I Just Don’t Get It

I just read a scary article online: Without a Song: Just how much music can a nonmusician make? Here’s a snippet:

Their goal is more ambitious than helping novices become better listeners: they want to catapult people with little or no training into the ranks of composers and performers.

“It’s a shame that people have to sit in an audience and be passive,” says Elaine Chew, an accomplished pianist and assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California. Chew has performed in venues ranging from Singapore to Slovenia, and has accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma. More recently, she’s been focusing her energies on enabling nonmusicians to experience the thrill of performance.

Why? And is listening to music a passive experience? (Is any activity really passive?). Does she really mean to imply that listeners feel no thrill?

Maybe I’m just too old and stodgy to appreciate this, but I cannot imagine that I would find it thrilling to drive music.

Chew has yoked a steering-wheel console to a computer system that lets a user “drive” a piece of music, manipulating the tempo with an accelerator and brake pad. The visual display is like a race track whose curves prompt the driver to slow down or speed up, shifting the musical pace along with the car’s movement through space.

I just don’t get it. Do you?