Listening

I used to worry that I wasn’t as musically omnivorous as I ought to be. My love of classical music started with piano and grew into chamber music, but I had very particular tastes. I liked late-medieval and Rennaisance polyphony, developed a taste for Baroque trio sonatasskipped over Mozart and Schubert, would sometimes admit to a weakness for Brahms’s chamber and solo piano music, and dug back in around 1905. I’d listen to a lot more than that, of course, but I devoted most of my time to music from before 1750 or after 1900.

And I’d listen mostly to CDs. Radio used to annoy me. I couldn’t get into it, all that unpredictability, plus the torture of getting to your destination just when you’ve gotten involved in a story or a multi-movement symphony and having to shut off the narrative.

But now I’ve been spending longer chunks of time in the car (a girl who lives in western Connecticut may have something to do with that) and have found myself listening more to the radio. Those longer stretches of time have let me sink into the narratives of prose or music. I now like the unpredictability of radio, the game of trying to figure out what’s playing if it hasn’t been announced yet, the space of wondering what I’ll hear next rather than preparing myself for what I know is the next track on the CD.

And I like that I hear music I wouldn’t have picked out otherwise. I find myself judging less and listening more. I’ll listen just for the sake of hearing what they have to say, what they have to play.

Today is Election Day. I was driving west on Route 34 in the early evening, listening to election coverage on public radio. And I got so discouraged by everything I heard that I plucked a CD out of the holder and slipped it in. I couldn’t summon up the neutrality to listen to the results that were beginning to come in. I couldn’t bear to listen. And so I shut out the world, shut out politics and the economy and illogic and anger, and I reveled in the music.

The band on the CD was The National.

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