To Enjoy Music, Stop to Really Listen

Article excerpt

My wife and I once invited a friend who is a professional organist and pianist to dinner. As we sat down to chat beforehand, I put a piece of classical music on the stereo, thinking it would please him.

Our friend soon grew silent, responding to our chitchat with short, polite answers, but seemingly lost in thought. As we rose to go to the table, I left the stereo on as "background music." But he gently demurred. In effect, he said, "I can't eat, talk, and concentrate on really listening to this wonderful music." We had to choose. The stereo was silenced.

A terrific article on listening to music by Fred Kronacher, a classical pianist, on the MSNBC Web site, elaborates on this point.

Because recorded music is now so pervasive, he writes, "We're being knocked silly by background music.... For the first time, most music that is 'heard' is not 'listened' to. We're not even supposed to pay attention to it... We're actually being trained to 'not listen' to music. We're learning how to tune it out."

We may not be able to avoid "musical wallpaper" at restaurants, in banks, or even on elevators, but we can control our private time and space.

Make time to really listen to music thoughtfully, he says. "Don't let your musical sensitivities be overwhelmed by a relentless, commercial wave of mindless music-noise that threatens our ability to think clearly, reflect calmly, consider mindfully, and, yes, to simply listen. …