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Listening Or Hearing?


Peter Clark
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Hmm... Respectfully, I would suggest that the zombified looks are more likely to indicate that they are listening to it! ;)

(taken from the thread "What's happening in the schools")

 

But do people generally listen to music? Or do they just hear it?

 

There is a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy meets Schroeder (the great Bethoven fan and pianist) who has just bought a record of a Brahms symphony. She asks him what he is going to do with it. "I am going to listen to it," he says. "You mean you are going to dance to it?" asks Lucy "No, I am going to listen to it," says Schreoder again. "You mean you are going to march round the room to it?" "No, I am going to listen to it," says Schroeder again, to which Lucy replies, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard".

 

There is truth in this. To hear music is passive - it is something that is done to you wheras to listen to music is active in that it is something you do so there is engagement between you and the performer. The proliferation of canned music everywhere we go means that music itself is no longer regarded as something special.

 

And one theory states that the louder music is playing in a pub the more you drink since conversation becomes increasingly difficult as the noise level rises. If you are talking you are not drinking....

 

Just a few Saturday morning thoughts.

 

 

Peter

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Now see this -

 

Pipedown International

 

... and join the crusade. We've got one of our better local restaurants to turn it off and the atmosphere has changed hugely - sales are up and people are staying for longer.

 

I recently incurred the wrath of one of our local orchestras who wanted me to play the organ part of something, and 'just to make it worthwhile' wanted me to play background noise for half an hour as people arrived for the concert (quite a heavy affair involving lots of Messiaen). I said no, and explained why, and they didn't bother getting back to me. Hmm.

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Now see this -

 

Pipedown International

 

... and join the crusade. We've got one of our better local restaurants to turn it off and the atmosphere has changed hugely - sales are up and people are staying for longer.

 

I recently incurred the wrath of one of our local orchestras who wanted me to play the organ part of something, and 'just to make it worthwhile' wanted me to play background noise for half an hour as people arrived for the concert (quite a heavy affair involving lots of Messiaen). I said no, and explained why, and they didn't bother getting back to me. Hmm.

 

Thanks David - I shall be getting on board the crusade wagon!

 

When the Wetherspoons pub chain started it made the assurance that there would be no canned music, TV or ay other aural and visual distractions but bit by bit they have crept in. This is especially true on big match days, and I asked the manager of my local branch, who also happens to be a parishoner where I play, why this is happening it was because it was what the public demanded. Really?

 

To address your second point, during my time as an organist I have often been instructed by officiating clergy to "twiddle" if there is a prolonged silence duting the liturgy; this instruction, when verbal communication is not possible, is usually conveyed by their making only half-successfully concealed twiddling movements with the fingers accompanied by an imploring stare which often looks more like the pained expression of one who has found out too late and after many years that the best way of defrosting frozen peas in not by sitting on them for half an hour. Anyway neither my parents initially nor I latterly did not pay out significant sums in order that I might twiddle.

 

Peter

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Guest Cynic

You are absolutely correct - the general public like music in the background (providing it accords with their taste, NB*) - it is a sort of feel-at-home wrap-around ambiance. Mind you, this sort of thing has been serving churches well, courtesy of our good selves. Where would the style of high church anglican worship be without both the smell of incense and the equally amorphous waft of distant celestes and plaintive reed stops, preferably underpinned by soft 32' flues?

 

I think it was the British who were accused many years ago of knowing nothing about music but loving the noise that it makes. If it was true then (Haydn's time, I think) it is especially true now. Not least, the National Curriculum and QCA between them have dumbed down music as it is offered to the young, to the point where it is now perfectly possible to pass GCSE with an A grade without being able to read a note of music. This situation can only get worse: there are many Junior Schools now employing music specialists (sic!) who have had no music training themselves. I suppose a system which frequently employs Biology specialists to teach Physics is capable of anything along these lines.

 

*The weird thing is how nobody can seem to see that their taste might not satisfy everyone else. More appropriately for this board, why should we expect the wider public to enjoy our organ music when it is so strange to their experience? Few now enter churches and not many of the general public are free to attend recitals in town halls. Even music lovers don't get much introduction to our instrument; it seems that the BBC has recently re-discovered organs a little (Deo gracias!) but this will only affect the less than 5% of the population who ever tune in to radio 3. Let's face it, we are preaching to the converted (i.e. giving recitals for the amusement/edification of other organists) or playing to the very few that ever go into church buildings.

 

;)

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there are many Junior Schools now employing music specialists (sic!) who have had no music training themselves.

My wife was recently asked to spend an hour a week for a term in a local primary school, teaching one of the years how to sing. It turned out that their so-called music specialist couldn't sing, play the piano or read music, didn't know basic musical terms, and had no concept of the history of music at all, BUT - and here is her saving grace - she was an expert at selecting a track on a CD, pressing Play, and telling the kids to 'sing louder, yeah?'. The children would respond by shouting along half-heartedly with a CD track of vacuous generic happy pop. Genius.

 

At the end of term, my wife asked this waste of space music specialist what she planned to do next with the kids, now they had been taught to sing largely in tune and time, and given the experience of a range of genres and forms of music. No answer was forthcoming - perhaps she was hoping they might teach her a tune or two.

 

The local county council-run postgrad teacher training scheme combines music and drama, so in both theory and practice, a drama graduate can spend a year on their PGCE studying drama teaching, qualify as a music 'n' drama specialist, and end up teaching GCSE Music. Without ever having played or read a note. No wonder the exam boards have had to lower their sights.

 

At the church where I played a couple of years back, I sat in the vestry doing admin while a nearby junior school held their carol service. I knew it was a carol service because it said so on the overhead projector screen. Sadly it consisted of three hundred children shouting along with a CD playing the backing music for a series of pop songs that were neither religious nor related to Christmas. Afterwards, I asked whether they would welcome some help in their musical endeavours, particularly as I was about to start recruiting for a junior choir. No, they said, they didn't need any help - apparently they had specialists who did all of that. Could have fooled me.

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My wife etc.

 

Speechless.

 

Romsey now has a children's choir. It took very little work; a mailshot to the local primary schools, catching the local rag editor in a good mood, putting up a dozen posters, hiring a friendly church building and throwing an open day. There are now 26 kids from year 2 to year 5 wandering around Romsey who (after a term) can sing in 2 parts, have a grasp of what a stave is for and can identify by name a crotchet and a minim, can sing up and down a fifth to sol-fa signs, and (best of all) can stand up straight, face the right way and put on, from memory, a very passable (very good, actually) concert for 10 minutes to their parents. It's taken 45 minutes of our time a week (plus a bit of planning) for a term. We now have kids who choose to miss 5 minutes of cubs and trampolining and all the rest of it in order to be with us on time.

 

Can I suggest that if we want a musical revolution, we start here? And, if possible, use it as a recruiting ground for church choirs. RVW had remarkable foresight when he put all the folk tunes in the hymn book. Making the folk tunes familiar in a secular setting first makes the prospect of a church choir a lot more interesting and is probably our only way of sustaining not only church music but also choral singing in general. Even though I've now left the abbey, the children's choir will continue to provide those who run the choirs there with 8-9 year olds who can read the notes, sing rather than shout, watch for the ends of words, stand up straight and still have fun. From the church's point of view, it could be argued as beneficial that this happens out of school time as an extra-curricular (i.e. fun) activity. But however wonderful it is, we're still not catching 98% of the child population of one very small Hampshire market town, and from that point of view it's crushingly sad.

 

How ironic also that it's taken someone (my fiancee) educated in Hungarian music teaching methods to make all this happen. How doubly ironic, then, that the Hungarian music education system was modelled on the English system as it was a generation or so ago. There are Kodaly specialists in most areas; find one and get involved. You may not like anything which smells of methodology or doctrine, but you don't have to teach it in that way and you'll find it opens a lot of doors. (It's also a very good way of quickly training adults to be more than disc jockeys.)

 

As for Cynic's 'the general public like music in the background' - I disagree, and so do the research organisations whose findings persuaded Gatwick Airport, Wetherspoons, Tesco, John Lewis, Waitrose and Primark to switch it off.

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Thank heavens for some practical sense - 'must be Hampshire or something - many sing enthusiastically at my 11 - 16 school - the Year 6s were singing when I went and spent a morning with them just before the end of term - the younger ones were also singing when I visited them. There is masses to trawl from now it has become a 'national initiative' - just look at the Sing Up website though sorry - there are MP3 backing files around should anyone wish to use them. I think that the problem with church music is with some of the churches and with some of the people that inhabit them. I still get the feeling from some of the contributions here that it is felt that if we in schools did our job properly then church choirs would be full of musically literate, liturgically educated, repertoire wise top notch vocalists. Here where we live - the main town church choir (full SATB plus matching repertoire) faded quietly some years ago and they use an electronic piano plus 'worship leader' - 4 or 5 people now make up the choir and the congregation is almost as large and quite aged. Another of the four churches has an instrumental group etc. and because of its 'tradition' is full and noisy. The other two churches have choirs - one adult and one (where I am about to deputize) has youngsters too. The DOM here is an ARCO etc. and has a background in junior schools - the music is of a good standard, the choir well attended, concerts take place etc. and there is a real buzz about the place. I have said this before - the youngsters vote with their feet - if they enjoy the singing, feel challenged and respect the person in charge then they will sing - after that it is up to us!

 

AJJ

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Guest Cynic
snip

 

As for Cynic's 'the general public like music in the background' - I disagree, and so do the research organisations whose findings persuaded Gatwick Airport, Wetherspoons, Tesco, John Lewis, Waitrose and Primark to switch it off.

 

 

Dear David,

what is it the politicians always say?

'I have been misquoted.'

I recommend you to check the context!

 

Best wishes,

P.

 

 

PS Your new little (?) choir sounds great. Keep up the good work!

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Dear David,

what is it the politicians always say?

'I have been misquoted.'

I recommend you to check the context!

 

I expect I'm missing something - all I saw was the sentence 'the general public like music in the background (providing it accords with their taste, NB*) - it is a sort of feel-at-home wrap-around ambiance' and don't see much in the context to persuade me you mean anything different.

 

In fact, according to a survey I happen to have in front of me (not from Pipedown, but an association of shop workers) that 6% like it, over 45% hate it, and the remainder actively try to block it out.

 

No, no, no, no bandwagons today... must get off... it's nice and sunny...

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Thank heavens for some practical sense - 'must be Hampshire or something.

Probably - the city I was referring to is Plymouth, well known for nothing musical. Apart from the Plymouth Suite, I suppose...

 

I think that the problem with church music is with some of the churches and with some of the people that inhabit them. I still get the feeling from some of the contributions here that it is felt that if we in schools did our job properly then church choirs would be full of musically literate, liturgically educated, repertoire wise top notch vocalists.

I wasn't saying this in the least. I would expect any school teacher to be competent at the subject they teach, and would expect anyone teaching GCSE Music and beyond to have a Music degree or equivalent (or able to demonstrate an equivalent ability). To settle for anything less is to betray the pupils, and it is the responsibility of the educational authorities (in conjunction with universities and colleges) to ensure a good supply of suitably qualified teachers. I would also hope that every primary school would teach children to sing - not perfectly or necessarily as soloists, but just to sing musically in a group.

 

It is the responsibility of churches who run choirs to teach their children singing. If the schools have made some headway on this, excellent, but churches shouldn't assume that they can attract ready-trained young singers. Nor should churches allow situations where choirs degenerate to the level where they consist of eight old ladies, two elderly men and a dog, singing the same five easy anthems in rotation in quavery voices. David and Alastair are clearly experiencing success, to their great credit. I've always felt that a vibrant choir with children brings real life to a church, as well as giving them wonderful skills and the ability to participate fully in services. How do some churches not 'get' that?

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I went to sing yesterday for a special service in a church in another town. Very extreme Anglo - Catholic (Heaven on earth!) and at one time famous for its all male choir and musical repertoire. (A vicar I knew there in the 1960s was a former pupil of Gigout and Dupre.) Great fun.

 

Whilst there I heard of two other churches in that town. At one of them a new vicar has got rid of a very able and enthusiatic D-of-M and choir bcause he wanted a music group and everything that this implies. Perhaps even more worrying - and certainly sending out the wrong message to young people -is another church where adults in the traditional, all age, church choir are openly arguing and building up opposing "camps", seemingly over a clash of egos. Even worse, neither the Vicar nor the D-of-M seem to have any intention of getting involved in trying to stop this un-Christian nonsense.

 

Malcolm Kemp

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Probably - the city I was referring to is Plymouth, well known for nothing musical. Apart from the Plymouth Suite, I suppose...

I'm a fine one to complain about hyperbole, I know, but isn't that a bit over the top? You know as well as I do that there is actually a fair amount of reasonable to very high quality music making available in the city for those who make the effort to search it out. Think of groups like the South West Sinfonietta, Devon Baroque and the absolutely top-notch chamber music concerts that the Sherwell Centre puts on. I've heard some excellent stuff from the Plymouth Philharmonic Choir too, with a chorus master who knows exactly what he is doing.

 

What there isn't is much interest and support from anyone other than the performers' friends-and-relations. A lot of it is casting pearls before swine.

 

It's not lack of culture per se since the Theatre seems to be very well supported. It's just that there is an almost total lack of interest in music - unless it's a miltary band. It boils down to a comprehensive lack of musical education. I would like to think that Plymouth is an extreme case, but I don't know.

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Perhaps even more worrying - and certainly sending out the wrong message to young people -is another church where adults in the traditional, all age, church choir are openly arguing and building up opposing "camps", seemingly over a clash of egos. Even worse, neither the Vicar nor the D-of-M seem to have any intention of getting involved in trying to stop this un-Christian nonsense.

Precisely that happened here at our city centre church 16 years ago. A "them and us" culture had arisen by the 1950s, not helped by an ancient and by now somewhat deaf organist who rather ruled the roost in matters musical. The church supported this man in his designing of a new organ in those years, but were not best pleased when they found out how big it was going to be - the organist had not told them that his ambition was to have an instrument as big as Westminster Abbey! And when the organ was installed he did the cause of music no favours by accompanying one big service on practically full organ throughout. The entrenched attitude of the choir was neatly encapsulated when this organist retired and his successor was told by one of the choirmen, "You'll learn a lot from us, lad!" The pro and anti camps continued to snipe at each other for the twenty-odd years until there came a change of priest who, while knowing nothing about music and being inclined towards lighter fare, was by no means unsupportive of classical music. Needless to say the arguments grew until the situation became quite impossible and the vicar felt that the only solution was to disband the choir. Of course other organists in the area all tended automatically to blame the priest, but it wasn't as clear-cut as that; the priest really was caught between Scylla and Charibdis.

 

That said, I am minded (yet again) of my first church in Bristol where a musically supportive priest was replaced by another who insisted on imposing some of the more weakly sentimental efforts from 100 Hymns for Today and drastically reducing the choir's contribution. What strikes me is that the priest has the power and influence to dictate the direction his church shall take. Both these cases might have gone another way had a different man been in charge.

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I wasn't saying this in the least. I would expect any school teacher to be competent at the subject they teach, and would expect anyone teaching GCSE Music and beyond to have a Music degree or equivalent (or able to demonstrate an equivalent ability). To settle for anything less is to betray the pupils, and it is the responsibility of the educational authorities (in conjunction with universities and colleges) to ensure a good supply of suitably qualified teachers. I would also hope that every primary school would teach children to sing - not perfectly or necessarily as soloists, but just to sing musically in a group.

 

'Agree totally with this - and my 'groan' wasn't referring to you - it's just that every so often on here...........

 

It is the responsibility of churches who run choirs to teach their children singing. If the schools have made some headway on this, excellent, but churches shouldn't assume that they can attract ready-trained young singers. Nor should churches allow situations where choirs degenerate to the level where they consist of eight old ladies, two elderly men and a dog, singing the same five easy anthems in rotation in quavery voices. David and Alastair are clearly experiencing success, to their great credit. I've always felt that a vibrant choir with children brings real life to a church, as well as giving them wonderful skills and the ability to participate fully in services. How do some churches not 'get' that?

 

..and (cop out perhaps) my choir work now is solely at school - in 'church mode' I do not deal with the choir other than play - I am lucky that my Rector trains them etc. - a good cooperative arrangement.

 

AJJ :D

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I'm a fine one to complain about hyperbole, I know, but isn't that a bit over the top? You know as well as I do that there is actually a fair amount of reasonable to very high quality music making available in the city for those who make the effort to search it out.

Yes, OK - maybe I was a little harsh. There are plenty of other places in the country that are worse, I suppose.

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