Without the listener there is no music. The listener completes the musical circuit, and, even though I am not a musician, I feel as if I am a form of musician when I listen and believe that, by hearing the piece, by responding to it with my thoughts of what it is and what it is doing – what it means – I am actually helping to finish it off. As the listener I am the final element in the making of the music. I have made the music useful. I have put it into context: the context of my own life, and my own perception of what music is, and why it exists.
– Paul Morley, Words and Music: a history of pop in the shape of a city
I do not think that music has to have a listener aside from the person or persons making the music, and I don’t believe that music has to be useful, but I like the above description of the listener completing a circle.
We could say the same about a reader who, by imagining the people and the landscapes described in a book, makes words come to life and thus completes the circle.
See also this, which I wrote about twenty years ago for Musician magazine.