Dear professional violinists: do you listen to music in your free time?
It may sound a little obvious question; of course musicians would listen to music every time they can, would think anybody; who else would be better suited for that activity, who else could pay attention to all the infinite nuances classical music has, who else could understand a violin concerto as well as a violinist, noticing details only musicians can?
Well, and this question is aimed to the musicians (violinists specially) that make a living out of the violin whether it is an orchestra, soloist, chamber or teacher, I've found out that professional violinists I know don't usually listen to music in their free time. By music, of course, I mean violin concertos, sonatas, symphonies, chamber music, pieces of the repertoire played by violinists you admire so you can get influenced, get new ideas, etc...
While you're commuting, in your home, in the car... specially moments were you would pay most of your attention, if not all, to the music.
Share your thoughts and day to day experience about this topic.
I'm not a professional per se, but I practise 4 hours a day and I perform sometimes several times each month.
I am not professional but a conservatory student. However, I teach & do paid gigs (weddings etc.) regularly.
I always think this is so interesting! I have a lot of pro musician friends in varying genres and I tend to sort them into two groups for this.
My experience is similar to Tim's in that not many of my friends and acquaintances who "do" music for a living (play or teach) are what I'd consider to be musical enthusiasts; attending concerts as audience members, exploring the libraries for rare repertoire or listening to music in their spare time. Absolutely excusably, when they get time to themselves they usually like to do something completely different. However, those that I've manage to entice into playing chamber music soon discover that playing music with friends can also be a great form of relaxation.
When I was exclusively playing for a living, I'd had enough music and noise to be honest, and either listened to Radio 4 (current affairs here in the UK, no adverts either, you Americans should try it!) and I really enjoyed, and still do, silence! Also, sometimes, totally different music, simpler, plainer 'cleaner' - Palestrina, Gregorian Chant and so on. Now I teach mostly, it's different, I listen to music almost all the time.
I think the fact that very few pros have responded might be an answer in itself.
I can count the number of real "pros" on this website on one hand. It's likely they just haven't seen the post.
What's free time?
Hahahaha, good one!
In an interview, Pinchas Zukerman says he does not listen to any music at all - and the only time he does is when he is working on an album and needs to listen to his own recording to decide what to do. (It's on youtube, it's an interview with him and his wife in Toronto.) The musicians that I know listen to very little music "in their free time" - whether that be cooking, cleaning, or otherwise.
Free time is the time you may or may not decide to practise the violin.
I think that for people to whom music is a serious thing, listening to music is also a serious thing. It is not free time!
Radio 4 also, though if any 21st century music comes my way I'll give it a listen.
I don't listen to music very often; I get enough at work. Usually I have NPR on in the car--news, or This American Life, or one of their other shows. If the news on NPR is too upsetting though, I will flip over to music--sometimes classical, sometimes oldies. It bothers me to have classical music on in the car and then have to turn it off mid-piece when I reach my destination.
"It bothers me to have classical music on in the car and then have to turn it off mid-piece when I reach my destination"
You do realize there are more countries than yours, do you?
I am out of town visiting family for a few days. Back to work tomorrow.
I listen to the radio when I'm driving (sometimes classical, sometimes top 40 or NPR) and I'll go to concerts if someone I want to hear is playing, but other than that I mostly only listen to music when I'm trying to learn a piece. If I want background noise, I'll put on HGTV.
I'm not a pro, just a reasonably busy amateur, but driving a car is the one time I never listen to music of any kind - for me it's too absorbing and therefore dangerous. If my passengers want to listen to music then I request them to listen on headphones or not at all.
You're of my kind, Trevor.
Perhaps this is only my experience, but having played so much classical music tends to make it so that I appreciate it less, from a "listening to it on the radio" standpoint. I tend to focus less on the music itself and more on "how would I play that? Are there mistakes I'm hearing, and how would I avoid them?" Etc... It's almost like being a cook and watching a cooking show on TV. You're analyzing far more than you are enjoying.
I'm not a pro myself, but I can see different types of professional musicians answering differently. I constantly look for music I haven't heard before or that I'm not familiar with... and yes, I do tend to think about it. But I don't think about how I'd play it, I think about form, structural elements, how I'd conduct it, and what composition insights I can draw from it, because I was a composer before I was a string player. I can easily see a professional composer or conductor being much more interested in listening to classical music than a professional performer would be.
I'm not a pro violinist either but I seem to be the only respondent here who actually LIKES listening to classical music - all ages, all instruments, all genres (OK, I'll pass on opera and madridals). I'm in the midst of converting all my CDs into mp3 because then I can play them via the TV without getting out of my chair. 1000 down, another c.1000 to go. Then start on the rock and jazz.
Erik! That happens to me as well, but not only with classical, it happens with all the music I really appreciate, I can't just pop it at any given time. I need to be ready and really into it. Many times I don't feel like listening to any of my library's, I listen to the radio (classical only), and I discover many new pieces.
I remember a story once about a man refusing to stop his car for the police who had their siren on. In court his defence was that he had been listening to Mozart's horn concerto on the car radio and mistook the police siren for the horn part.
Hahahahaha, I can't believe that, hahahahahaha. I thought he would say that he couldn't stop and attend the police until the piece ended, that's a big solid reason for me!
Being a collector of vinyl Lps, I love listening to chamber music in between rehearsals,kids and concerts.I went over to the "dark side" in June,sold my Linn amp and preamp and bought a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium Integrated HP tube amp.Im now torn between listening to great vinyl or practising for the upcoming Signature concert.
Richard wrote, "Radio 4 (current affairs here in the UK, no adverts either, you Americans should try it!)"
I believe it's important for both professional and amateur alike to put some serious time into listening to music, whether it be recordings or live performances.
"Do you really never listen to classical music? How is so?"
Well, I can understand that one chooses not to listen to classical music in the free time, but you were like really positive about "never", so that's why I was surprised and I asked you "really?".
It doesn't surprise me that there are those who don't listen to music after a full days teaching or playing.
In response to Tim: magic shows are special when you can't figure out the trick. They invoke a sense of wonder and excitement. But once the magic trick is given away, it will be boring the next time you see it. But to everyone else watching, it would still feel like actual magic.
@Erik - Maybe you should try listening to Beethoven piano sonatas or just about anything that doesn't involve violin tricks?
I got to disagree on that, Erik. Your example is remarkable, I liked it, but it surely doesn't apply to music. I apply exactly that "logic" to films: when I watch a film for the first time, it is fantastic, if it's a good film. The next 3-4 times you watch it still you could find it amusing, but then you simply don't want to watch it again, unless it's some "classic" movie like "Home Alone" in Christmas or black n' white old ones.
I understand the cynicism of certain posters who don't want to burn out listening to music when that is their profession.From my view point as a professional player I am always " in the kitchen" preparing and serving these pieces to the public.It brings me great pleasure to get out of kitchen and sit in the restaurant(my stereo)and have someone (or some orchestra,quartet, rock band etc. etc.) serve me instead.
Nice example, Peter, hahahaha. A chef will always want some spare time while someone else does the dinner. I don't understand your first sentence though.
I just perceived some posts as cynical.Nothing wrong with that but again I understand being burned out listening to music.I usually ride home in silence after concerts.
I think there is some novelty in first impressions. I'm no pro but I am a musician..so if you don't think I'm qualified to reply then don't read this.
It's both Tim...
Timothy, first I think you misunderstood my "condition". I said this is specially aimed to professional players because 5 or 7 years ago I thought these were listening all day to classical. Then I noticed my violin teacher didn't at all, then my other violin teacher, then this orchestra violinist I met, so it kept kind of shocking me how it was possible.
I think it's individual-a sort of gift of wanting to live and breathe the violin. But one does not need to conclude that, while there are many pros that do not have the time or inclination to listen to their "job" music on their spare time, there should be plenty that have this unique disposition of "violin music nerdiness", that keeps them going for more, even "after work".
Everyone is making many good points, although there are certainly some differences when it comes to things like listing to the same piece many times. I'm one of the ones who can listen to a good piece (watch a good movie, walk along a trail, etc.) over and over, getting deeper into its details every time. There's something satisfying to me about going over familiar material, walking a familiar path, etc. - an anticipation and enjoyment in skillfully following things I know well.
But the thing is... playing in an orchestra is something quite different from listening to Bach sonatas, piano repertoire, violin concertos of your favorite violinists...
I hate background music. And I hate listening to music in the car. If I'm listening to music, I've got it going through the high quality speakers, and I'm not doing anything else- I'm focused on what I'm hearing. I may stop, rewind and replay if I like what I hear. Otherwise, I'm listening to NPR or some podcast about murderers.
--not nearly as much now as when I was young.
It seems sad to me that many or most professionals have apparently lost the capacity of being blown away by music, whether they're playing it (not a good thing) or listening (a very good thing). Over the years much of the standard orchestral and choral repertoire (we aren't talking just violin music) has gone somewhat stale on me too, but the old feelings can usually be revived by a good performance. Plenty more pieces remain as exhilarating as ever, whether listened to live or in the home. Absolutely not in the car! If you turn it up loud enough to hear properly you're probably a menace to other road users...
So I think there might be another element here that I didn't previously consider:
Nice point, Erik, but I don't think the reason why almost all my violin teachers don't listen to music at all is that hey find very poor to listen to these master pieces through speakers instead of the real thing. Indeed, that wouldn't shock me in the first place, if that was the reason I would be even more surprised: wow, not only they want to listen to music "all day", but they also want the music to be superb quality, in other words, live. They don't want to go down and listen through dead electronics.
I agree with you Erik that nothing beats a live performance.A similar analogy is taking a photo of a family member is not the same,regardless of the camera quality, as having that person beside you.Nonetheless a photo is a wonderful reminder of that person even if they are not present.
As time goes by I'm less and less bothered by the reproduction quality of recordings. In the past I was inclined to be seduced and thrilled by the sound, now it's the music. In the case of "historical" recordings it isn't the sound that puts me off but the style of performance. I guess I'm thoroughly conditioned by present day practices.
We went to see David Finkiel and we had front-row seats. At intermission we were able to move farther away and it was much better. I saw Josh Bell from the mezzanine and Yo-Yo Ma from off to the side, and both were just fine. Roanoke Symphony is better from the Mezzanine. I think it depends on the hall. These concerts were all at Virginia Tech's Fife Theater (Moss Center), which has fabulous acoustics. This coming Sunday we will see Perlman there.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "historical" recordings Steve?
I've never seen Perlman perform, I really hope to do it soon as I get a chance. You're very lucky PAUL!
There are many great vantage points to this discussion. Some of you are very good at painting word pictures. I'm not sure how a violinist differs from any other instrumentalist in this regard.The type of music and exposure or level of immersion seem to be more pertinent. Maybe time playing, that kind of thing.Even given the same condition different individuals might respond in a different way.
Good post Tim.
@Peter. The "historical" recordings I can't get along with for stylistic reasons are mostly pre-WWII. Violinists of that era sound so different from today's breed. Even great chamber music groups like the Busch Quartet I'm afraid leave me cold. Schnabel's Beethoven? Perhaps a bit wanting in steely precision. Elgar's recordings of his own works, on the other hand, still possess an energy and passion that transcend any sonic limitations and Albert Sammons is quite my hero. Of course this is all IMHO.
Thanks for clarifying that Steve.I have audiophile friends who take great pleasure in listening to these Lps and one of these people collects 78s.Not my thing...
I am not a fan of super noisy recordings, but every violjn playing era has its place and lessons for us. When I was young I respected the old recordings, but also did not favor them vs modern. Nowadays does modern rarely surprise me, though there ARE many good recordings, even as of late. Kreisler, early Heifetz, etc. is super old and still sounds great to ne (perhaps I have bad musical taste.)
Peter - I too really enjoy the sound of recordings from the early stereo era, some even going back to the mid-50's. I think the simple microphone placement and mixing techniques manage to preserve an integrity and immediacy that more "sophisticated" methods sometimes lose. And I also agree with Adalberto that digital doesn't necessarily entail an advance over analogue.
There is a long history, by the way, of top classical performers enjoying jazz in their spare time. Artur Rubinstein loved to go and watch Art Tatum, for example. Rubinstein was very much in awe of Tatum's skill. Imagine what that means. Composers have always sought out folk performers for inspiration, especially where folk traditions are strong (where aren't they?). Nowadays you've got top players who are known to enjoy everything from bluegrass to heavy metal. And of course there is opera. But after hours of rehearsals from Bach to Bartok, I can imagine going home and listening to the latest recording of classical violin or symphonic music might not be relaxing because, well, it's just not different.
That's very true Paul.For the sake of variety I love putting on percussion ensemble pieces such as Eduard Varese's "Ionisation" on Columbia Masterworks MG31078.Anothr fabulous Lp I found at a used vinyl store is Angel and Pepe Romero with the Academy of St.Martin in the Fields playing pieces by Guiliani and Rodrigo .Its on Philips #6500918 from 1974.Sensational recording and different from all the stuff that I play.I love hard British rock and blast Catherine Wheel "Happy Days".Sounds great with the tube amp.A true classic that I play constantly is The The "SoulMining" .A stereo "show off" album.
Peter mentions the issue of dynamic compression (not to be confused with data compression, e.g. between WAV and mp3 formats). This has become practically universal in the popular music business and now often gets thoughtlessly applied to classical music also, to the extent that the quiet bits often sound just as loud as the loud bits!
Steve I agree, I know this as as compression and limiting. Even though Classical music as a general rule usually has the lightest touch in mastering, when it gets transmitted from radio station though it can be further compressed.
When you say "way too hot " Tim,is this a reference to the amount of gain you have?
Sorry Peter I rend to use so much jargon that no one knows what I'm trying to say. Yes too much gain for the type of genre and maybe too much compression at times. I would rather have the listener turn the volume up to 30-50% in order to comfortably hear the track or turn the volume down for background music and not be blown away at 50% volume. They also have the option to turn it up from there.
For LPs, I understand that manual, realtime compression was essential since the neither the tape nor the disc could cope with the huge dynamic range of real music. The sound engineer had to be an even better score reader than the conductor!
I've had the same thoughts regarding recording engineers of that era Adrian.Ive gone "full geek" and seek out Lps by certain recording engineers.John McClure is one of my favourites from Living Stereo.
Compression also recognizes the reality of the home listener. At a live concert, guests sit in chairs for two hours to enjoy the tiniest whispering pianissimo from the violins and the crashing thunderstorms of the tympani and the 9-foot Steinway. The poor guy who coughs during a soft part is rewarded with dirty looks from his neighbors. In contrast very few people listening at home are sitting in recliners wearing headphones for entire albums at a stretch. They're doing other stuff meanwhile.
Good point Paul.I'm searching for a good set of headphones since I FINALLY have a built in headphone amp on the PrimaLuna.Does anyone have advice for headphones in the $700 to $1000 price range?
I like highs, most "audiophiles" do not. So my opinions are tempered by that bias. The "air" that treble can add to most recordings just sounds "right" to me.
Wow! Thanks so much for that Adalberto!
I listen to violin music every day but it's not always classical. And any time I'm in the car and there's classical music on, I'm in on it! But it's SUPREMELY annoying when I reach my destination and the piece is not finished.
The sound system in a friend's car has a switchable compressor so you can play recordings with dynamic range (good for home listening) and make them listenable on the road. Excessive compression has made many recordings almost unlistenable; I've heard CD remixes of wonderful old vinyl recordings that sound horrible. Some of this is due to a misguided "more is good" philosophy that drives people to make recordings sound loud so they stand out from the competition. There's a good
Thanks for that link Charlie....
Charlie - the switchable compressor is such an obvious idea I wonder why it doesn't feature on all car sound systems?
I use a pair of ATH 50X headphones for rough mixing at night when I don't want to bother the rest of the household. They are studio monitoring headphones. I only do this in a pinch and always listen again on studio monitors. I use the headphones to get me in the ball park.
Excellent post Tim and thank you!
Timothy - you mention surround sound headphones; are you referring to the so-called binaural technique which is even supposed to preserve sound source location information in the sagittal (up/down) plane? I'm completely ignorant as to how this works, other than that it seems to involve directional microphones placed on either side of a dummy head. It's been around for ages and certainly has its adherents although has never cracked the commercial world.
TBH Steve, it's been awhile since I seen those and I forget the exact details. I could go looking online to find it again.I don't want to give out misinformation here so I'll be safe and with hold my comments on the details until I know more about it.
Do you have any experience with with electrostatic headphones Tim?
I wonder if anyone still wears Jecklin Float (I think they were called) ES phones, like small loudspeakers on either side of your head!
Peter I have no experience with those headphones. Made me curious though so I Googled them and read a few reviews. I looked at reviews on several models from Stax. They seem like a very nice set of headphones and a solid choice for classical music. One reviewer commented that the bass seemed a bit anemic compared to his other high end headphones. I suspect that this was because the Stax are highly representative of the actual recordings.The same reviewer also had listening fatigue on the high end over a long period of time. Once again probably because the high range extension is so good it began to sound tinny at certain high frequencies.
Back in the '70s I remember reading about experiments where recordings were made with microphones in a simulated human head, complete with ears. The convoluted shape of our outer ears isn't just for ornamentation, after all. We had the chance to listen to a recording made with such an apparatus (with headphones, of course). The spatial perception was amazing. When a truck went by outside the hall in which the recording was made, we took a quick look out the window - even though we were in a 9th-floor apartment at the time. And we jumped when someone in the recording dropped something to the floor with a loud clatter.
This is what I was remembering - must get down and read it!
Steve, seems you and Charlie are talking about the same things. I read the wikipedia article twice to make sure I absorbed most of it.Very interesting.I plan to learn more about it.
I think Tim the OP has probably given up on his thread. But it's great to learn what weird and wonderful things absorb people in the music world!
Yeah Steve. I don't know when to stop. Oh well.
Im fascinated Tim and Steve.Thanks for all your info.It will be useful in my headphone quest....
Also thank you Adalberto!