The Experience of Music

A reader writes:

I've been reading your blog for some time now, and thoroughly enjoy it, even when I don't agree with you. Tonight I've read the quotation from Oliver Sacks about music, and I'm writing because I find it fascinating to read non-musicians writing about music. While I can tentatively agree on some of the things he says (well, despite being a church musician amongst other things myself, I don't buy the notion of composers as taking dictation from above), one of the things he totally misses is that, at least for people who make music, music at least in part represents the actions taken to make music!

When I hear a great voice singing, I thrill at the thought of what it must feel like to open one's mouth and make a sound like that, knowing what it feels like to sing. And it's not hard to extend the ideas to various sorts of instrumental playing. A big shift has occurred over the past 100 or so years with the advent of electronic distribution and reproduction of music in that most listeners now are physically divorced from the making of music, and in fact have never taken any serious efforts in making music themselves. This leads to the sense of separation of music from the physical world that Sacks is talking about. I'm not judging whether or not this is a good thing, but it certainly represents a marked change in the experience of music since the 19th century.