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What Time Does It Take to Appreciate Great Music?

30 Oct 2013

Have you noticed that most of the music pieces you now consider great rarely took just one listen to fully appreciate right from the start? It can be really hard to start appreciating complex music at once and there may be a few explanations to that. Here are some.

Too Much at a Time

First of all, complex music is difficult to comprehend because it causes a sensory over-load to our perception. Our brain is built in layers, and it’s not possible to operate all of them at once. In this sense, we can compare the catchy pop music to a bubble gum – you enjoy chewing it for a little while but then it loses its taste too fast and becomes flat for you. That’s explained by the few layers your brain needs to process such music. On the other hand, if we take a complex symphony where the number of music layers is significant, our brain works differently: it learns them gradually, and once another layer is taken in, the next ones become even more anticipated. Such music can be compared to a good wine – it takes time for the aftertaste to settle in. But it’s important to understand that ‘music layers’ are not to be understood as just the number of music instruments involved. The following are to be considered ‘layers’ as well:

  • Various sounds effects
  • The depth of the lyrics (if present)
  • Music extras that are revealed when you listen to the same music on a different sound system

Mind them, too.

No Clear Structure

You may simply not hear certain notes or parts if you do or cannot envision the piece’s structure completely. That is another crucial moment besides the layers factor. If you can clearly see how the melody builds - when it reaches its climax, how it switches from one part to another and when it fades – your picture assembles into a unity. But listening to the piece for the first time will not allow you to predict how the music line will behave (unless it’s a basic 4x4 timing song with repetitive beats). Therefore, even when you consider some music “messy” at first – give it a chance to listen to it again.

Music Evolution

Today you may hear something new in the music you are used to listening to. Art is an ever-evolving phenomenon. To be a part of it, one has to grow with it, to be multi-faceted and flexible. We all favor certain music genres over others, but that doesn’t mean we should close up in a world of one style. Due to the constant interpenetration of music genres, you may not recognize some new elements in the habitual sound and get disorientated. Pop music didn’t come right after classical music, did it. Thus one needs to be open, stay informed and be interested in various music genres. Otherwise, you may rob yourself of the opportunity to benefit from the diversity of the music world.

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