I don't think when I listen

It was summer of 1996 and during my first semester at Berklee College of Music.
Some of my friends and I went to see an outdoor concert, I don't really remember which one, I saw many, many concerts that summer.
After the show, on our way back to the dorm, one guy asked me something which struck me as a really odd question.

He asked me, "so, what did you think?"

"Think?" I replied. "Think about what?"

"You know, what they were doing on stage... I'm not sure if I understood them... did you get it? I want to know what was going on."

"You were just there, weren't you? You experienced the whole thing as I did. You know what was going on."

Of course, being a music student, he wanted to be able to analyze the music to pieces and that's what the question was all about, but since I wasn't listening to the music that way, I couldn't satisfy his academic curiosity. Well, being a first semester student, I couldn't have been much of help for him anyway, but that's not really important. The point is, I would still answer him the same way today.

I think that was the first time someone asked me to share my analysis of a concert that I'd just seen. Over the years, I've learned that it is something a lot of musicians do - analyze what they hear and put it into words as they listen. And I believe they are missing so much by doing that.

It's not that I can't analyze it, just for the record, and I do when I have to - when I sit down and study music, I do. But definitely not when I'm enjoying music in the audience.

It is especially disturbing when someone whispers to me while a tune is being played and goes, "hey, what time signature is this?" Truth is, I don't count when I listen to music. I don't try to figure out the scale the saxophonist is playing. I don't care what kind of voicing the pianist is using. And I don't want to describe or explain what's going on. I just want to absorb the entire event as it is. When you allow yourself to take it in as a whole, you know what's going on. And the whole experience leaves something in you. A feeling, an emotion, something you cannot put into words. That's the gem, that's the magic.

I don't think while I listen to music. When you listen to music, you don't have to describe anything with words (unless that's your job). In fact, even a million words won't add up to that beautiful single note you just heard, so why bother?

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