July 31, 2015

Listening to Music

Listening is the other side of the coin for music. While one can play for one’s own enjoyment, the power is in performance that others hear. Tomoko has many insights on this phenomenon.

One of Tomoko’s student’s mother was Indonesian and Baptist. She would stay at the Conservatory while her child took lessons because she “loved the beautiful music.“

Another student of Tomoko's studied at Tanglewood. “I am so surprised that people go to hear classical music. I didn’t know so many people were interested in classical music.”

Tomoko remarks about the quality of the piano as an instrument.  “Part of the discipline of piano performance is to know the instrument, which requires close listening.”

Reinforcing that idea, Tomoko remembers having her students play at San Francisco’s City Hall. “There were 200 people listening, many of whom were homeless. One of the homeless men asked if he could play, and we let him. He played very well, and it made his day.” Tomoko remarks, “I like homeless people more because of that musical connection.”

The space in which the piano is performed impacts the listening experience. Tomoko especially likes the European cathedrals in which concerts occur, emphasizing the community experience.

More generally, Tomoko explains how music brings people together. “Music isn’t just for society ladies, not just for the elite.” She points to the nationalism of Chopin’s work, and the folk songs that Bartok drew upon. “Music is a natural urge, and a way for people to express their commonalities and celebrate.”

So, in the final analysis, listening to music is a way to confirm and reinforce our humanity.

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