How to Really Listen to Music

As published in The Paris Review: click


Mr. Elk,

Enjoyed the article, thank you.

Now, if I could remember what my wife just said. :


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Interesting article, thank you Elk! I definitely agree with listening to music while driving, a lot of times I can connect with the music better, even though it can sound nothing like the home system. I’m curious Elk, how much you agree with the points made, given your semi-professional musician status. I know you don’t listen to music in the car, but you probably listen a lot different than I do.

I agree with everything in the article. It nicely fleshes out my previous comment that if one listens solely emotionally, or intellectually, you are missing 50% of the music.

While I agree with the suggestion to listen to lyrics, I do not do it. I do not care. I have a great deal of trouble understanding sung lyrics in any event. I also listen to little pop.

I particularly agree with listen more than once. When playing a piece of music new to me, even of a composer with whom I am intimately familiar, it often takes multiple passes before I understand the piece. This is true for me when I am only listening as well.

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It’s a shame you don’t care for “pop music” or to follow the lyrics. You will never be able to enjoy the dulcet tones and profound poetry of Beck. Such as:

“And my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite
That’s chokin’ on the splinters”

                      -- Beck, "Loser"

That’s high art right there, Sir!


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No question!

I know a great deal of pop however as many restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. come with a music track. I am unable to not listen to music so I learn a lot throughout the day.

The article writer also left out half the Chorus on Loser, which as far as I can tell is a Spanish translation of “I’m a loser” - “Sooooy un perdedor”.

Props for discussing it in the article, though.

Props also to Elk for his witty reply to Amsco15’s Johnny Cash post on Spinning Now a bit ago, where Amsco wrote, “Johnny Cash could nail melon collie like few others.”

To which Elk replied, “I have never heard his covers of The Smashing Pumpkins.”



Melon Collies


Going to send that to my daughter who fell hard for that Pumpkins record when I gave it to her as a teenager.

It was a popular and influential album, as was the cover artwork. (If you do not know the story of the artwork it is worth looking it up.)

Wow. So cool. Had never read about the artwork. It was just one of those fully realized pieces of art…required no explanation. They were so huge/local in Chicago at the time (I’d moved there around 7 years earlier) and blew up with that record. Fun stuff!

Makes me want to get the vinyl box just for the artwork. Have always loathed CDs re: artwork unless they really exploited the medium properly. 3 pt. type of the lyrics? Meh…

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And now an almost completely unrelated piece of S.P. information. A tile setter friend of mine who’s sailboat I was doing some repair work to was building a bathroom for one of the band members reno or new house build. The time frame completely eludes me though. It was most likely late ‘90’s.

The timing sounds correct.

Thanks. I didn’t mean to drag the thread so far off course but the story came to mind and I thought this crowd might enjoy it. My friend started an around the world sailing trip shortly after finishing that house. The last I heard he had made it to Vietnam and was staying there for an undetermined amount of time.
Back on subject now.

1995 release, I believe.

Same here. Walking and listening is great too.