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How Do You Judge A Piece Of Music ?

  Of course, judging any classical work, like anything in art or literature , is highly subjective .  And often very difficult .  Unlike popular music or Rock etc, where people will tend to like or dislike something immediately because the music is rather simple compared to classical , it often takes repeated hearings before you know if you like this or that symphony, concerto, opera or choral work or not .

  Of course, in some cases , you will find some classical works immediately appealing , such as the works oif Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi, Schubert and other composers whose music is highly melodic .  But with  other composers , particularly ones of the 20th century and early 21st , the music can be downright puzzling the first time you hear it .  This is why you should always try to keep an open mind and not make snap judgements on any particular classical work . 

   Your average pop song is brief and simple, with catchy melodies and  a steady beat .  You have the words to the song , that is, if you can make them out, which is not always the case .  But in a symphony, concerto , tone poem ,or string quartet etc , you  are faced with purely instrumental music ,  although there is an enormous amount of classical music which is vocal .   A symphony or a concerto tends to take much more time to unfold than a pop song , and you have to concentrate in order to follow what is going on .  If it's a programatic work, or one which tells a story or paints musical pictures ,  you need to know the details of what the music is trying to portray by reading about it.  Operas can be quite long , in some cases  more than three hours , not counting intermissions, although quite a few are much shorter .

   This is why repeated hearngs are often necessary before teh muswic really sinks into your consciousness .  If you go to a concert and hear something unfamiliar and complex , you may be baffled by it and THINK you don't like it . But if you try a recording of that work and give it repeated hearings , what sounds baffling or off-putting at first may start to make much more sense to you , and you can even come to love that piece . Then when you hear it live , it won't be a problem .  This has happened to me so many times .  Works which I could not make head or tail out of at first  are now highly enjoyable to hear .

   Once you have gotten enough experience listening to classical music ,  you may begin to form your own criteria of judgement . What are my criteria ?  How do I know whether I like a particular work or the music of any particular composer or not ?   There are basically two reasons why I would not like a work ; either it is  just not interesting ,  a formulaic and nondescript work that leaves me saying "Meh ".  Or there is something off-putting about the piece, something that just rubs me the wrong way . 

   But if I hear one piece by a composer who is new to me and don't like it, I  try to keep an open mind and  give other works by the composer a chance , and not dismiss the composer  based on just one work . Music that is highly melodious is wonderful , ut a piece doesn't have to be conventionally melodious to be highly interesting and enjoyable. Thisis true of a lot of 20th century music . 

   I suppose the most important thing the remember in listening is to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions about any given work .

Posted: Feb 21 2012, 08:40 PM by the horn | with no comments
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