Listeners who aren’t generating or sounding music themselves nevertheless compose music. In other words, listeners do put music together, as only they themselves can make sense out of the sounds that they hear. To actually invent and initiate musical sound reciprocates by listening out loud.
Musicians serve as advocates for sound entities and their allied silences. They act as liaisons who introduce sounds to expectancy and midwife music into audibility. They work around corners of the heard and the not-heard. They have to listen wide in both directions. They’re bound to practice multiple allegiances through having to coordinate the contrasting (and often disparate) interests of sound, craft, imagination, and listeners. Yet, this position doesn’t leave that much room for impartiality because musical actions can’t become so hypothetical as to turn abstract. They really have to make a difference or they’ll just get lost (and if they’re not cared about, they aren’t going to matter, anyway). Musicians commit to actual sounds and their consequences.
The presence (or prospect) of a listener — the pressure and pull of that focused waiting that could be called expectancy — activates a musical arena with restless, destabilizing, gravitational currents that each sound has to address upon entering into music. Neutrality’s not an available option. Musical sounds assert amid uncertainties that always promise opportunities for failures. They have to dance among vagaries of attention, among she-loves-me-she-loves-me-nots, among with-its and not-with-its, among persuasion, seduction, resistance, distraction, defiance. Worlds are already in motion. Sounds already present their own character. So do listeners. There isn’t any blank slate from which a musician may begin.
Even a musician who happens to be composing in isolation at a particular moment is therefore never really alone or asocial, working “only for oneself,” because, as a community language and project, music’s mode of address is a constitutionally convivial and public one. Musicians inevitably engage beyond “self” in their responsibilities to the sound entities and unsounded motions with whom they‘re collaborating. This fulfills a symbiotic partnership that furthers music’s evolution and continuing subsistence.