How We Listen to Music
In Aaron Copeland’s essay “How We Listen to Music” he divides the way we listen to music into three separate parts: the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane. In this short essay I will explain how I listen to music and my interpretation of each these planes. I will also be giving examples of artists that I feel fit these particular categories.
The first is the sensuous plane. Copeland defines this plane as “the simplest way of listening … for the sheer pleasure of the musical sound itself.” The example I chose for this category is the A-teens. They fit into the genre of pop music. The reasons why I chose this group is: they have a good and enjoyable beat, the message is always positive, you can dance to it, it talks about the joys of life and love, you don’t have to concentrate or think hard while listening to it, and it is helpful while doing chores or things around the house, making you finish things more quickly and efficiently.
The second is the expressive plane. Copeland states that “all music has a certain meaning behind the notes and that the meaning behind the notes constitutes, after all, what the piece is saying, what the piece is about.” The example I chose for this category is the music of Rachmaninov. He fits into the category of classical. His music can almost fit into the sensuous plane, but there is so much more to his music. There is, of course, the beautiful melodies to listen to on the sensuous plane, but there is also a large range of emotions that can penetrate your soul while listening. For example, it can portray sadness, happiness, excitement, etc. Rachmaninov’s music can take you into another world and really cause you to think.
The last is the sheerly musical plane. Copeland states that “the intelligent listener must be prepared to increase his awareness of the musical material and what happens to it. He must hear the melodies, the rhythms, the harmonies, the tone colors in a more conscious fashion. But above all he must, in order to follow the line of the composer’s thought, know something of the principles of musical form.” The example I chose for this category is hymns by the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This music fits into the sheerly music plane because the message behind the music is powerful, it speaks of devotion and love, it describes the relationship between God and us, and it brings feeling of happiness, comfort, and other positive feelings. This music, if listened to properly, will penetrate your feelings like no other music.
I think it is very important to understand why and how you listen to music. Understanding what level or plane you listen on a particular piece will help you deepen your understanding of music. By this you will become a “more conscious and aware listener – not someone who is just listening, but someone who is listening for something.”