“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the one we move toward. When are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” –Karl A. Menninger
Many years ago, I was teaching music to a group of teenagers and asked them:
“What is the difference between listening and hearing?”
After a couple of seconds of silence a young man spoke up and said:
“I hear my parents. I listen to my friends.”
The whole class (including myself) burst into laughter because there was so much truth in what he was saying.
This anecdote illustrates that just because the information goes in the ear canal doesn’t mean it actually gets processed in the brain!
In our TVF Academy class this week we devoted the entire class to the theme of listening.
Here are some of the variations we explored…
1. One Word: Listen
As a conductor, if I was limited to one word in rehearsal it would be: listen.
When you listen, to the music, to your colleagues, to yourself, I mean really listen, the answers are all there.
2. Real Listening = Physical Freedom
I was at conducting workshop a few years back and one of the participants on the podium was conducting and he was very tense and stiff. The teacher stopped him and said one word: listen. The conductor started again and his physical expression was totally different – free, easy and musical.
Listening leads to physical freedom. But only if you…
3. Listen to the Music – Not the Noise
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to listen to the noise inside your head instead of the music outside?
Here’s a great question to ask yourself when you’re singing:
Am I listening to the music or the noise?
How do you know you’re listening to music and not noise?
4. True Listening Feels Good
I recently participated in a 3-day workshop called “Healing the World.” On day 2 my teacher said something to me that rang me like a bell (it was the only thing I wrote down the whole workshop):
“True listening feels good.”
Maybe this is why listening to music feels so good?
5. Listening is Generous
I find it fascinating that we have two verbs in the English language that are often used synonymously – hear and listen.
The dictionary definitions of each word:
- hear, verb – to perceive by the ear
- listen, verb – to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing
Listening = Hearing + Attention
To listen to someone (versus just hear them) is to give a very generous gift!
I wonder: Is listening just another form of love?
(Speaking of love and attention, check out this beautiful article about Mr. Rogers & the Art of Paying Attention)
6. Global Listening – Beyond the Words
Global means “relating to or embracing the whole of something.”
Global listening means listening to your whole self with your whole self – body, mind, soul.
Listen beyond your voice to the movement of your body.
Pay attention to the music in your mind.
Listen to the soul’s yearning.
The poet Rumi says: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen.”
7. Listening is Learning
Listening is a gateway to learning because without listening there is no learning.
To learn something you don’t know you must be unburdened by the noise of what you already know.
Listening creates a blank canvas, an uninterrupted flow of sensory information to your conscious and unconscious mind without the filter of our habitual thinking.
The good news: Deeper listening is always available to us!
I’m starting to see that true listening is the key to not only great music-making but to a great life.