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Mike Stanley Final Paper: Barenboim Response The Power of Music

I have been a lover of music for many years. I play several instruments, I try my hand at composing every now and again, and I am constantly trying to expand my musical knowledge and tastes. I always enjoy reading and listening to Daniel Barenboim who has a very philosophical view of music, which is something with which I connect easily. I am in full-hearted agreement with Mr. Barenboim that music contains elements that are distinctly human in nature and have great power over us. Mr. Barenboims lecture on The Power of Music contained a great number of points, which resonated with myself, and I would like to reflect on a few of these.

Mr. Barenboim believes that music allows us to experience emotions that, in real life, are impossible and often contradictory. In the lecture he uses the example of simultaneous pain and pleasure. While I agree with Mr. Barenboim on the existence contradicting emotions in music, I would like to change his diction. Pleasure seems like a word more appropriate for satisfying bodily needs like hunger and thirst among other things. I would use enjoyment, which is more of an appreciation for something. Enjoyment involves ones full attention and focus on a task. In the case of music, that can involve simply searching for deeper meaning. Music can be devastatingly sad and morose, yet we as humans can still enjoy and appreciate it for its beauty and its message. In this way music allows us to have

contradicting emotions and experiences. It is the only time we can receive a sense of enjoyment out of an experience that is also sorrowful or depressing.

Barenboim also points out in his lecture the difference between the nature of music and the associations we make with it as listeners. Barenboim points out that music, even the same sounds and pieces, can be used to express so many different ideas and qualities. It is our job as listeners to move past our associations and passive feelings about a piece of music in an attempt to derive as much as we can from it. I believe that this is the most enjoyable part of music. In my own mind and definition enjoyment is an active process that involves full attention and focus. When I enjoy music it is because Im doing more than just hearing it, Im also listening and analyzing as well. I enjoy finding the sections and transitions of a piece that really move me. I enjoy breaking down a piece and examining how the progression occurs and how it is done seamlessly. I believe this is one reason why I enjoy so many different types of music, because I can appreciate the musicianship, the art form, and the skill of many different genres and artists. I can move past my initial reaction of how it makes me feel, although that is still a huge part of things, and listen to what the artist is really doing regardless of whether the music is classical, jazz, or dub step. As soon as I started to really listen and appreciate music in this way I found my taste for different types of music grow, particularly towards classical and experimental music. I believe this is because these genres of music apply themselves to deeper meanings than the music that the majority of my peers listen to today.

In another key moment of Barenboims lecture he claims that music is similar to human existence. By this he means that a piece has a past, present, and future. The past effects the present of the music, and the present effects the future of the music. First, this struck me seeing as you, Professor Gawlick, played one of Chopins nocturnes in class one day while making a running commentary throughout the piece that gave me a similar thought. You would mention how in the b section we have glimpses of the darker a section, and then in the second a section here we are back in the beginning theme, but its not quite the same seeing as how weve travelled through the b section already. This was the first time that I had considered listening to a piece in this manner. However, I also had an additional reaction to Barenboim statement which involves my own personal taste in music. As mentioned earlier I play a couple different instruments, all relatively poorly, but Im finding that I would like to spend a lot of time with just one and get much better. What Ive discovered is that the kind of music I like to play and write is a combination of the different genres which I have learned to love over time. It is the modern dance and electric music, but with jazz and funk roots. It combines the musicality and instrumentation of blues and jazz with the pace and energy and modern electric.

I also connected with Barenboims description of the difference between the strength and power of music. With the ease of creating music brought on my modern technology there are so many people who are trying to DJ and write crappy electronic music. You no longer need to be able to play an instrument, or read music,

or have any knowledge of theory. Many artists are more technicians than musicians. What I am noticing about this is that while some of this music can be fun and energetic the element of musicality has disappeared. This would be where Barenboims lecture comes in. You cant listen to Skrillex or Benny Benassi and appreciate their musicality, or at least not in the way you can with classical music or jazz. Artists believe that if music is loud, pulsing, and has a beat it works. There are of course other ways to appreciate this kind of music such as rhythmically and in its energy and catchiness, but in my opinion the sophistication of this music has diminished. Many times, when listening to classical music, it is just a few moments of strength instead of power that fascinate me. Quite frequently I am forced to find the score and break down the section just because I need to know how the artist created such a striking moment.

Apparently I have a philosophical view of music as well as Mr. Barenboim, which is why I am in agreement with so much of his lecture and in fact have thought about many of these topics on my own. I believe music has the power to move us as well as carry so many different messages. In line with this I believe that the best music is sophisticated. It contains many different levels of depth including emotion, musicality, memory, and many more. Furthermore, because of the depth of music it is extremely powerful, and connected to human nature.

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