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A Music Library

The conductor of my high school youth symphony loved to talk.  One could say his long-winded lectures made him infamous among those students who worked with him.  Being a teenager at the time most of the stuff he said went in one ear and out the other for me.  It was a Saturday morning and a three hour rehearsal.  My caring was... not there.

But there was one lecture that he gave that actually did have something of an impact on me.  I remember the brass section had just completely fudged the section we were trying to play and basically my conductor was like, "This is a really important section for the brass.  You guys need to know how it impacts the rest of the orchestra."

This segued into the long-winded lecture about the importance of having a music library if you were a musician.  Now this was before YouTube (I'm dating myself here).  So collecting classical music was actually kind of a big deal.  Most stores only wanted to sell the popular stuff.  Finding three or four different versions of one particular symphony took some searching.

What actually made this particular lecture stick in my memory was that the gist of what he was saying was not only about knowing your part but also because having a collection makes you have a sense of ownership over the piece.  You've gone out of your way to collect the music and that establishes a connection to it.

Now, years later, I'm realizing how important that is for a young musician.  Ironically, the lesson still applies even with the dawn of YouTube.  YouTube and other online sites have made music gloriously accessible.  I love how easy it is to find music these days.  I love it when a student comes into his lesson and tells me about something he found online.

But listening to a recording once online does not establish that same sense of ownership.  Music has to become "your music."  This is a much, much deeper level of listening than casually streaming the "best of" list on Spotify.

All musicians should work on building up their music library.  And with this means having the ability to listen.  Crummy speakers on a laptop work in a pinch but they don't replace the fuller sound of a nice sound system.

Now I'm not saying go out and drop thousands of dollars on new albums and a surround sound system.  I'm merely pointing out the importance of this aspect to musical training.  We are studying sound art.  As with any art, exploring other artists and paying attention to the details others have added matters.  Just as how a painter should eventually care about paint and canvass quality, a musician should care about the quality of a listening experience.


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