About the Making Time column...

by Don Mager

In this and subsequent installments, "Making Time" seeks to review noteworthy new CDs in the broad category of concert music. My premise is that since the expansion of recorded media (records, tapes, CDs), the uses of music have undergone a fundamental revolution, not yet fully appreciated by most commentators. A vast amount of music is experienced not in live concerts but in the privacy of the home through electronic reproduction.

This has resulted in several new experiences from the consumer's perspective: (1) much music is now heard as a private and introspective event, not a communal public event; (2) unlike live concerts, or self-performed music, listeners attend to the exact same aural event whenever they play an electronic reproduction, but this does not mean that they have identical aural experiences with each hearing; (3) consumers have evolved distinct uses for electronically reproduced music, which they elect to engage at various times, sometimes using the same recordings in different ways to ser ve different needs. These "uses" include (a) environmental sound (background), (b) intense emotional purging (catharsis), (c) focussed intellectual engagement with the work as aural narrative or argument (listening). This last "use" is the only one which, for me, actually constitutes "listening" and for which consumers actually become "listeners."

The background and cathartic uses must of necessity displace the immediacy of the aural event relegating it to a secondary status, in order to focus attention on some other object.

In this sense, listening is an experience of and in time. The listener participates in orienting her/himself within the play of memory, expectations, tensions, resolutions, prediction and surprise, which the materials of the work set forth. Regardless of period, style, performance or genre, listening is a possible "use" of any music; however, "Making Time" will review music from the broad category concert music, primarily by contemporary or recent composers, and will do so in the framework of "listening."


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