Life’s soundtrack

Recently I attended a public lecture by a noted academic, and was intrigued that before he began his address he took out an iPod and attached it to a sound system and switched it on. It played the ‘Trout Quintet‘ by Schubert. After we had listened to the music for perhaps four or five minutes, he switched off the equipment and proceeded to deliver his talk, which (in case you are wondering) was not in any way connected with Schubert’s piece; nor did he at any point explain why he had played it. I have to say I rather liked what he had done, not just because it is a wonderful piece, but because there was something nicely civilised about the whole experience.

Maybe I reacted positively because, on this occasion, we were really being invited to sit quietly and listen. Far too often these days music is part of a background soundtrack, played but not listened to. In the department store, or the café; the busker on the street who gets paid money as a substitute for listening rather than a reward for playing; the pianist in the hotel lounge who has 100 ways of playing tunes from Lloyd Webber musicals but who never really has an audience. But music, I think, is a form of cultural language and really needs to be listened to. It is not wallpaper that softens the background.

Anyway, I approached the lecturer afterwards and said I appreciated the Schubert piece, and he told me he does this at the beginning of most lectures he delivers to students. He said it puts them in the mood for listening and engaging with his subject. It’s an interesting approach. He may be right.

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7 Comments on “Life’s soundtrack”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Music, because of it’s connection to mood. The mood existing before the listening. Such a decision is a bit fought and I expect for every one like you that found contentment listening to the Schubert there are five found it tedious. Of course he could have let this loose, Schubert’s Winterreise. Something you’ll need to enter training. And not a prissy Wagnerian type of training, no no, actual ten mile run type of training for that’s how you’ll feel after enduring the wringing you’ll get from that cycle.


  2. […] “Recently I attended a public lecture by a noted academic, and was intrigued that before he began his address he took out an iPod and attached it to a sound system and switched it on. It played the ‘Trout Quintet’ by Schubert …” (more) […]

  3. anna notaro Says:

    It’s true, music is life’s soundtrack, but then while we are busy living our attention cannot always concentrate on music, we cannot always listen intently, and yet background music still performs a positive function and affect our mood for the better, it might be similar to a wallpaper, as you put it, only the wallpaper as well (its pattern, its color) can influence our mood and uplift our spirit. We are sensorial being, we are programmed to be receptive to such audio/visual stimuli..
    The cultural language of music can be spoken in different context, just like ‘culture’ itself flourishes in lecture rooms as well as in the everyday, it’s up to us to choose the *right* music for the right time in our life..

    The fifth and final section of Derek B. Scott, ed., Music, Culture, and Society: A Reader , “Music Production and Consumption,” introduces a number of concepts related to the link between music, its producers, and its consumers

    less stressfull, uplifting, stay longer in the shop..dancing at the cash machine, musuc in the work place
    http://www.musicworksforyou.com/background-music/the-impact-of-music-on-everyday-lives.html

    • anna notaro Says:

      oups..clicked the post comment button before I could complete the last part of the comment..which should read something like this:

      The book referred to in the post Derek B. Scott, ed., Music, Culture, and Society: A Reader , does not exclusively deal with the concept of music as cultural language, the fifth and final section of“Music Production and Consumption,” is also interesting in that it introduces a number of concepts related to the link between music, its producers, and its consumers

      this link
      http://www.musicworksforyou.com/background-music/the-impact-of-music-on-everyday-lives.html
      simply refers to people’s view on the role of background music especially as far as the shopping experience is concerned, but then consumption is a ‘proper cultural’ topic, the vast academic literature on it proves it…


  4. What a coincidence! I’m planning to precede a presentation to staff at University of Illinois at Springfield tomorrow by a 2 minute slide show of Sligo and live ukulele accompaniment of “By the Sea”. (I’m serious, by the way – when I write it down it sounds like a joke) One of the themes of the talk is “The merits of mediocrity” (or mediocre online courses?) and I thought that this might serve as an illustration. I wonder what sort of mood it will create.

  5. Mary B Says:

    There is a belief – which I can’t reference – that listening to the music of baroque – Bach, Handel, Scarlatti et al boosts one’s learning ability. I only discovered this many years after I did all the revision for my final exams listening to the Brandenburg concertos. Fortunately, it didn’t put me off them!


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