A Balancing Act

A Little of This – a Little of That

One of my goals as an instructor here at GCC is to improve students’ listening skills. Most of the time I do this without them consciously knowing it. That sounds rather odd. It’s not that they aren’t conscious, but they may be distracted — paying attention to other things — while improving their listening at the same time.

I ask questions that I hope will make them think about what they listen to in their every day life. I ask them to describe what they are hearing and what their first reactions are. I’ve found if I can include visuals they will listen a lot longer and understand more clearly what the music is trying to convey. I have discovered that students start paying more attention to everything that is part of their listening day, and that is my intention.

One of the questions I often ask is “Do you listen to orchestral music?” Most students answer, “No, never.” I then talk a little about film. Do they watch films? Again, most of them say, “Oh, yes, I watch movies all of the time.”

With that they usually realize that they have listened to lots of orchestral music. Here’s an example: Composer John Towner Williams (we have learned through trial and error that there are a lot of ‘John Williams’ out there so I have become accustomed to using his middle name just to make sure we are all talking about and listening to the same guy), who has had the temerity to scare us out of the water, share the feeling of flying under all sorts of conditions, whether on a broom, a bicycle, or as a bird, and show us the martial qualities of The Dark Force. I chose this clip because of the content, the audience reaction, and, in this case, not for the visual images, which are slightly blurry. The answer to your question about the first instrument you see is – a contrabassoon. This is as iconic as Bernard Herrmann’s strings in Pyscho, but I digress. One of these days someone will re-master it and it will be clear — but in the mean time, I dare you to stick your toe in the water….

Williams’ Jaws

Known for many different kinds of music, Elmer Bernstein’s music has been patriotic and poetic. Here is a well-known theme. I usually choose something from the film “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but you should all be familiar with this.

Elmer Bernstein’s National Geographic Theme

There are a number of others I could have included if we were learning some specifics, but I thought it might be interesting to simply poke a little fun with Vangelis:

Mr. Bean with one of my favorite conductors – Sir Simon Rattle

I hope you enjoyed the listening.

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