Oteri and Cage on the power of listening

Posted on: September 30, 2010

Monday (9/27) at NewMusicBox.org, Frank J. Oteri writes, “In his final definition of music—‘sounds heard’—John Cage put the responsibility for the existence of a musical experience not on composers or interpreters, but on the audience. But Cage’s elevation of the listener to a primary position of musical power above and beyond the people on stage or in the studio has taken on perhaps many unintentional ironies, particularly now that we live in a world with buzzwords like ‘audience friendly’ and where musicians have even been castigated for discouraging the use of mobile recorders at concerts. … Last week I finally caught up with audiophile Steve Guttenberg’s provocative essay, ‘Why can’t you listen to music?‘ for the CNET Blog Network. Guttenberg laments that we’ve become so attached to multitasking, as well as using music as a personal soundtrack to block out other information as we go about our lives, that focused listening (an activity that can only occur while doing nothing else) is becoming a lost skill. … If music exists in your life solely as an accompaniment for other activities, then you are not really listening to it. Indeed, if these sounds are not really heard, they are not really music. The role of the audience must be to make the experience of listening to sound into music.”

Posted September 30, 2010