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Old 10-08-2013, 10:44 PM   #1
ChucklesMginty
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How do I stay focused listening to longer pieces of music?

I've been listening to mostly to classical music for just under a year. When I first did I really sucked at paying attention and couldn't hear a lot of detail, which sucked because I was used to listen to rock/pop where I could pick things apart easily with the harmony, production blah blah.

So this is improved a lot and I'm a better listener. But quite frankly even though I love classical music I suck at listening to anything over half an hour.

Mahler symphonies, Wagner operas (actually, opera is a whole other issue) etc. I just can't stay focused and take it all in because so much happens. I find following the score helps, but I can't do that at a live performance and sometimes I'd rather be watching a video of the performance.

I don't know if other people have this problem... But I'd like to get around it. I do actually have some legitimate medical reasons for having poor concentration and focus, but I'll work around it.

Last edited by ChucklesMginty : 10-08-2013 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 10-09-2013, 11:51 AM   #2
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I didn't care much for classical when I was younger, because I thought it all sounded the same. Then, after many repeated listens, I started to hear more detail. It's a skill that takes time. What I have found is strange is that I had no trouble following the instrumental lines, but had trouble following guitar lines when starting out. Now that is easier. I am not sure the science behind it, but I think the ear has to adjust for different timbres.

I don't know how anyone can pay attention to something like Wagner's operas and not get all the details out of them in one listening. It takes repeated listens for anyone. Plus you are listening to idioms you aren't accustomed to.

It helps me personally to follow along to the score or close my eyes for more hearing brainpower. I have been listening to many of composers for years and never get tired of most of them.
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Old 10-09-2013, 12:22 PM   #3
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This is the thing that confuses me about opera.

For me I'd need to read the synopsis very carefully and have repeated listens, maybe read the score to appreciate it. People in the 19th century wouldn't really have been able to do any of that so how did they follow along? Is operatic singing more intelligible in Italian and German than English? Because watching Peter Grimes I can't tell what an Earth they're singing without subtitles.
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Old 10-09-2013, 12:37 PM   #4
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The libretto for operas would've been written down in multiple languages for people to read.
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Old 10-09-2013, 12:53 PM   #5
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I can't listen to a full opera either. And Mahler is just...meh. Too grandiose without much focus.

Anyways, it doesn't matter. Why force yourself to listen to something you don't identify with?
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Old 10-09-2013, 01:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChucklesMginty
For me I'd need to read the synopsis very carefully and have repeated listens, maybe read the score to appreciate it. People in the 19th century wouldn't really have been able to do any of that so how did they follow along? Is operatic singing more intelligible in Italian and German than English? Because watching Peter Grimes I can't tell what an Earth they're singing without subtitles.


People living in the 19th century also weren't living in a culture as fast paced as ours. They weren't bombarded on all sides by demands on their attention or immersed in a musical culture that valued instant gratification and rewarded short attention spans.

In non-western musical cultures there are types of music which can go on for hours. One of the barriers to presenting Indian classical music in western societies which I've seen talked about is time restraints. In India a performance might in the past have gone on indefinitely without concern for time, but western concert venues won't allow for that kind of liberty with time, they want a definite start and finish.

My thought is that it is not so much a question of learning patience as unlearning impatience. One of the best ways of doing this I find is to listen to music a lot less. When you aren't being bombarded constantly by music as background noise the value of those times when you are listening increases, and as the value you ascribe to periods when you can listen to music increases, so does your appreciation of the music itself, at least in my experience.
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Old 10-09-2013, 05:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
I can't listen to a full opera either. And Mahler is just...meh. Too grandiose without much focus.

Anyways, it doesn't matter. Why force yourself to listen to something you don't identify with?


Because I forced myself to listen to Bach and then it became amazing.

And I do love Mahler, I just can't listen to a full symphony in one go.

Last edited by ChucklesMginty : 10-09-2013 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 10-09-2013, 06:00 PM   #8
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Why do you think operas have a break in the middle? Because otherwise, people would get bored.
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Old 10-09-2013, 06:22 PM   #9
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Also bathroom break.

But you should never leave an opera early, just look what happened to Batman's parents.
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Old 10-09-2013, 07:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
Anyways, it doesn't matter. Why force yourself to listen to something you don't identify with?

Agreed. I don't see it as the listeners job to maintain attention during a piece of music. It's the job of the composer and the performers to retain the listeners attention.

If it is work to pay attention to a piece of music then the music just didn't connect with you.

If you were required to study a piece of music for a class or for pay then that's a different story. In that case just break it down into ten minute blocks (or thereabouts) and study each piece on it's own then listen to it in it's entirety.

But if this is just for pleasure....
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