Listening and Reacting

by turnerb2013

On September 3rd, when the class was introduced to Organum and Gregorian chant during our first formal lecture “Why Sing”, I had a distinctively strong emotional stimulus when listening to “Viderunt Omnes” and “In Paradisum”- the magnitude of which I had not experienced before. My breath was, figuratively, taken away by the beauty and shock of the listening experiences, and consequently, I pondered the possible causes of this intense personal reaction. After attending the following lecture and spending some time thinking about my experience, I arrived at several conclusions that shed light on my profound reaction and on reactions to music in general. And I hope you, as fellow music listeners, can empathize with my thinking and relate it to your listening.

My reaction to “Viderunt Omnes” and “In Paradisum” derived from the complex nature of plainchant and how it severely contrasts with the simplistic qualities of popular music that I, and many of you, are exposed to- not only on the radio, but also at social events, and by living in a culture that thrives on effortless observing- to simple music, Hollywood movies, etc. Today’s music, with its basic auto-tuned melodies and beat driven nature, differs entirely with nonmetrical, melodically complex Organum plainchant. And I think the magnitude of these differences between “Viderunt Omnes” and my repertoire of popular songs in Itunes is what elicited my profound response. Just as to Kafka, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us”, I learned that music should “be the axe for the frozen sea inside us”. By that, I mean it is beneficial to expose oneself to unfamiliar genres of music, even if they are initially uncomfortable listening to, because ultimately these are the songs that elicit the most profound reactions (which makes us feel stronger emotionally and is why we listen to music). In order to have more profound experiences listening to music, people should not limit themselves to the effortless comfort of listening mainly to today’s popular music. Ultimately, by exposing ourselves consistently to entirely different types of music, like plainchant, we can stimulate the kind of personally rewarding reaction that I experienced and that Kafka thinks wonderful art precipitates.