New Year’s is an inspiring time of year. We love reviewing the past year and even more so, dreaming of how to make our lives better for the coming year. Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and honestly, the vast majority of people do not keep them. One of the biggest reasons why resolutions are neglected is because they are too vague, such as lose weight, eat better or stress less. If you follow my blog or have read my book, you know about all the different ways music can inspire, heal, bond you with others, help you learn, highlight great character traits, or just create enjoyment. Don’t you want more of these things in your life? This week I’m giving some ideas for specific goals for how to become more musically literate in 2016.
Musical literacy is a term I use throughout my book and blog; it does not just describe knowing how to read and write music, but also how to understand and appreciate music. There are different levels of musical literacy, and just because you are not an experienced composer who knows the ins and outs of writing for all instrument types or a long-time performer who knows her instrument better than any other object, doesn’t mean you do not have musical literacy. But regardless of your level of music understanding, there is always more to learn. Knowing and understanding more will give you more pleasure listening to or playing music.
There are several ways to increase your musical literacy on your own or with the help of an instructor. There are simple things you can do, like expanding the kinds of music you listen to, or going to live performances. If you want to delve in a little deeper, read about music, or find music to meditate to. If you have more time on your hands, find an instrument you like and start taking lessons. These are great ways to make you a happier and more well rounded individual.
Although these examples sound great, they are not specific enough. Spend some time this New Years weekend or even a couple weeks planning out how you can follow through with these resolutions. Here are some ideas. Steal one or all of them!
Take these ideas to bring more music into your life and become more musically literate. By following through with these resolutions, music can make your 2016 more thrilling, relaxing or enthralling. Happy New Year!
This can be a hectic time of the year. Students are studying for and taking finals, while educators are giving and grading finals. Some people are working required overtime as members of the retail industry, while others are finishing up 2015 business. Several people are rehearsing and performing lots of holiday concerts. Some are spending their free time on decorating, baking, volunteering or buying gifts. Many people, whether religious or not, are probably doing many of these things with Christmas music in the background.
Much of this genre works well for background music. It is cheery, simple and worth singing along with: “Let it Snow,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and countless others. Others however, are more meditative, and it is important to remember to have meditative music, especially during the busy times.
In order to really listen to music, and appreciate it, we need to stop everything else we are doing and absorb it. This used to be the norm. Before we used digitalization to bring music with us everywhere to soundtrack our lives, people only heard music when they went out to find it. Whether that was in a concert hall, a university, a salon, or at home, it was sought out and relished. When we listen to music, rather than just hear it, we can appreciate it at a different level. Now, we have to make a point to be alone with music. By absorbing the music, we hear the harmonies (and dissonances), chord progressions (or stagnations), dynamics (and articulations), shaping (or bluntness), texture (or solidarity), and granted (or delayed) expectations. We don’t hear these aspects of music if we don’t really listen to it. Furthermore, we miss the entire message. “Reading a book entails not only looking at the words but also seeing them, converting the printed words into mental constructs in order to understand the narrative,” Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor, interprets, “Likewise, listening to music entails hearing it as well, in order to understand the musical narrative.” Listen to what music is saying.
We have amazing musical technologies that bring us nearly anything we would want to listen to anywhere and anytime, but oftentimes the music becomes just another window open on our desktop. In order to enjoy, benefit from, and meditate with music, we must bring it to the foreground and get rid of whatever else is in the background.
 Daniel Barenboim, Music Quickens Time, (London: Verso Books, 2008), 31.