BY Juha Torvinen
Today we listen to music in very different ways to ever before. In the time that preceded sound recording, people had to cope with the music that was available. Either they learned to play an instrument or, if it was possible, went to concerts to hear music. The limited repertoire on offer was determined by, among other things, social class. One’s environment heavily influenced one’s listening.
Technological developments in the past century have made our listening habits more active and diverse. We westerners can today choose quite freely what we want to listen to as well as where and when the listening will be done. We can adjust the volume and tone of music as we feel fits the mood or situation. Recorded music can be cut and paste to suit one’s tastes and needs, and various online services such as Spotify are used to play music non-stop according to parameters set by ourselves. Our ears are not what they used to be.
Our modern reality is thoroughly visual, and especially the moving image has irreversibly influenced listening. Almost all moving image is accompanied by music, and music itself is distributed hand in hand with the visual – through movies, videos and concerts.
An example of image’s influence on listening is a typical Hollywood film, where music is used to support and follow the events – and aims to go unnoticed. Because Hollywood scores primarily make use of the symphony orchestra sound, could the major influence of popular films be making orchestration something unnoticeable to modern ears in general?
Whatever the case, music might nowadays even require a direct or metaphoric visual tie-in. For contemporary ears music is rarely “just” music.