The thesis of the book is that we listen to music in a number of different ways, using different levels – the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane. These levels provide a unique sense to the music experience, but when combined, they can allow you to enjoy the music as completely as possible.
My personal version of the thesis for this essay would be that it is important for us to understand the role of these different levels of listening to music, so that we may gain a better understanding of the music itself – how it makes us feel, what it might mean, and the craftsmanship of the composition.
a. Paragraph 1 – “the only advantage to be gained from mechanically splitting up the listening process into these hypothetical planes is the clearer view to be had of the way in which we listen.”
b. Paragraph 6 – “…the sound element varies with each composer, that his usage of sound forms an integral part of his style and must be taken into account while listening.”
c. Paragraph 8 – “…all music has a certain meaning behind the notes and that…constitutes…what the piece is saying, what the piece is about.”
d. Paragraph 19 – “It is very important for all of us to become more alive to music on its sheerly musical plane.”
The essay ends with an appeal for the listener to take a more active role in listening to music, instead of letting it passively move around them. If they are able to pay attention to the music and how it affects them, they can get a lot more out of the experience. With this in mind, I feel like there is still a place for allowing music to affect you in the way that you need – you do not need to completely codify every song and know the intricacies of every aspect of music composition to like having it on in the background. Music can do different things for different people, and this type of analysis does not have to apply to all situations.
a. Most of his examples are classical musicians; only once does he mention a non-classical composer, and he is thrown in the end as an afterthought. This is to emphasize the most musically complex examples available, to hammer home the necessity of the sheerly musical plane.
b. The “sheerly musical plane” is the music as written and composed, especially as understood by someone with an advanced knowledge of music theory. This plane allows you to see the patterns and rhythms, the mechanics of the music, which makes you see innovations and interesting methods of composing more clearly.
c. In Copeland’s opinion, people seem to be listening to music all wrong – they are either blasting their eardrums out at concerts, struggling to make sense of the meaning of the music and hating songs they don’t understand.
For the most part, I tend to listen to music as something in the background while I do homework or do other things on my computer. It tends to not be any sort of search for the meaning, and the music is rarely the focus of my activity. In this way, then, I feel I listen to music mostly on the sensuous plane. From time to time, I will notice an innovative way that the rhythms and instrumentation are used, which is a facet of the sheerly musical plane, but coming in at a distant third is the expressive plane. When listening to a piece of music, I am more concerned with how the music sounds than what it means – the melodies, the instrumentation, the emotions that it conjures up are far more important and pressing to me than the inspiration behind the lyrics, or the sentiment it is trying to convey to me.
Often, when I am working on something that requires more of my concentration, I listen to music without lyrics, such as classical music or film and television scores. I do this to get myself in a certain mood without really letting my conscious self realize that I am listening to music; it instead becomes the soundtrack to my day. For this reason, I firmly believe I tend to focus on the sensuous plane of listening to music above all others.