Personal enjoyment is the most popular reason people study music. Something about the making of music gives us pleasure. Whether it be simple toe-tapping fun, or an outlet for deeper emotions, music allows us to emote and communicate without having to find the right words (or any words) to fit what we feel. I play every day because it makes me feel better.
Often, however, in music lessons we can become overly involved with all the details of music as it appears on the printed page. What is this note? How long should it play? How loud should it play? What finger is best to use? All that ink on the paper telling us what to do can overwhelm our brain, and override the real reason we are with our instrument in the first place.
While all of those technical details must be heeded, it’s also important not to miss the bigger picture. We must not forget the real reason music exists at all: so that we can create beauty and share emotion. And when examining the art of music, we must not overlook this.
The composer’s need to communicate with his audience was a driving force behind all great works of music. Whether it be deep heartfelt agony, pure elation in simply being alive, the peacefulness of a countryside scene, or simply the joy of wonderful sounds to be relished by our ears, all music is really about communication of beauty and feelings. Let’s remember that such a message underlies all the sounds we hear. Let us listen with ears attentive to that message, not just ears attentive to the technical details of notes, rhythm and dynamics.
Next time you are listening to some music (any music) take the time to care about what the composer was trying to communicate, or at least figure out what he or she communicates to you. Make the effort to appreciate what you find and feel in the sounds you hear. It will bring you back to the reason you started studying all those marking on the page in the first place!