This morning I was asked to describe how I participate in a certain cultural event based on what I got out of reading Aaron Copeland’s “How We Listen To Music”. Since he discussed music and I happen to play the bass guitar, I figured my experience with playing music would be the perfect topic to write about.
Copeland described the way we consume media as a subconscious process. Divided into three sections, he argues that we listen to music for its sensuous, expressive, and sheer musical elements. I’d honestly have to agree with him on all of the above regarding music. In truth, I’ve considered composing music in the past but don’t know where to start. What I generally end up with is parts of a bass line, or what might be referred to as “riffs”. When I try to compose these riffs, I generally have my mind on both the sensuous experiences that a potential audience might witness as well as the sheer music aspect. I don’t usually worry about expressing my current emotions- at least consciously that is. However, I do know that when I play familiar music and work on learning new music that there is a therapeutic consistency within the activity. Music to me is soothing. Very similarly to reading or watching television, playing music allows my mind to completely wander. When I begin to play, muscle memory often kicks in while my constantly wandering mind takes its nap. Despite the fact that I’ve played for a couple years now, I’m still moderately familiar with the notes at best and am by no means a master at tying them all together. Even as I play these incomplete songs, these riffs, It is still a calming and relaxing exercise. Sometimes I’ll even try to add a little bit to those riffs and see how the combinations sound.
Playing music without actively thinking about it would probably reflect the expressive and sensuous sides of music that Copeland strove to describe within his story. Drawing back on what I’ve said earlier, the sensuous side would best be described as that self-unaware bliss you might attain while getting really deep into a movie, book, or video game. The expressive side of music would be most easily compared to writing as I am right now. More particularly, the expressive aspect would be more synonymous with the process of articulation you go through when you write- thinking about what it is you have to say, and how you’d like to say it. Finally, the sheer musical aspect found within musical composition would be most similar to the process of revising an essay on its mechanics or structure. It’s the cohesive substance that holds all of your emotion and the way you go about capturing that emotion together. If one of these three elements is missing, the whole product crumples into a bland, loosely duct-taped mess of an atrocity whether you’re telling a story by paper or music. Because of this, I concur with Mr. Copeland in the sense that music is indeed a realm of sensuous, expressive, and sheer musical rhetoric.