(Some Preliminary Theses – Work in Progress)
1. Assume the music to be a living being you are encountering and having coffee with.
Listen to what the human behind the music (the composer) has to say. Give him or her a chance to speak. Regard them as a struggling being that is doing their best in order to express something that is important to him or her. Enjoy the conversation, and be open to learning something new. Choose to be interested.
2. Skip any judgment or prejudice.
Try to abandon categories of sympathy/antipathy, or beauty/ugliness. Take it as an exercise to refrain from judging, labeling, or overall rejection. Remind yourself of the possibility that contemporary music may not be about creating eternal masterpieces but documenting a personal process that may be attractive to others.
3. Switch your focus.
If you cannot relate to the music because it has no discernible melody, rhythm, or familiar harmonic progression, switch your focus to another level. Mostly form or development is a good choice. Observe the music grow and evolve as if it were a plant. Whatever you observe – retain your neutral state of not judging.
4. If all this doesn’t help: Assume you were on a foreign planet you are about to discover.
Something may be familiar, something won’t. Whatever you perceive, you may never have perceived it before. What is it? How does it look or feel? Again, don’t label or judge, just observe. Be curious to make new experiences.
Once the music is over, the time has eventually come to ask yourself: How do I feel after I listened to this music? Do I feel uplifted or dragged down? Would I listen to this again if I am in a state of [insert mood]? I suggest to stick to this order:
a) Listen attentively, without prejudice.
b) Only then form your personal opinion.