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the psychology of the musician as listener

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 

We know the stereotype---a professional musician with an awful home audio system. A content musician.

My theory is that musicians actively participate in making music, so they listen actively, involving imagination and body movement.

Imagine a recording of a beautiful note on the oboe, beginning with a gentle swell, vibrato entering a moment later, slowly ebbing with great delicacy.

It takes a system with good dynamics, timbral accuracy, fantastic imaging, and more in order to convey this sound accurately.

Suppose a musician listens to this recording on a poor system. Having such extensive experience with live music, she needs only the faintest of cues to conjure up the musical feeling of this sound. She may breath with it or participate in other ways, mental and physical. This is so natural for a musician that I think many don't notice the quality of the audio system at all.
 

I try to incorporate this lesson by bring active participation to my own listening. I use my imagination, wave my hands, breath with the music.

 

If I lost my job and had to sell everything but my ipod and crappy headphones, I could still enjoy the music by using active listening.

post #2 of 64

Though I think active participation may play a role in the enjoyment of musicians listening for pleasure, I would not consider it as the most important factor.

 

Based on some personal experience and observations, I would attribute the situation largely to the fact that musicians are good at interpreting musical ideas as conveyed through the sounds.  What they listen for while performing is the relationship and interplay between musical passages as well as individual inflections, instruments, and groups of instruments.  After all, conveying these ideas is both their passion and their craft that they slaved so hard in school and elsewhere to learn.  Therefore, these are also the kinds of things they often listen for when listening to recorded music.  So long as the fidelity of the audio gear is not distractingly low--and this threshold doubtlessly depends on the person--they can still hear these relationships play out and be satisfied.

 

However, I think you got the core idea that musicians may internally fill in some details or compensate for inaccuracy by drawing from past experiences rather than just the sounds the system is producing.  Probably everybody does this to a certain extent.  Musicians aren't exactly a special class of people distinct from the rest.

 

When musicians are listening to a recording for study, the requirements change a little.


Edited by mikeaj - 9/3/10 at 8:02pm
post #3 of 64

I've been a musician most my life, but only got into the high-end audio game within the past 18 months or so.  This may be part of the reason why I can still enjoy my favorite songs on a $100 shelf system or in my car which has a below average stereo.  It wasn't long ago this was the only aural experience I knew.

 

However, this is my take on what is being discussed:  High end audio is a luxury, not a necessity to experience music satisfactorily.  All musicians have heard live music and know how the acoustics of various instruments contribute to a piece of music.  They don't need every single micro-detail recreated to understand what is happening in the music.  As the OP stated, only cues are needed for the brain to recreate the musical feeling.  Feeling being the key word.  In the book Musicophilia, an experiment is described where the firing of neurons are measured in parts of the brain associated with musical ideas.  The measurements taken when the subject was listening to music, and when the subject was merely remembering the song and playing it in their head by memory were the same.  Granted, our technology for measuring what happens in our brains is at an elementary stage, but I believe this to be an important find.  We do not need much of a stimulus to have a great musical experience so long as we have the mental capability.  

 

 

You don't need to almost feel the vocalist's breath to understand the emotion they are conveying.  Your don't need to hear the toe tapping to sense the rhythm. You don't need a vast soundstage to hear counterpoint.  These are sensory pleasures, and I feel very sorry for those who believe it is necessary to have high end gear to FULLY enjoy the music.  Of course, those (like myself) who are passionate about music may choose to spend their money on something like high-end audio gear because it is entirely related to our passion and it does enhance our lives.


Edited by fallingreason - 9/25/10 at 10:56am
post #4 of 64

Why "she"?

 

That said, I can still enjoy music with my laptop's speakers, imagination does indeed count a lot.

Moreover, the fundamentals of music, I mean melody, harmony and rhythm can be perceived with a 20$ radio or a 20000$ stereo.

The bass goes deeper, the soundstage grows more realistic, you hear more details... but the fundamentals, the essence of the music you hear remain the same.

post #5 of 64


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post

We know the stereotype---a professional musician with an awful home audio system. A content musician.

 

My theory is that musicians actively participate in making music, so they listen actively, involving imagination and body movement.

Imagine a recording of a beautiful note on the oboe, beginning with a gentle swell, vibrato entering a moment later, slowly ebbing with great delicacy.

It takes a system with good dynamics, timbral accuracy, fantastic imaging, and more in order to convey this sound accurately.


For you people we might be stereotype. We don't care much :)

Your theory goes for everybody who is listening to music.

If the music is interesting enough there is not a second spent on a thought "oh the oboe sounds so beautiful". Well.. maybe if it sounds really exeptionally beautiful.

Every stage has a different sound. Musicians are not nitpickers like you people :) We know our own sound, and just try to balance it with the rest of the group.

post #6 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

However, I think you got the core idea that musicians may internally fill in some details or compensate for inaccuracy by drawing from past experiences rather than just the sounds the system is producing.  Probably everybody does this to a certain extent.  Musicians aren't exactly a special class of people distinct from the rest.

 

When musicians are listening to a recording for study, the requirements change a little.


I've NEVER been a musician all my life, but I find this thread interesting.... so far.

 

When I watch a performance, whether it be live or a video recording, I get a lot more out of it than if I were to just listen to a recording of the performance.  Through watching the musician you get to see the full expression of what is intended.  I'm sorry that watching the performance isn't always possible since I've grown to appreciate music that I never really did until I watched the band or musician perform.

 

I don't need high end gear to enjoy my music, but I do prefer using high end gear.  I do enjoy the details heard, especially from lead instruments or instruments that would otherwise go unheard without the high fidelity.  I do know that my experience is just the basic essence when I'm listening to poor quality sound, but this doesn't mean that the basic essence isn't enjoyable. 

 

It could well be that musicians aren't as dependent on high end sound as a non-musician since they spend a lot of time right in the midst of the real thing and not a recording.  They find it easy to extrapolate and fill in the blanks.

post #7 of 64

Musicians are creative people and audiophiles are people who like to shop lol. Both like music, but the musician looks at the composition of the song for what should be improved, while the audiophile looks at the quality of the reproduction. As long as the quality of the reproduction isn't distracting, a musician can deal with it, but the audiophile never had and never will have any say in the composition from start to finish.

post #8 of 64

That, I have to disagree with, there are many audiophiles who are also musicians.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef View Post

Musicians are creative people and audiophiles are people who like to shop lol. Both like music, but the musician looks at the composition of the song for what should be improved, while the audiophile looks at the quality of the reproduction. As long as the quality of the reproduction isn't distracting, a musician can deal with it, but the audiophile never had and never will have any say in the composition from start to finish.

post #9 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post

We know the stereotype---a professional musician with an awful home audio system. A content musician.


I'm going to list three reasons of increasing importance. This is a more exciting approach!

 

Reason 1

 

I did learn classical guitar in my 20's. Actually I started learning with an electric guitar with a view to playing in, maybe a rock group or something, but I became fascinated by classical guitar and started pursuing that instead. In fact it never developed into anything and I don't even own a guitar of any sort today.

 

I do like listening to people playing classical guitar, people that actually know how to play it, and even my poor knowledge informs me about the music they are playing.

 

I think that connection is perhaps one reason why musicians are often happy with poor audio systems.

 

Reason 2

 

The great error made by hi fi types is to listen to the system and not the music. This we all know, but there is a more concise reading of this. In fact hi fi types tend to listen out -> in whereas musicians are listening in -> out. You might be wondering what I'm on about, so I will try to explain it another way. The hi fi type puts on LP/CD/iTunes/whatever and listens starting from the replay mechanism (out) inward to the recording. The perception is very much one of the mechanism revealing the recording. Whereas the musician listens to the recording and only really notices the replay mechanism if there is a significant problem with it. This is listening to the music (in) outward to the mechanism.

 

The biggest problem hi fi types have in assessing equipment is the way this listening from the out -> in. When you read reviews of audio stuff you will almost always see that the reviewer is listening from out -> in. This is terrible and will not assist in the assessing of the equipment.

 

Reason 3

 

The interest in hi fi is not about an interest in music very much itself but rather an interest in penises. I think that sentence didn't go as you expected, but I will elaborate. You might have noticed that there aren't any women hi fi people. I have never known any women in the hi fi thing and I think their absence is amazing and revealing. Guys listen to hi fi and argue about it as a surrogate for comparing their penises. Women don't have penises and so they don't wish to participate in penis comparison contests. Male musicians do have penises but they haven't confused their penis with their audio replay equipment and so don't feel the need to have good audio replay equipment in a bid to demonstrate they have a good penis.

post #10 of 64

On the other hand, if they have a Stradivarius violin, they'll certainly make that fact known.. just joking

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post
...
Male musicians do have penises but they haven't confused their penis with their audio replay equipment and so don't feel the need to have good audio replay equipment in a bid to demonstrate they have a good penis.
post #11 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

On the other hand, if they have a Stradivarius violin, they'll certainly make that fact known.. just joking

 

Quote:



That is a good point. Maybe some male musicians feel they already have a surrogate phallus smily_headphones1.gif

post #12 of 64

Well, the strato is something that helps them sell CDs and tickets to their performances. It's really not as insane a price to pay as you might think it would be, when it increases profit.

post #13 of 64

And if they don't a Stradivairus, what do you think the real purpose of a guitar solo is? still showing off their... and I;m still joking.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

That is a good point. Maybe some male musicians feel they already have a surrogate phallus smily_headphones1.gif

post #14 of 64


 

Quote:

Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

 

The interest in hi fi is not about an interest in music very much itself but rather an interest in penises. I think that sentence didn't go as you expected, but I will elaborate. You might have noticed that there aren't any women hi fi people. I have never known any women in the hi fi thing and I think their absence is amazing and revealing. Guys listen to hi fi and argue about it as a surrogate for comparing their penises. Women don't have penises and so they don't wish to participate in penis comparison contests. Male musicians do have penises but they haven't confused their penis with their audio replay equipment and so don't feel the need to have good audio replay equipment in a bid to demonstrate they have a good penis.


 

hehe. watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gpe5cAkIo0 and imagine that he talks about his penis:)

post #15 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

Reason 3

 

The interest in hi fi is not about an interest in music very much itself but rather an interest in penises. I think that sentence didn't go as you expected, but I will elaborate. You might have noticed that there aren't any women hi fi people. I have never known any women in the hi fi thing and I think their absence is amazing and revealing. Guys listen to hi fi and argue about it as a surrogate for comparing their penises. Women don't have penises and so they don't wish to participate in penis comparison contests. Male musicians do have penises but they haven't confused their penis with their audio replay equipment and so don't feel the need to have good audio replay equipment in a bid to demonstrate they have a good penis.

 

haha!  But isn't it possible that part of the penis-centric mentality is to make the penis the center of any general difference of interests between men and women?  I find few men watching life-time movie network.  What's the cause for that difference since it's the women showing an interest where the men fail to have one.  
 

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