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Listening in a Crowd

I am reading a great book by Alex Ross entitled “The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century” and came across a passage that applies to what we are doing at Classic Album Sundays. Ross explains how listening to a concert (we will apply to listening to an album) as a group has a much different nature than that of the solitary viewing of a painting.

“Looking at a painting in a gallery is fundamentally different from listening to a new work in a concert hall. Picture yourself in a room with, say, Kandinsky’s Impression III (Concert), painted in 1911. Kandinsky and Schoenberg knew each other, and shared common aims; Impression III was inspired by one of Schoenberg’s concerts. If visual abstraction and musical dissonance were precisely equivalent, Impression III and the third of the Five Pieces for Orchestra would present the same degree of difficulty. But the Kandinsky is a different experience for the uninitiated. If at first you have trouble understanding it, you can walk on and return to it later, or step back to give it another glance, or lean if for a closer look (is that a piano in the foreground?). At a performance, listeners experience a new work collectively, at the same rate and approximately from the same distance. They cannot stop to consider the implications of a half-lovely chord or concealed waltz rhythm. They are a crowd, and crowds tend to align themselves as one mind.”

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