Processes of study in the arts and humanities
Processes of study in the arts and humanities

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Processes of study in the arts and humanities

2.2 Listening and viewing

If you are studying music, a foreign language, plays-in-performance, film or the media, you have to do a lot of listening and viewing. Again, you need to be aware that there are different ways of doing this.

For example, when you listen through some music for the first few times just to get a ‘feel’ for the piece as a whole, you don't have to do it in a studious way. You can listen in the car, or at home as you do some chores. But when you come to study the music, you have to listen carefully and in an ‘active’ way – thinking about the way the piece is put together or the contribution different instruments make. You need to get organised for this kind of listening.

  1. Try to make sure there are no other sounds or noises in the room. Don't listen in the kitchen when there is a washing machine on, for instance.

  2. Find out where it's best to sit in relation to the source of sound and adjust the controls accordingly.

  3. Concentrate on the silence before you start listening. Sounds exist in what is otherwise silence. If you stop to appreciate that background, the textures and ‘colours’ of the music will be more vivid.

  4. Just listen and think – don't do anything else at the same time. Get used to concentrating on what you hear. Shut your eyes if it helps.

  5. Try to listen without being interrupted. If you are interrupted it is probably worth starting the piece again from the beginning.

Similar ‘rules’ apply if you are studying a language and perhaps listening to a tape of native speakers in conversation. You can listen through a few times in a less studious way, just to get the gist. But then, when you get down to work on it, you need to have quiet conditions in which to listen to the various parts of it carefully. And the same with poetry or a novel on tape, and a play on video.

When you are trying to become familiar with texts it helps a lot if you can surround yourself with them. You can pin the maps you are studying on your walls, and also illustrations of paintings, buildings and artefacts. And you can get into the habit of tuning in to a music or foreign language radio station, perhaps having it on in the background as you get up each morning.

Key points

  • The texts you study in the arts and humanities are of different kinds (written, visual, aural, symbolic).

  • There is also a range of texts within each of these categories.

  • It is important to recognise the differences between texts, so that you approach them with the right expectations.

  • You need to read, look or listen to the text in the way that is appropriate to it, and also suits your study purposes.

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