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Topic: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

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  1. #1
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    "Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    This strikes me as worthy of discussion. I encountered it earlier today at another site where it passed without further comment. It is referring to music composition/improvisation/performance.

    Any discussion?

    Richard

  2. #2
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    It has to be at least several steps above "not very pleasing to the ear.

    Did the person who said that, say it in response to someone who made that comment about a piece... that it is pleasing to the ear?

    IMO, if the comment is made with the intention of complimenting a piece that you like, then it is of use, but possibly could be considered by some to not the best choice of words. I say not the best choice of words because it could be misinterpreted as meaning only a few steps above not very pleasing to ear. If it were me i would asume that it intended as meaning it sounds very good, because that is how i have heard the phrase used when descibing sounds. In other languages such as French, pleasing (along with many other words) has a stronger context and saying it would be very good. It for some reason, not sure why, sounds less strong in English unless you say very pleasing. I hope that made some sense.

  3. #3

    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    I suppose the problem with "pleasing to the ear" is that this term of assessment is very conditional and personal. Bartók and Webern can be "pleasing to the ear" for those who prefer atonal chords, just as Mozart and Beethoven can be "pleasing to the ear" for those who prefer round triads.

    So, I think it's fine if you say something is pleasing to the ear, as long as you explain why.
    Best of luck,
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    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen McMahan
    This "assessment" might be a well wishing politically correct avoidance of a negative judgment - or - it could be a compliment - not enough data to tell.

    Some might take offense to the assessment - but it could also be from someone who is not fluent in english wishing to indicate that they like the work.

    Like said above - not enough data to tell.

    Stephen
    I was thinking that also, but didn't figure out how to say it... kinda like saying a piece is "interesting."

  5. #5
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    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    “Pleasing to the ear” is not the criteria for calling something great - there is a lot of pop, rock and folk music I find pleasing to the ear but would never call “great music”. On the flip side, great music is not necessarily pleasing to the ear (it helps) – people of Beethoven’s day thought a lot of his music was dissonant and grating. Many people, including C. M. vonWebern, called him a mad man. Today we find it pleasing because we have heard Schumann and Wagner and Brahms, not to mention Berg, Schoenberg and E. Carter.

    Beyond that thought, I agree that in this case there is not enough info to tell what the OP was talking about.
    Trent P. McDonald

  6. #6

    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    I would think it is the most important assessment...
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
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  7. #7

    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    My first, gut impression, if someone were to say that and nothing else; is that it is a "left-handed compliment". Saying one thing and meaning another. I know there is a similar thing in art where a comment is made of a painting, but I can't remember it right now. I think a lot of composers might take offense, UNLESS it is followed with more information. But by itself, I would say the person is being ironic.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
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    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanHannifin
    I would think it is the most important assessment...
    Your right – “Oops I did a Again”, which most people would find very appealing to the ear is a much better and much more important piece than Mozart’s Quartet K 465, nicknamed “Dissonant”, that most people would find unappealing to the ear.
    Trent P. McDonald

  9. #9

    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanHannifin
    I would think it is the most important assessment...

    Depends on the piece, of course. I don't think Beethoven was going for "pleasing to the ear" with his Grosse Fuge. (for one example) I think he was going more for pleasing to the visceral. lol. So if someone told him it was "pleasing to the ear" he would have been right mad. haha
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  10. #10

    Re: ""Pleasing to the ear" is no use as a term of assessment. "

    Interesting discussion.

    I would suggest that the ear is not the only faculty at play when listening to music, and it is not necessarily the most important.

    Music can appeal to the intellect, the heart, the spirit, the emotions... Most of my favorite music is not particularly pleasing to the ear but affects me in a very visceral way, music for the gut. Sometimes I feel music on my skin.

    A lot of contemporary club dance music is designed around the loud thumping bass. A measure of its success is literally how strongly you feel the vibrations from the beat in your body. I would guess that a lot of tribal dance music is measured along similar criteria, but I am no expert in that field.

    The idea of simply sitting quietly in a recital hall and listening to someone else make music is a fairly modern and mostly western idea. Throughout human history, most music has been designed for participation -- play along, sing along, and especially dance along, music used for rituals, ceremonies, etc. I would wager to say that most of the world's music has been judged not by its ability to please the ear, but by its ability to rouse people to dance.

    chris.

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