to printed reproductions of that sole piece of artwork, where the inspirational value is diminished by the acute sameness of the multiple copies.

It brings to mind that memorable ballad "Little Boxes" sung by Pete Seeger where he chants "...there's a green one, and a pink one, and a blue one, and a yellow one, and they're all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same."

A lot of recorded music suffers in an aural sense like this to some degree, therefore it may benefit your appreciation of what you're hearing, to listen not only to what is performed, but how it is rendered as well.

For those who'd like to hear (and see) an outstanding performance of beautifully rehearsed and delightfully staged examples of popular classical numbers, go to this website, and enjoy the talent of Rainer Hersch.

I hope you enjoy a chuckle or two.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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