By Martin Hester
“Good Listening” started life in March 2004, as a series of articles on music which I particularly enjoy. The articles were designed as one-page essays for “The Umbrella”, a monthly newsletter-type publication produced for the English-speaking community in Rio de Janeiro.
Informally, my motivation for writing Good Listening has been the thought “How can anybody possibly complain about life when there is so much wonderful music to listen to?” So often have my spirits been lifted or has my respect been awakened, by a piece of music or by a performance. This in turn, has led me to wonder about the people behind this music – what are they like, how have they lived their lives? And in answering this, very often too does one uncover fascinating stories, which lend even more relevance to the listening.
As I am now a senior (I was 64 when I started writing Good Listening) I have more time away from the pressures of earning a living and bringing up a family. So it occurred to me to share my experience with listening to music by writing these articles for The Umbrella. I suppose my readership is of about my age – with a range of plus or minus 15 years, say – and a similar cultural background, taking in England, Europe, the United States, and Brazil. So the articles try to be interesting for these readers.
The formal objectives of the articles are to –
1. Teach something about the skills of performers – what they do;
2. Set the music or performance in context and deepen the listener’s appreciation;
3. Draw attention to the qualities of the music, and pick out notable performances;
4. Help broaden musical tastes.
Since my own musical tastes cover classical music, American and Brazilian popular music, and jazz, I feel free to write about all these genres. Although I started off writing with a mental stock of musical pieces which I felt I just had to write about, I find to my surprise that after 40 Good Listenings, this stock seems to increase rather than diminish!
Myself – I was born in London, England, but have lived since 1971 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am not a professional musician, since my career has spanned being a field engineer in the oil business, a senior financial planner in the Corporate office of large organisations, to running my own Educational company in the early days of micro-computers, and being a business school professor. But music has always been an important part of my life, from the interests of my family, playing the piano, singing solo and in a choir…. and listening!
Around the British community in Rio, I receive so many comments about Good Listening – people who have enjoyed an article, others who have something to add, others who chide me when I miss a month. So to put these on the Web seems a natural evolution, and the site goodlistening.com.br began life in cyberspace in December 2007. This will give a new life to Good Listening – by broadening its readership, allowing musical clips to be heard, and other listeners to add comments.
So thanks to you all!