We know it from many Hollywood movies: just follow your heart and everything is gonna be good. Transposed to music listening, this approach means: just seat down, chill and enjoy. Can such an approach be prolific?
Most of our daily experiences actually need a previous knowledge to be understood. For example, understanding a joke requires a number of communication processes based on previous knowledge. Without it, we are just going to miss the point of the joke, which means that even if we do understand each word, we are not able to find out why the story should be funny. The whole communication process just doesnʻt take place.
Despite frequent claims to the contrary, music–at least the music which is actually played and heard–is not a universal language: until a certain period in history, composers wrote music following a clear and defined project, based on some patterns which were commonly known and shared between musician and listeners. For example: only if you have a clear expectation of how a cadence proceeds and ends will you be able to experience the thrill of surprise of a deceptive cadence. Without a shared knowledge of these patterns, musicians and listeners will simply miss the point and have no dialog.
Some years ago I gave a series of lectures entitled Missing The Point. The listening experience of music between knowledge, ignorance and enjoyment. This lecture aimed to analyse and show the relationship between knowledge of musical structures and the emotions that music can give us, always trying to go beyond the level of trivial oppositions such as heart/brain, feeling/rationality or sensation/understanding, demonstrating how emotions and rationality form, on the contrary, an indivisible unity that alone can lead to fully satisfactory communication and listening experience.
In this blog I will publish a series of articles developing this idea, contradicting the position of those who believe that analysis can be detrimental to aesthetic experience, because, as R. Feynman stated: “[knowledge] only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”