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Re: music listening styles

This discussion is quite interesting for several reasons. For instance, there's
no real reason to suppose that music listening bears very close resemblance to
either 'listening in the wild', or language listening - any more than we could
assume that reading is like the activity of seeing in the kinds of environments
that might be presumed to have exerted evolutionery pressure on the phylogenetic
development of vision (sorry for the long sentence!).
So it might also be interesting to find out what people are actually listening
to - melodic structures and relationships, something like gestalt
foreground/background items, or something else. Likewise, whilst in real-world
listening, there may be an awful lot going on in perception that never really
surfaces to conscious attention, might it be the case in music, for 'ordinary'

Dr. Peter Lennox
Signal Processing Applications Research Group
University of Derby
Int. tel: 3155

>>> Bruno Repp <repp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 01/04/2008 22:53 >>>
Dear all:

There is a danger that this discussion will become just a collection of 
personal anecdotes, but here is my contribution. Like Harriet and 
Pierre, I have been involved with classical music all my life (as an 
amateur pianist, concert goer, and collector) but unlike them I do not 
have advanced professional training as a musician. In stark contrast to 
them, I am not aware of "analyzing" the music I hear in any way. 
Undoubtedly my brain is doing things that might be described as 
analytic, but I am blissfully unaware of it. I listen entirely for 
pleasure, and while this might be called an "emotional" style of 
listening, I rarely feel strong emotions when listening. I would prefer 
to call it an "engaged" style combined with an evaluative attitude 
towards performance. I enjoy music to the extent that it holds my 
attention and leads to a bodily feeling of engagement or internal 
participation in the music-making. At the same time I evaluate whether 
the expressive nuances meet my expectations; this is not an analytic 
process but merely a matching of internally generated expectations to 
what I hear. So, perhaps the contrast between my listening style and 
that of Harriet and Pierre is what Christian is looking for; only now we 
need more systematic research on such styles and individual differences.

When Pierre says it is "totally impossible" for him to have music as 
background, I wonder if that is not a slight exaggeration. Perhaps he 
could ignore the music if he wanted to, only he does not want to. I find 
background music extremely distracting, too, because I feel compelled to 
listen to it and engage with it. However, I can also "turn it off", most 
effectively by thinking about something else, which may even be 
different music. My mind often wanders while listening to an 
unremarkable music performance and even while playing the piano. (Your 
mind never wanders, Pierre?) Of course, once this happens I feel I 
should not have listened to the music in the first place; I feel guilty 
about not having given the music its due. There is an ethical aspect to 
classical music listening; one feels obliged to pay full attention to 
it, out of respect or whatever. It means a lot to us.

I'd also like to repeat a comment I made in an earlier message some time 
ago. While there is a certain amount of research on the effects 
background music has on various activities, there is virtually no 
research on the effects various activities have on music listening. One 
reason may be that this issue seems of lesser practical importance; 
another reason may be that the effectiveness of music listening is 
difficult to assess. Nevertheless, it seems a theoretically interesting 
topic to me, and I wish someone would tackle it. For me, thinking 
interferes with music listening, as does reading and any motor activity 
that requires close attention. However, working with numbers, such as 
analyzing data on the computer or solving a sudoku puzzle, does not 
interfere at all, and I do this often while listening to music. There 
are music-compatible and music-incompatible tasks (and others in 
between), and the interactions are probably bidirectional.


Pierre Divenyi wrote:
> As a person with a first life lived as a classical pianist, I second 
> Harriet*s note. I would only add that my brain does not just try to 
> analyze auditory input classified as music: it is totally impossible 
> for me to have music as background to activities or conversations. For 
> background acoustics, I need (and, if I may, recommend) silence.
> Pierre
> On 4/1/08 10:56 AM, "Dr. Harriet Jacobster" <hjacobster@xxxxxxx> wrote:
>     For me personally, being a classically trained musician, it's very
>     hard to just listen "emotionally." My brain is constantly trying
>     to analyze what I hear. This is even more so in an unfamiliar
>     piece of music.
>     Also, are you looking at live vs recorded performances?
>     Harriet
>     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>     Harriet B. Jacobster, Au.D.
>     Board Certified Doctor of Audiology
>     Lyric Audiology, pllc
>     "Bringing Words and Music to Your Ears"
>     hearingarts@xxxxxxx 
>     Christian Kaernbach wrote:
>         Hi,
>         We are looking for research on the effect of "listening
>         styles" (listening modes, listening strategies...) on the
>         effect of music on the listener. How does the "impact" of
>         music change if one listens to it "emotionally" versus if one
>         listens to it "analytically", or anything of that kind. Any
>         hint (even far fetched) welcome...
>         Best,
>         Chris
> -- 

Bruno H. Repp
Haskins Laboratories 
300 George Street
New Haven, CT 06511-6624
Tel. (203) 865-6163, ext. 236
Fax (203) 865-8963