January 11, 2004
Listening Vs. Hearing

"Reflections in D Minor has an interesting post on the difference between listening to music and merely hearing it. It reminded me of something a teacher said when I was in college (early 1970s). Here is my best recollection of his exact words:

Tristan and Isolde used to be something that you would scrimp and save for twenty years to be able to see and hear in person at Bayreuth, where you would be overwhelmed by the experience, not" -- begin bitter and cutting tone of voice -- "something you play in the background while you're doing something else."

He may have said "Wagner's Ring Cycle" rather than "Tristan and Isolde", but it was one or the other: he was a serious Wagnerian.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at January 11, 2004 11:03 AM

The only thing I can imagine doing with Wagner playing in the background is slitting my wrists and puncturing my eardrums with pencils.

Posted by: Stryker on January 12, 2004 06:18 AM

ROFLMAO! Stryker, can I assume that you are not a Wagnerian. (Personally I prefer the term Wagnerite. For some reason it just seems to fit better. Besides, it's easier to say.)

Posted by: Lynn S on January 13, 2004 10:24 PM

Is this sorta like the "I can hear Jimi" routine they had in that horrid "White Men Can't Jump" movie? :)

Posted by: Ricky on January 16, 2004 06:13 AM

Ah, Elliot Zuckerman? Now there's a Wagnerian's Wagnerian. I recall his lectures on the virtues of Parsifal and the Flying Dutchman well.

Posted by: Sean Stickle on January 16, 2004 11:45 AM

Lynn: nope, not a big fan at all. Although, I think that if Wagner had been in his prime during the 1970's/80's, he would've been in a metal band.

Posted by: Stryker on January 17, 2004 01:45 AM

Stryker is probably right, Wagner was a weird dude.

Mark Twain's comment: Wagner's music is better than it sounds.

Posted by: Michael Lonie on January 18, 2004 12:56 AM

This is a self-resolving problem. A Wagnerian cannot help but listen to Wagner if it is playing. One 'hears' what does not engage one's faculties. It you are merely hearing Wagner, chances are it is while is someone else's house and culture, in this case, en passant.

Posted by: gary on January 18, 2004 08:20 PM