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Unit 16: Critical Music Listening

The musical environment is a complex and demanding place. Anyone working with music needs to appreciate – and distinguish between – a range of sonic qualities, from performance characteristics through timbral identities to technical matters. The skill of the sound engineer’s art is wholly dependent on the ability to aurally identify a range of sonic variances, timbral combinations, volume and balance levels, ambience qualities and equipment coloration. The impact of the performer will rely on attention to musical detail and expertise in recognising and eradicating unwanted and adverse sonic features. The successful musician will be able to function in both the performance and studio environment. Acquiring and developing critical music listening skills expands creative opportunities. Film music necessitates a wide timbral appreciation. Electronic manipulation with creative synthesis and sampling requires an appreciation and knowledge of the tonal palette. Learners should take every opportunity to listen to and analyse a wide variety of performances. Live and recorded sound generates different sonic problems with their own considerations. While the majority of recordings are highly processed, all final mixes can generate discussion on the separate elements outlined. Focusing closely on an individual instrument throughout a song will reveal many aspects of the art of listening – listening as opposed to simply hearing.

In this unit musical sounds or elements refer to traditional instruments or any other sources. On completion of this unit, learners will have developed a deeper understanding of music and sonic listening skills and awareness.




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