Updated: Dec 11, 2019
In chapter two “How we Listen” from the book “What to Listen for in Music”, Aaron Copland wastes no time and cuts right to the chase; the way he interprets the listening process, and that he, later on, explains by saying that we all listen to music in three separate planes which are the sensuous plane, the expressive plane and the sheerly musical plane.
The sensuous plane is the most commonly used one; the stimulating one. In this plane, Copland tells us that there is no intention to paying attention to what is been listening to, instead, it is a comforting way to unwind. The sensuous plane can be described as the act of “hearing” which is the passive way of listening.
“They use music as a consolation or an escape. They enter an ideal world where one doesn't have to think of the realities of everyday life. Of course, they aren't thinking about the music either” (Copland, n.d.) For me, that is the only explanation I can give to music. It is the art of making sound waves combined with neurotic stimulation that allows people to be wherever they want to be and feel however they want to feel like an excessive drug. Even if it is somehow criticized that we are no longer listening but hearing. It is the sheer pleasure of listening to music.
The second plane, the expressive one, tries to organize the meaning of a piece by analyzing it. Copland articulates certain disagreement with this plane because of the over analyzing it involves. While I think it is a really important plane, Copland complains that it causes people to try to create a meaning even where there is none or there is no necessity for the creation of it. I think firmly that, even if it is not the healthiest method to do regarding music analyzing, it is by far the most comprehensive one; we are a race that thrives on curiosity.
The third plane, the sheerly musical plane, is the one that most people don’t notice and it is the technical aspects in which music is created. The plane is about harmonies, melodies, rhythms, notes, beats, etc.
Before studying at Full Sail, I studied Audio Engineering for almost 2 years; I had to listen to the third plane of music everyday. I had to imagine it, I had to write it down, I had to express it and I had to over analyze it. For me, it is a very depressing plane. It made me realize that music wasn't magic and feelings, it was a hard set of silences and sounds, a sequence of rhythms displayed in a certain manner that will catch the listeners' attention.
I agree with Copland and the description of his 3 planes, even though I have to differ in his points of view. I don’t think it is bad to be lost on the first plane for music was made to listen with keen ears and not analytical ones (for the most part). I encourage people to grow their abilities and explore the three planes, also I suggest that you should explore them at your own pace and time for music is to be enjoyed.
Check out graphs of the third plane when mixing