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That Missing Measurement: The Musical Connection

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  • That Missing Measurement: The Musical Connection

    Audiophiles often talk about systems differing in their ability to make an emotional connection to the music. Yet others talk about the the whole or gestalt of the system is greater than the sum of the parts. But however you want to describe that element that still is--and probably will always elude measurement--that emotional element is but one of three ways that humans listen to music.

    According to Aaron Copland, we can break down the way people listen to music into three separate "planes" including:

    (1) The sensuous plane
    (2) The expressive plane
    (3) The sheerly musical plane

    No doubt, the "sensuous plane" is the element that audiophiles are most familiar with. It is as Copland defines, "the simplest way of listening to music is to listen for the sheer pleasure of the musical sound itself." Indeed, it is this plane that allow us to derive as much pleasure from our system as as car radio. While Copland feels even seasoned music listeners "abuse" this listening plane and use music as an escape, he points out "it is a potent and primitive force." in audiophile terms, the better the system, the more we can appreciate the sound element that varies from and differentiates one composer from another.

    The "expressive plane" is perhaps Copland concedes the most difficult to define. Simply stated, "all music has a meaning behind the notes and that that meaning behind the notes constitutes, after all, what the piece is saying, what the piece is about. And what the piece is about is the hard to define component. Copland suggests that music "expresses" at different moments, moods (serenity, exuberance, regret, triumph, etc) all displayed in an infinite variety of subtle shadings and elements. Interestingly, even musicians fail at coming up with the appropriate word to categorize the music's meaning. But the most important thing for all of us to do is according to Copland is that every person, "feel for themselves the specific expressive quality of a theme or, similarly, an entire piece of music."

    Lastly is the "sheerly musical plane" or that music consists of notes and their form and utilization. Of course, this is where many of us are the weakest and can usually stand the most improvement. What I found interesting is Copland pointing out that musicians sometimes get too involved with the playing of the music that they lose track of the music's deeper meanings. That's in contrast to audiophiles or the average listener that may become too engrossed in the sound and not enough in understanding the basic musical elements like rhythm, melody, harmony and tone color.


    What are some of the take home messages to improve our listening experience?

    (1) Become more aware of how we listen to music.
    (2) Understand which plane (s) we listen in and which one (s) can we improve?
    (3) Realize that music exists in different forms.
    (4) Become more aware of your reactions to music.
    (5) Are you hearing everything going on in the music?
    (5) Are you being sensitive to the music?

    From Copland's 1957 book entitled: What to Listen for in Music. A little synopsis of the book can be found here:

    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
    -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

  • #2
    Glenn Gould once wrote: "The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity".

    I feel that my perception of the purpose of my audio system is along a similar line. I am often changing it in order to please my necessity of perceiving more of the music I appreciate. This state of wonder and serenity are exactly what I look most of the time in music. As I am not an expert in music science - I have never played any instrument since childhood or studied music - I would say I often use 1. to reach 2.

    My opinions rely on listening mainly to acoustical, non amplified music. I do not care about electronic music or listening to rock at stadium levels, but I enjoy Mahler and Shostakovitch.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by microstrip View Post
      Glenn Gould once wrote: "The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity".

      I feel that my perception of the purpose of my audio system is along a similar line. I am often changing it in order to please my necessity of perceiving more of the music I appreciate. This state of wonder and serenity are exactly what I look most of the time in music. As I am not an expert in music science - I have never played any instrument since childhood or studied music - I would say I often use 1. to reach 2.
      I totally agree. A good system should reveal more of the composer's intent.

      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • #4
        A slightly different perspective on the matter.

        http://www.performancerecordings.com/musicofsound.html
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
        -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

        Comment


        • #5
          I first ran into this when doing a joint comparison of small speakers for Listener. the Reynaud Twins had an ability to connect with me emotionally that none of the other speakers came close to. Even though others were very close overall in sound quality, there was something about the ability to express the emotion in the music/performance that set the Reynauds apart.
          Later when I compared five larger speakers, the Reynaud Evolution 3 had the same impact, and excelled over the other speakers in that test in the same way.
          That's also been my principle gripe with many (though not all, of course) really expensive high end systems, for all that they do right, they often lack any sense of an emotional connection. I can't explain why that is.
          Steve Lefkowicz
          Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
          -
          Analog: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 19a, iPhono2; Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Sumiko Pearl, iFi iPhono.
          Digital: Samsung 300E5C notebook, JRiver Media Center 26, Tidal HiFi and Qobuz Studio), iFi iDAC2, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2.
          Electronics: Burson Conductor Virtuoso, DIY switch-box with TKD 10K pot, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso, Jolida JD1000P, B&K ST140.
          Speakers: Tekton Double Impact, Tekton Lore, Magneplaner .7, ELAC Debut2 B6.2, Debut F5 and Debut B6, Emotiva Airmotiv B1, Sound Dynamics 300ti.
          Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Nordost Solar Wind, Audioquest Evergreen
          Speaker cables: Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Nordost Solar Wind, Nordost Flatline, Audioquest Q2.
          Digital cables: Straightwire USB Link, Aural Symphonics Digital Standard xxv USB, Belkin PureAV.
          Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan racks, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Sound Organization speaker stands, Pangea Audio speaker stands, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
          Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More MK801, 1More Triple Driver IEM

          http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...ounding-system

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Steve Lefkowicz View Post
            I first ran into this when doing a joint comparison of small speakers for Listener. the Reynaud Twins had an ability to connect with me emotionally that none of the other speakers came close to. Even though others were very close overall in sound quality, there was something about the ability to express the emotion in the music/performance that set the Reynauds apart.
            Later when I compared five larger speakers, the Reynaud Evolution 3 had the same impact, and excelled over the other speakers in that test in the same way.
            That's also been my principle gripe with many (though not all, of course) really expensive high end systems, for all that they do right, they often lack any sense of an emotional connection. I can't explain why that is.
            Partly because that musical connection is such an elusive and fleeting quality. Takes a lot to get there and one misstep can destroy that connection. I hope Lloyd/LL2 posts about his recent experiences with his new music room but it can take years to get the synergy, etc right to get to that place. And people expect show exhibitors to capture that musical connection in one day.
            Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
            Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
            ________________________________________

            -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
            -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
            -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
            -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
            -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
            -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
            -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
            -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
            -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
            -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

            Comment


            • #7
              I find that I listen to (classical) music at different levels, depending on my feelings and the situation. In addition to the audiophile level (how is the imaging, how do the midrange and bass integrate, etc, etc) there is the emotional level of the music itself. But there is also an intellectual level. The latter is easier for me with music from baroque to late romantic period, particularly classical (Mozart-Haydn era) to early romantic, where I can most easily hear the structure of sonata form or the easier to hear minuet-trio or rondo or theme and variations. I will listen for key shifts from tonic to dominant and how the composer uses the transition in the exposition to achieve the change from the first to second themes. This can continue through the development, to see what the composer is doing with what themes and how. This can continue to the recapitulation and see how the composer stays in the tonic between first and second themes, etc. Then there are all the more complex variations that composers do within each form. It helps very much to study the piece before going to the concert or playing it on the stereo.

              I have taken many of Bob Greenberg's courses in music appreciation with the Great Courses (Teaching Company). Hearing the Beethoven Symphonies after taking his course made it a much more enjoyable experience.

              Similarly for opera, knowing the story helps a lot. However, the more you know, the more interesting it gets, at least for me. In preparation for my first Ring cycle, I took a course on Wagner and read several books (including Donington and Shaw). It made a big difference compared to just going and listening (and reading the supertitles if they have them). Mark Twain said "Wagner's music is better than it sound." Not a put down, but something quite profound.

              Anyway, the more one knows, the more one can appreciate. I think it is much like sports. If you know nothing about a sport (say football, soccer, baseball, basketball) then going to a game or match can be pretty boring - except when there is a score and everyone is cheering. The more you know, the more you can appreciate the subtleties of strategy and the skills of the participants.

              It does take some effort, but there are substantial rewards.

              Larry
              Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
              Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
              Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiPac, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
              Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
              Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
              Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
              Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks Larry.

                I'm with you and recognize myself in your account of how you listen. When the music is pleasing to hear, sufficiently interesting and inventive to delight, performed well and meets whatever audiophile interests are in play, I lose myself in it. What I call the limbic level: Given over to the music, I'm not aware of myself listening.

                Your mention of the audio courses from Greenberg are for me analogs to my reading about composers and particular compositions. The whole enterprise becomes much more enjoyable and opens another dimension while listening. Sometimes its fun to read the score.

                Comment


                • #9
                  There's always some history behind the music. Seems especially so with Russian composers.

                  As you said, what is the piece about and what emotions are the composer is trying to create in each movement. Take the Pines of Rome or Feste Romane for instance. Another that comes to mind is Debussy's La Mer. The feeling of waves washing up on a beach.

                  Jazz can have its own structure and it's interesting to sit and unravel what the musicians are doing, the music's rhythms, the structure of the , etc.

                  What's beautiful about audio and music is that it can be appreciated on so many levels. You can go as far as your curiosity will take you!
                  Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                  Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                  ________________________________________

                  -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                  -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                  -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                  -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                  -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                  -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                  -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                  -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                  -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                  -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Call me simple minded. I prefer not to parse the whys and wherefores of the enjoyment of music. Doing so might make me think while I'm listening to music (it has) and I don't recommend thinking during music or meditation. I prefer to immerse myself in the music to the exclusion of all external and internal distractions. A good listening session should approach transcendence or an out of body experience.

                    My comparatively inexpensive system is more than enough to put me in that preferred altered state without the assistance of scotch or other pharmacological assistance. Maybe next years upgrade will improve things, likely it will, but until then I will try to avoid equipment envy. That said, I will state emphatically that I don't have any reason to have any other sort of envy unlike certain Republican presidential candidates.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      To me, music in whatever form, is intended to trigger an emotional response. Much of the drama is shadings of light and dark, loud and soft, the build up of tension and its release. This is where, for me, the transcendant experience is. And that's almost all about the composition or at least where it begins. (Improvised music, like jazz is a different matter since much of it is "unscripted" and depends more on the musicians' performance than on the composition itself).
                      How that composition is performed-its execution, if you will, on what instruments and the level of musicianship are another matter and can make a huge difference- I'm less interested in sheer musicianship for its own sake, self-indulgent displays of technical prowess that can interrupt the "story" or theme. Whether the performance is "true" to the composer's intent is of less importance to me than the end result. You have certainly heard good compositions played badly, and can still tell that the music is good.
                      Sonics- obviously make a difference in listener satisfaction, at least for audiophiles and how "real" it sounds, but I can get goosebumps from a shitty recording played over a car radio. Getting all three elements (great composition, well played and well recorded) in combination is not so common. My "take" may not be what Copeland meant, but I think it tracks his analysis. There is also that "extra" factor that is hard to predict- players may just get into the moment together and there is something special that is magical- not something that can be scripted or rehearsed. (Though those hardcore session people seem to be able to consistently play at the same high level, there are still moments of magic where the composition and performance work together in a way that can be a "once in a lifetime, never to be duplicated" experience).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                        A slightly different perspective on the matter.

                        http://www.performancerecordings.com/musicofsound.html
                        I am with this concept more , great music is great any play back system. To feel that we need to have a ultra high end system to be emotional of the music is not true for me. Nor anyone reading this either. We were all young and had cheap radios or headphones or what ever and we did get attached to the music. If we did not we would not be here posting about it. Another clue to this is bad recordings of music we love . Great gig in the sky is one for me. I guess there is no great recording of it as I have never heard one yet . But yet this simple song takes some where every time I hear it. When I say no great one I mean studio there is acouple of live ones that are ok but still not a reference . I really like the topics here and I hope my views although maybe odd or different are never taken as I know more or better I do not .
                        analog stuff.
                        otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                        otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                        sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                        new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                        thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                        thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                        kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                        phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                        speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                        mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                        digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                        Dacs lampi various

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How important is the sound of the recording to you [as in plural]? Back then we were young and stupid. Now we're older and wiser! I think we'd all be lying if we said it wasn't important.
                          Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                          Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                          ________________________________________

                          -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                          -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                          -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                          -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                          -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                          -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                          -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                          -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                          -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                          -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hahaha so,you think we are all smarter notw maybe your right . But i listen to music maybe 5 hours. A day the mood I am in at the Moment directly coralates to how much soul it has and how loud it plays. Same on my headphones or speaker rigs . Aside from what we feel is good as singular and mabe a friend or too who likes the same sound as me. I posted many times I feel we all hear different , it's not jaunt the music we like it's more complex then that I think . If you read the forums ona lampi or psaudio ds dac they both have one thing in common they both can sound different by tube rolling or firmwares. What one person feels is great another hates. Even on the same headphones to make it simple . I do feel the vast majority of our magic is bad soundong to various levels of bad. But the greats.are not all so moving to me.
                            analog stuff.
                            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                            sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                            new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                            thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                            thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                            kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                            phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                            speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                            mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                            digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                            Dacs lampi various

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              How important is the sound of the recording to you [as in plural]? Back then we were young and stupid. Now we're older and wiser! I think we'd all be lying if we said it wasn't important.
                              Speak for yourself, I may be older but none the wiser for it.

                              Some of the music that matters most to me was poorly recorded, miserably mastered, and indifferently manufactured. I'd still trade any dozen or two uber audiophile recordings for a single recording that means something to me, that has created a connection. Some things create a connection from sheer beauty. On the other hand, Nickelback is an only adequate rock band yet I find their song "Photograph" so very sad.

                              I think if we are all honest about it, there are not all that many pieces that create a really intense connection.

                              Comment


                              • cpp
                                cpp commented
                                Editing a comment
                                I'm with you Rust. I wish I had some of those late 60's and 70's albums from groups I enjoyed, sure they might not have been supremely recorded but man it made my toe tap and the music made me feel good. For me the music is about the mood, its the feelings one gets either playing it or listening to it. As a person that has been playing the guitar since I was 8, I always felt it exciting to learn news songs, hunting for the notes across the fretboard and once nailing the 'hook' to bring it all together, yea that's enjoyment.
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