16 Stockfelt

Adequate Modes of Listening
Ola Stockfelt

Ola Stockfelt is a music theorist whose work concerns the nuances of differing music “listening situations,” and their historical and social contexts.

The point Stockfelt seems to be making in his essay Adequate Modes of Listening is to highlight the relationship between the originator and listener of a piece of music. “Adequate listening” occurs when the listener hears the music in the context and mindset of the originator. Stockfelt gives an excellent example in a blues-rock concert: those who listen to the toe-tapping, dancelike rhythms or the skills of the guitarist are listening “adequately,” meaning they match the originators intentions – the “get out and move” feel or the show-off aspect. Conversely, those who listen to the music whilst analyzing the chords, structure, or thematic development in great detail, are listening “inadequately” – missing the point. Stockfelt also mentions the location of a performance has an effect on how it is interpreted: A Viennese waltz sounds much different in a concert setting than when danced to in a ballroom. Note, however, that Stockfelt never proclaims the superiority of one of these “modes of listening” over another; he merely points them out.

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