Okay, so this is a little woo-woo. Or maybe a lot. But here’s what happened.
I sat with hubby Bear on the couch while we listened to a mostly-done version of my Otherworld piece — and he was hearing it for the first time. Of course I had heard it many many times! But for me the experience was as if I had never heard this piece before either! It started easily enough, but then there were shocking sounds, dissonant sounds, and it was somewhat upsetting and troubling, like watching a violent YouTube video. What?!
I took a look at Bear’s face, and yes he looked a bit troubled. Then the music got to the part where the french horns are playing a beautifully consonant, uplifting melody & harmony, and I felt this huge sense of relief and comfort, the stress was gone. But I could feel it ended too quickly! Having arrived at such gentle power, I wanted to stay there. And suddenly I got an image of listening to this piece from within an orchestra, embedded near the french horns.
The piece got a little loud again with swirls of fast-moving notes in almost every instrument, cascading and then gradually falling away, leading into the final peaceful motif. The swirling part was okay to hear, not as dissonant, and the motion was exciting and felt unusual, and like it was taking me for a ride. And the peaceful part was a long elegy to our life in these bodies. Then silence.
The first thing Bear said after the piece ended was: “It would be great to be seated in an orchestra hearing this piece!”!
I took this comment as evidence that yes indeedy I was experiencing the music from his perspective. What do you think? Kinda cool! This experience also made me realize that yes I should repeat that glorious french horn section, perhaps with some changes, so that we get to hear it twice. So I made that change. And just so you know, the next time Bear heard the piece he was not upset by it, perhaps because now he knew what to expect, had become acclimated to the dissonance a bit, and knew there would be sections of music providing respite.
The idea that expectation is key to enjoying music was one of my father’s theories. Hewitt Pantaleoni, who was an ethnomusicologist, believed that the music of an unfamiliar genre or culture could be enjoyed by learning what to expect, so that the experience of listening becomes essentially a play between familiar sounds arriving in expected ways, and unexpected or new sounds that can initially be alarming, but once the surprise is expected, it can elicit delight. I’ve used this method to learn to enjoy many different types of music from other countries as well as from the different cultures in America. It can work well. Try it yourself and see what you think!