Hilary Hahn.
Hilary Hahn. (Submitted photo by Peter Miller,)

When we talk about music, we tend to place our experiences into one of two categories: making the music and listening to it. Delineating the two seems practical and obvious. In reality, though, there are a lot of opportunities for overlap, and it doesn't matter how you get into the music as long as you connect with it. Here are some approaches to try.



I love performing. The sounds coming at me are dynamic, colorful and multi-layered. The energy from the musicians around me and from the audience is a swirl of excitement. Sometimes, I can feel the stage vibrating under my feet.

You don't need to be a performer in order to dive into the sensory experience of music. Simply get as close as you can to the source of the music. Stick your head between the speakers. Sit in the front row of the balcony right above the stage. If you have friends who are musicians, ask them if you could stand next to them when they practice some time (in exchange for homemade cookies). Music feels different up close. Remember to bring earplugs if it is going to be loud.


Let your favorite piece play in your head: a song, a symphony, a jazz riff. Don't worry about accuracy; enjoy the fragments that are the most vivid. This is your rewrite.


Making music can mean playing an instrument, fitting noises together, or composing in a silent room. Music can inspire immediate emotional reactions, even if the only person who hears it is the person creating it. If you have a musical instrument at home, try finding a new chord or playing whatever note pops into your head. Grab a plastic bin and a spoon and invent a rhythm. Sing random notes out of tune, with syllables that don't mean anything. Build something through sound!


Go to a concert. It is amazing to watch instruments bring music to life. After a while, glance around at the audience. If you notice someone having a different experience from you, it's fun to conjecture what other concert that person might be attending. Once you have taken in the scenery, you can turn the music into your own movie soundtrack, inventing the movie as the musicians perform.


Close your eyes to tune in to every facet of the music; the details will take on new dimensions. Let the notes direct your mind. Music is closely related to language, so you might be surprised what trains of thought it will shape.

Hilary Hahn's most recent album is "In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores," which is available on Amazon and iTunes. For more information on Hahn, go to hilaryhahn.com.