FAMILIARITY CAN IMPROVE THE EXPERIENCE OF MUSIC
BUT FAMILIARITY CAN ALSO DEGRADE THE EXPERIENCE
Regarding the question of familiarity:
It is a general characteristic of consciousness that whatever it becomes familiar with, it quickly becomes bored with and loses interest in. How many things have you found very interesting, even fascinating, as you learned them, but lost interest in when you mastered them?
The one clear exception to this is fine music in excellent performances. Music is the only thing that benefits from familiarity, becoming an even deeper experience as one gets to know the music better.
There are two main reasons for this:
1) Music taxes our consciousnesses to their utmost. To understand why, one has to understand polarities and that, when reduced to its lowest common denominator, consciousness is the awareness of the two basic polarities, space in time. Music is vibrating space. Our consciousnesses are limited in such a way that we can only be aware of a certain restricted amount of space in any given amount of time. In other words, most people can only concentrate on one or, at most, two or three things at a time. Music has many more than two or three things to be aware of. There are the notes, the various lines/voices, the harmonies, the tonal colorings/differentiations, etc., on the informational side. And, in addition to all those, there is the expression, which is a separate, complex, finely nuanced attribute of sound that one should be conscious of.
2) Music causes emotionally expressive experiences within us. In addition to the informational aspects of music keeping our consciousnesses busy trying to follow them, the serious listener will usually also EXPERIENCE the music, either objectively by his/her body vibrating very nearly exactly the same as the vibrating of the music as it progresses or subjectively, by experiencing emotional responses triggered by the music's expressive content, which may or may not accurately reflect the music, depending upon the accuracy of the way the listener’s body replicates the actual vibrating of the music.
As one becomes familiar with the music, one becomes freer just to experience it, without having to concentrate as much on the details. This usually enriches the experience. And the experience, while usually still in the same emotional context, is at least somewhat different every time, depending upon our mental and physical mood of the moment.
The person who is familiar with the music, especially recorded music that can be repeated the same way, can also mentally and physically anticipate what is coming in the music, which can help him/her be prepared (primed, so to speak) for the various passages’ contents as they go by. Thus, the experience of the music can often be deepened. This can also be dangerous, because, if one is used to hearing a piece of music wrong, or not quite the way it actually is in the particular performance being heard, one's conditioning can cause one to mishear and wrongly experience the music the way one had conditioned oneself to hear it.
This happens quite a bit with people who have heard recordings on poor equipment and then hear them anew on better equipment. Often the finer nuances or greater delicacy that the better equipment reveals will not be heard, or might even be unwelcome, when the listener is used to less subtle, less detailed, less delicate playback of the recording. And we must remember that the expression is what the performers are trying to create. And changing the expression in any way, which coarsening the nuances does, actually changes the content of the expression.
That is why many slower performances, in which conductors like Barbirolli and late Klemperer, who have a great deal of refinement to express, bring out greater delicacy, sweetness, and deep expressive details, which demand time to unfold, instead of speed and other less subtle, but more immediately hearable aspects of performance, often are disliked. That is, of course, especially often the case when the medium or the playback does not capture all of the nuances.
Late Klemperer suffers greatly from this problem because his extreme delicacy and wealth of expressive detail is very easily lost with less than high-quality media and playback. With Klemperer’s sometimes-slower tempi, a lack of adequate playback means often removes fine expressive details that are integral to his tempi. Without the detailing Klemperer gave them, his slower tempi can bore the listener or seem pompous, because that which originally made them interesting is not reproduced and able to be experienced.
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