It may seem a strange concept, to even have a guide for listening to music. But, in our experience (which, lets face it, is considerable) we’ve pretty well proved that it is necessary !.
Music, as we know it today, is a kind of continually developing, but logical conclusion of what started as very simple, mainly rhythmic stuff emanating from ancient civilisations from around the world. Thousands of years of development later, we are here with a quite extraordinary wealth of musical genre’s to choose from. All of which, whether we subscribe to them or not, come firmly under the bracket of “an art form”. Music, just like any other art form, comes straight from the hearts and souls of highly talented, creative people. Resulting in, what should be, an immensely powerful experience – What we light heatedly call “the aural orgasm” !!.
It should follow then, that it deserves to be listened to “properly”, as distinctly different to the “music clutter” we endure all day every day, where, we are bombarded with badly reproduced music everywhere, from the shopping centre to the hotel lift and beyond.
There’s a couple of technical aspects, which, we need to get “as good as possible” for proper and maximum music enjoyment: Dynamics, & Frequency range. Along with, some more “human” aspects to at least be aware of.
Listening to music … Dynamics
Dynamics (or dynamic range) is the bit between silence and maximum music volume. Music is very often very dynamic, with very very quiet passages alongside very loud passages. To do music justice and have a sense of realism we then need to listen in a quiet environment with, dare I say, a loud system!.
Listening to music … frequency range
Frequency range is the “range” between the lowest audible tone, right up to the highest audible tone. But, there’s even more to it than that. At both extremes, we “mere mortals” can “feel” tones and frequencies above and below those that we can “officially” hear. At low frequency (bass) we physically feel “vibration”, while at high frequency (treble), sound well above our limit of actual hearing still manages to “get in”, although there is currently much debate as to how that actually happens.
Listening to music … Bass
Bass wise, a degree of vibrational input to our body adds power, weight, realism and makes sure we really know “what’s going on” rhythmically. It’s also, as near as we can get to being “proved” to be good for you !. A number of specialist medical companies actually make devices that, using audio frequency, massage the body at cellular level, and to around 2” beneath the skin. Somewhere traditional massage is never going to reach, and goes some way to explaining just why music can have such a deep effect on us. However it’s NOT a good idea to have bass frequency vibration getting to us through the floor (or furniture, if you’ve got your feet up !) as it arrives at a different (early) time, compared to that coming through the air.
Listening to music … Treble
Treble however is a somewhat interesting and different story. The harmonics of any sound are the things that give the sound it’s true character. In fact, strip the harmonics away from, say a piano and a flute playing the same note, and you can’t tell the two apart!. Harmonics go up and up forever in frequency and tone, so, the more our listening system is capable of reproducing them, the more “harmonically rich” and closer to “real” our listening experience becomes.
On the more “human” side of things, it’s been established that “melody” is dealt with in the front of the brain, while percussive sounds are handled in a section at the back of the brain which is responsible for triggering “fight or flight” responses when it hears a loud bang!. This is why, something as simple as little crackles and pops on a vinyl record can “keep us interested”, while louder musical percussive sounds get us “really interested” and trigger semi emotional responses within us.
Listening to music … in the dark !
Sight, is another issue. It’s reckoned that over 70% of our sensory input is sight. That must leave us with single figure percentages left for each ear!
Music is alarmingly like kissing !!. Both highly passionate, involving and emotional. And, in just the same way as you wouldn’t dream of having a passionate kiss with your eyes open, you should listen to music with them closed. This gives you a greater sensory input % available and an improved chance of letting the music in without visual distraction.
The rules for seriously listening to music …
* Get comfy – favourite chair, nice temperature and so on.
* No distractions – wait till after the washing machine has done it’s final spin !.
* Select a comfortably loud volume (that is also safe for your equipment!)
* Listen in the dark – switch the lights off.
* Preferably listen “after dark” – when we are more emotionally receptive.
* Close your eyes !