Author Topic: Long works - how?  (Read 2792 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Lethevich

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 9748
  • I spilled my drink!
  • Currently Listening to:
    Rihm, Bialas, Ballif, Schumann, Schubert
Long works - how?
« on: August 17, 2009, 08:04:15 PM »
An aside from the listening thread. I recently turned on Bach's St Matthew Passion, very much in the mood for it, but at the beginning of disc two (after the large Part 1) found my interest beginning to wane, and by the end of the disc turned off. How common is this problem for people here? For example, some operas (Don Carlo, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Tristan) I have almost never managed to sit through, despite enjoying them very much.

Also, when you encounter wandering minds, is there another option other than turning off? I tried but failed to "force" myself back into concentration, but others may be more able to do this. Could it also involve structuring of life around it - I, for example, had a completely empty day, and so may have been more willing to spend time listening to a 2.5 hour piece of music if I were to be particularly busy before and after. Conversely, it could also require a period of "tuning-down" from previous activity before, to avoid a jarring transition. I just don't know, hehe.

Tips on surviving this stuff, please :-[
Peanut butter, flour and sugar do not make cookies. They make FIRE.

Elgarian

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2009, 11:44:47 PM »
For example, some operas (Don Carlo, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Tristan) I have almost never managed to sit through, despite enjoying them very much.

Not just a problem with recordings. I remember an occasion when I struggled helplessly to stay awake in the theatre during a production of Tristan that I was enjoying very much. And a recent performance of Don Carlos seemed so interminable that I was almost at the stage of gnawing my arm off by the end (though I was admittedly bored beyond endurance in that case).

Although there was a time, many years ago, when I listened to whole Wagner opera recordings at home in a single sitting, I never even attempt anything like that now. The duration of a single CD (or even less) is about as much as seems sensible at one go, and I've just accepted that that's the best way for me to listen. I've always been happy to spread the reading of a book over several days, so I can easily persuade myself to do the same with a long piece of music, too. (I think, though, that I'm a far more focused reader of books than I am a listener to music.)

Offline Grazioso

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2324
  • Currently Listening to:
    notes
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2009, 03:14:28 AM »
Extended concentration and focus are mental abilities that can be improved through systematic practice, though I think you eventually come to a point where you're futilely butting heads with human nature and getting diminishing returns, no matter how strong your "mental muscles" have become.

It certainly helps to clear your head of other concerns before sitting down with a lengthy (well, any) piece of music, but I basically agree with James that forcing yourself to endure--instead of enjoy--a very lengthy piece can be counter-productive. Better to approach it in chunks when you're most receptive to it. Otherwise, the music turns into sonic wallpaper as you physically fidget and mentally run hither and thither. What's the point, then?

For me, I've come to have a deep appreciation :) for symphonists who keep their works to 30 or 40 minutes, the sweet spot for an extended musical composition: long enough to really develop ideas and tell a story, short enough not to begin pushing my patience. As much as I love Bruckner, Mahler, et al., I often find myself taking short breaks part way through their works.
There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

DavidW

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2009, 03:28:07 AM »
An aside from the listening thread. I recently turned on Bach's St Matthew Passion, very much in the mood for it, but at the beginning of disc two (after the large Part 1) found my interest beginning to wane, and by the end of the disc turned off. How common is this problem for people here? For example, some operas (Don Carlo, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Tristan) I have almost never managed to sit through, despite enjoying them very much.

Tips on surviving this stuff, please :-[

That's the reaction you should have.  The St Matthew Passion is not a work for casual listening, it was special music only written for one occasion.  The mass production of music has eradicated our sense of proportion and understanding of when to listen to music and how much.  Listen to a cantata once a week and you're fine.  Listen a passion, oratorio or a requiem on a regular basis and you'll choke. :)

Offline Gabriel

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 489
  • A Chilean in Santiago (Vivat Haydn!)
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2009, 03:59:14 AM »
It probably depends on the context. In the case of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, even if I admit that I've had to discipline myself in order to keep concentration throughout the composition, it has been much easier for me to do so when attending a live concert than when listening to a recording.

There are other factors, too. A comprehension of the forms (even if it's not very deep) can sometimes help; for instance, in long sonata forms, such an exercise can improve the understanding of the composition in a considerable way (and make its exploration an easier experience).

admiralackbar74

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2009, 05:54:18 AM »
I notice this reality as a pianist all the time. When I'm listening to music, my mind tends to wander and I lose focus easily. When I'm playing a piece, I have no choice but to maintain focus throughout. I've found that if I want to really listen to a piece, I need to read the score while I listen. It works wonders for me.

I would think that, for something like the St. Matthew Passion, reading the score alongside your listening would be beneficial. (Assuming you can read music, of course. No offense meant if you cannot!) Pick an instrument and imagine that you're playing that part. :)

Regardless, keep listening! I love the St. Matthew Passion, but I only listen to it once a year. It is quite long!

Offline jochanaan

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4700
    • Musician, Music Instructor and Piano Tuner
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2009, 08:49:28 AM »
When listening to records, there's nothing wrong with using "the installment plan."  However, it's also very possible to extend your listening attention.

First, make yourself comfortable.  Lying in bed with headphones is ideal; so is a good recliner or rocking chair.  Office chairs that enforce straight postures may be all right, but not ideal.

Second, make sure you're not so tired you tend to fall asleep.  This requires planning.  Approach a listening session almost as if it were a night out; mark it down on your calendar if you need to for longer pieces.

Third, don't plan on doing anything else while you're listening.  Don't put clothes in the washer and expect to remember to take them out (unless the work is shorter than your wash cycle); don't do homework or housework; don't engage in conversation or other activity with your significant other.  If you do, the music becomes background music, and that can be deadly when it's a late-Romantic or modern masterpiece.

Fourth, if you've been having trouble, don't expect immediate results.  As with learning an instrument, this needs extended focus, of the sort you use when meditating or doing yoga.  That's a very different state of being than our common state of being distracted by ten things or people screaming for our attention. :) But the long-term results are definitely worth it, and can be transferred to other very worthwhile activities--including "activities with your significant other." ;D
« Last Edit: August 18, 2009, 08:51:19 AM by jochanaan »
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline Superhorn

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 844
  • Location: U.S.A.
  • Currently Listening to:
    I'm a classical music omnivore
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2009, 12:50:26 PM »
  No doubt about it; long works can be a challenge to listen to for many people. I trained my self from my teenage years to have a long attention span, although my mind wanders occaisionally,too !
  For long operas on CD, a good way to keep your concentration is to follow the libretto in the booklet with the original text and the simultaneous English translation. This enables you to really concentrate on what the characters are singing about and how they interact with each other.
 And if you can read a score, it's helpful to use one . If you can read music, you can learn to follow a score with some effort, but with greater experience it becomes easier.

hornteacher

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2009, 05:50:25 PM »
Glad this isn't just me that has this problem.  I tend to wander during slow movements of long symphonies.  Analyzing the form of the movement sometimes helps me.

Dana

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2009, 06:56:49 PM »
For example, some operas (Don Carlo, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Tristan) I have almost never managed to sit through, despite enjoying them very much.

Neither has anyone else - that's why they invented the intermission! ;D

      Sometimes it's the recording - I knew Don Juan for almost five years before I heard a rendition that really got me to sit up and pay attention from start to finish (it was Solti). Otherwise, I agree with Jochanaan's 3rd point most heartily - set some time aside specifically to listen to a Mozart Symphony. Maybe make yourself some popcorn or something - treat it like a movie for your ears! :)
      Or maybe you're listening to it too broadly. Lots of music takes a short two or four bar theme - not necessarily a long, beautiful Tchaikovskian melody, but a short simple idea - and run it through as many different transformations as possible. I've found that listening for the various apparitions of themes is key to understanding the works of Mozart and Mahler, especially those slow movements.

Offline Josquin des Prez

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3655
  • Lyric Suite, Opus131
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2009, 03:43:06 AM »
The more you familiarize with the work, the easier it becomes. The amusing thing for me is that sometimes i can't seem able to digest a single work in one sitting (like an Opera), but i can listen to different works all day long without interruption. I suspect concentration is not really the issue here.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 04:28:42 AM by Josquin des Prez »

karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2009, 03:54:04 AM »
Or, the opera may be indigestible.

ChamberNut

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2009, 03:56:42 AM »
Or, the opera may be indigestible.

Have some fruit.

Offline Ten thumbs

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1444
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2009, 04:04:02 AM »
Operas are not intended to be listened to without the visual action on stage. I recommend acquiring DVDs rather than CDs.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2009, 04:27:58 AM »
Operas are not intended to be listened to without the visual action on stage. I recommend acquiring DVDs rather than CDs.

OTOH, a DVD of an execrable staging — and let's not pretend that they don't exist  ;D — are IMO a worse disservice to the composer than listening to the music of the opera sans visualized staging.

Have some fruit.

And wheat germ. Don't forget the wheat germ.

Yoghurt, too.

Offline The new erato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 14926
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2009, 04:40:35 AM »
OTOH, a DVD of an execrable staging — and let's not pretend that they don't exist  ;D — are IMO a worse disservice to the composer than listening to the music of the opera sans visualized staging.

I agree. But a fine DVD production is a great experience. I usually take in operas on CDs one act pr evening, though. Destroys some of the dramatic sweep (though if the opera is good enough and I have the time I listenn continously) but usually works well enough for me. I'm currently through the Flagstad Isolde, 1st act, waiting for an opportunity to start no 2.

Franco

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2009, 05:19:25 AM »
Operas are not intended to be listened to without the visual action on stage. I recommend acquiring DVDs rather than CD's.

Not for me.  I do NOT like opera on DVD - I much prefer to imagine my own staging in my mind and listen laying on the couch to hi-fi sound.  Sitting in front of either a computer or television screen for three hours watching three inch singers is not my idea of an ideal opera experience.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 05:21:19 AM by Franco »

ChamberNut

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2009, 08:25:06 AM »
most opera is a complete waste of time anyways...

Italian opera?  Then yes!  ;D

........runs away

Elgarian

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2009, 11:04:13 AM »
OTOH, a DVD of an execrable staging — and let's not pretend that they don't exist  ;D — are IMO a worse disservice to the composer than listening to the music of the opera sans visualized staging.

Thou speakest Truth, O Sage. There are DVDs of bad opera productions that I would pay serious money not to have to watch.

Elgarian

  • Guest
Re: Long works - how?
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2009, 11:07:20 AM »
most opera is a complete waste of time anyways...

For making this utterance, this man James is now

       WANTED,
DEAD or ALIVE.


(Jesse James, I presume?)