Comfortable with unfamiliar music


Very few people, I daresay, would spend money to hear music they’ve never heard of, written by composers they don’t know, and performed by artists unknown to them. The risk of discomfort and a waste of their time and money is too high. Even fewer people would venture alone to a venue they’ve never visited before to experience the complete unknown.

You lower that risk by going with a group that’s comfortable and familiar to you, led by someone whose authority and expertise you respect.

There are too many other ways to spend your time and money that will give you the certainty of joy, pleasure, and positive value you expect.

I challenge my piano students to broaden their horizons and listen to music that is unfamiliar. They think that unfamiliar music means unknown pop songs or unknown piano sonatas. I tell them that everything they’ve heard and played so far is tonal and consonant.  What? What else is there?

Atonal. Pan tonal. Dissonant. Unfamiliar.

They have no point of reference. How do you listen to music that’s unfamiliar and possibly dissonant?

Does music have to be explained?

I say YES — a resounding YES!

Unless you are the composer or the performer, it could be your first exposure to it — and you do need a reference.

In composition class, our teachers introduced music that was unfamiliar. We followed the scores and learned the techniques of composition. In music history class, we learned to appreciate music of dead composers. In theory class, we analysed them. Perhaps it’s time I introduce unfamiliar music for my students to play so that their ears do not compensate for what they cannot read or play properly (yet).

Step out of your comfort zone and embrace the unfamiliar — how else will you learn?

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Filed under audience, communication, composer, composition, piano, review

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