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Ariel Bitran
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Listening While Not Listening

Stephen posted an article somewhere on his blog (don't remember where)by AD about Art going up to the gas station attendant and asking her to turn off the music and that he didn't listen to music in his car. While I can respect AD's passion and commitment to music, I feel some of the best enjoyment of music comes in the car, with your windows down, electric guitars full blast, screaming.

As I slowly venture into a world of active listening, an enjoyable one at that, this article and other ruminations led me to wonder how it would effect my passive listening experience. As a result and consolation to my thoughts, I asked the writers at my blog (see link below) to give me their favorite albums to work or study to, whether they could listen to music while working, and why and to what extent or why not?

So here are my question for you forum members... 1. Can you listen to music while you work/study? To what extent? If not, why not? And finally, and most importantly, if you can, what albums do you go to for moments like these?

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I don't like background music. It becomes overhead noise to me. I prefer listening to music as its own activity where I can immerse myself in the experience.

Kal Rubinson
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I listen to music while I work...............and I am not referring to the 'work' of reviewing audio or recordings. I listen in my office at the med school and it occupies the parts of my brain that are not critically involved in the task at hand. In doing so, the music provides a comforting ambience that blocks out distraction, letting me focus on my work.

OTOH, I do not listen in the car because (1)I prefer to attend to my driving and to enjoy it as much as possible and (2) the high noise levels on the road preclude enjoyment of the music I like. News, traffic reports, that's all.

That said, I HATE MUSIC WHILE I PUMP GAS!! I have complained a number of times about being subjected to highly distorted annoying noise when I am trapped at the pump. There is no reason why it should be there and it serves no purpose except to piss me off.

Kal

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I listen to my mp3 player as I have a daily walk and when I read, but when reading usually end up turning off my reading light and putting down my magazine and just getting lost in the music.

I don't like background music for killing silence.

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I only listen to instrumental music while studying. Lyrics interfere with the verbal pathway used to read and rehearse.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Oh, and I rock out in the car. windows down, speakers up

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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Oh, and I rock out in the car. windows down, speakers up


I just imagined you blasting out the OST of "Jurassic Park." Tres cool.

Ariel Bitran
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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I only listen to instrumental music while studying. Lyrics interfere with the verbal pathway used to read and rehearse.

I just remembered, you're a neuroscience major. Excellent! you may be able to answer my question since my cognition teacher could not: is listening to music a limited capacity task? (I understand that the verbal pathways can get confused, although I believe that some dichotomous listening tests, I forgot which ones now that the midterm is over, have proven that people can still recall meaning from the other channel) but anyway, thats my question.

Kal Rubinson
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I cannot reference the studies at the moment but the processing of pure (non-vocal or highly representative) music is physically distinct from verbal and/or conceptual processing, unless one is analyzing the music. Levels of attention would also change (and be changed) brain territories involved.

Kal (wearing his neuroscience hat)

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
I listen to music while I work...............and I am not referring to the 'work' of reviewing audio or recordings. I listen in my office at the med school and it occupies the parts of my brain that are not critically involved in the task at hand. In doing so, the music provides a comforting ambiance that blocks out distraction, letting me focus on my work.

OTOH, I do not listen in the car because (1)I prefer to attend to my driving and to enjoy it as much as possible and (2) the high noise levels on the road preclude enjoyment of the music I like. News, traffic reports, that's all.

That said, I HATE MUSIC WHILE I PUMP GAS!! I have complained a number of times about being subjected to highly distorted annoying noise when I am trapped at the pump. There is no reason why it should be there and it serves no purpose except to piss me off.


Scary.

My feelings and behaviors exactly.

No wonder I enjoy your reviews.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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I cannot reference the studies at the moment but the processing of pure (non-vocal or highly representative) music is physically distinct from verbal and/or conceptual processing


I'm not a neuroscientist, either, but from what little I know, Kal is right. To read about this more in depth, you can read Oliver Sacks's latest book "Musicophilia."

bobedaone
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Re: Listening While Not Listening

^^ what Kal said ^^

bobedaone
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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Or... This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin, which I have unfortunately been unable to finish, what with textbooks to read and all.

Also, LMAO about the Jurassic Park comment earlier.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:

Quote:
I listen to music while I work...............and I am not referring to the 'work' of reviewing audio or recordings. I listen in my office at the med school and it occupies the parts of my brain that are not critically involved in the task at hand. In doing so, the music provides a comforting ambiance that blocks out distraction, letting me focus on my work.

OTOH, I do not listen in the car because (1)I prefer to attend to my driving and to enjoy it as much as possible and (2) the high noise levels on the road preclude enjoyment of the music I like. News, traffic reports, that's all.

That said, I HATE MUSIC WHILE I PUMP GAS!! I have complained a number of times about being subjected to highly distorted annoying noise when I am trapped at the pump. There is no reason why it should be there and it serves no purpose except to piss me off.


Scary.

My feelings and behaviors exactly.

No wonder I enjoy your reviews.

Me, too.

Specifically, I like to listen to music while I write. I think it inspires me, or directs me. However, I can't listen to music while proofreading.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

When I am at the gym, that music is beyond me. I just can't believe the music they play.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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When I am at the gym, that music is beyond me. I just can't believe the music they play.

thats why I bring some work-out headphones, some small portable player attached to the hip or arm, and put on some Metallica.

Ariel Bitran
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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Or... This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin, which I have unfortunately been unable to finish, what with textbooks to read and all.

I hear ya. Dan Levitin came and spoke to my "Art of Listening" class sophomore year, but he spoke nothing of psychological matters. Instead he actually spoke of performance nuance and how slight variations in playing is what makes song interesting with sections that are repeating. He used Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious" as his example, and made us listen to the hi-hat over and over and over again. But it was actually a really good guest lecture.

Ariel Bitran
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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I cannot reference the studies at the moment but the processing of pure (non-vocal or highly representative) music is physically distinct from verbal and/or conceptual processing, unless one is analyzing the music. Levels of attention would also change (and be changed) brain territories involved.

since the processing is distinct when not analyzing, then one should physically be able to process both at the same time since different resources and filters are applied. But since there is a certainly a limit to mental capacity, probably the more involved the work, the harder it is to work with music (non-vocal, highly representative) and vice versa--the harder it is to have the background music, the more involved the work.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I found a 2007 study by Schendel (at *cough* Ohio State) and Palmer (McGill) that seemed to suggest that verbal and musical suppression were equivalently deleterious to working memory. However, I am skeptical because of the articulatory suppression methodology in the experiment. The "verbal" group repeated the word "the", whereas the "musical" group sang "la". Although singing is musical, "la" is verbal, so I have my doubts.

Berz (1995) proposed that different working memory systems exist for verbal and musical information.

Ariel Bitran
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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I found a 2007 study by Schendel (at *cough* Ohio State) and Palmer (McGill) that seemed to suggest that verbal and musical suppression were equivalently deleterious to working memory. However, I am skeptical because of the articulatory suppression methodology in the experiment. The "verbal" group repeated the word "the", whereas the "musical" group sang "la". Although singing is musical, "la" is verbal, so I have my doubts.

Berz (1995) proposed that different working memory systems exist for verbal and musical information.

so as with all psychology studies, there are opposing studies disproving the other. btw, my sister's going to Michigan.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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Berz (1995) proposed that different working memory systems exist for verbal and musical information.


You can read this interesting case study by Oliver Sacks, which was published first in The New Yorker last year. It's about this dude who had a rare brain infection which basically destroyed his working memory. On top of that, he had retrograde amnesia. A crazy case.

But it didn't affect his ability to play piano at all! Oliver Sacks visits him, sees the sheet music of Bach's Preludes & Fugues, and requests the guy to play. The guy says he's NEVER played them before. Then he sits down & actually starts playing it, and says, "Oh, I remember this one." Then he plays one after the other, all the pieces he claims that he doesn't know.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/09/24/070924fa_fact_sacks?currentPage=all

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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since the processing is distinct when not analyzing, then one should physically be able to process both at the same time since different resources and filters are applied. But since there is a certainly a limit to mental capacity, probably the more involved the work, the harder it is to work with music (non-vocal, highly representative) and vice versa--the harder it is to have the background music, the more involved the work.

Probably works both ways. The more literal one's responses are to the music, the more it would impose on the other tasks, as well.

Kal

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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I found a 2007 study by Schendel (at *cough* Ohio State) and Palmer (McGill) that seemed to suggest that verbal and musical suppression were equivalently deleterious to working memory. However, I am skeptical because of the articulatory suppression methodology in the experiment. The "verbal" group repeated the word "the", whereas the "musical" group sang "la". Although singing is musical, "la" is verbal, so I have my doubts.

Me, too. And "the" is as conceptually rich as is "la," which is to say minimally.

Kal

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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You can read this interesting case study by Oliver Sacks, which was published first in The New Yorker last year. It's about this dude who had a rare brain infection which basically destroyed his working memory. On top of that, he had retrograde amnesia. A crazy case.

But it didn't affect his ability to play piano at all! Oliver Sacks visits him, sees the sheet music of Bach's Preludes & Fugues, and requests the guy to play. The guy says he's NEVER played them before. Then he sits down & actually starts playing it, and says, "Oh, I remember this one." Then he plays one after the other, all the pieces he claims that he doesn't know.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/09/24/070924fa_fact_sacks?currentPage=all

Yes. This kid of procedural memory is quite distinct from the declarative memory which is accessible to one's consciousness. IIRC, Milner's patients demonstrated the dichotomy.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:

Quote:
When I am at the gym, that music is beyond me. I just can't believe the music they play.

thats why I bring some work-out headphones, some small portable player attached to the hip or arm, and put on some Metallica.

No, no, No, dude.

The soundtrack for 'Conan the Barbarian'. That works reeeal good.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Over the years I've been less and less inclined to have true background music. I like it some times when we have guests over or when I'm playing with my son, but I'd rather it either be a part of what I'm doing or the only activity at all. I mostly listen to NPR in the car- maybe 20% of the time it's music. I almost never listen while I work anymore- just too distracting and the sound is pretty poor at my computer. I HATE in-store piped in crap 99% of the time. Restaurants sometimes get it right- mostly not.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Also a lazy scholar.

I remember reading a study -- probably a dozen years ago -- which I can't cite, that showed that university students could study better with background music for a certain period, perhaps an hour or so, then their study ability declined, compared to having no background music.

I reckon the impact of background music is directly related to
a) HOW you listen to music and
b) the relationship between the music and the task you are doing.

a) If you are a music listener who lets music wash over you, setting a mood or moving you with its rhythm, then you are likely to be more able to do an unrelated task when the music is playing. On the other hand if you are listening to the parts, how they relate to each other, how the performer is phrasing, how the sound fills the performance space etc. you are unlikely able to do any other task very well. I certainly can't!

b) The more you are doing a task that requires mental faculties unrelated to active listening, the more you will be able to do both. For example, I can pet my cat (and even that can be a stretch at times), but can certainly not do math.

From my observation, the explosion of ipod use shows just how little that music is actively listened to. Ifs more of a background/soporific effect for the general population.

Quite enjoyed Musicophilia.

Hard core elitist snob music listener.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
a) If you are a music listener who lets music wash over you, setting a mood or moving you with its rhythm, then you are likely to be more able to do an unrelated task when the music is playing. On the other hand if you are listening to the parts, how they relate to each other, how the performer is phrasing, how the sound fills the performance space etc. you are unlikely able to do any other task very well. I certainly can't!

b) The more you are doing a task that requires mental faculties unrelated to active listening, the more you will be able to do both. For example, I can pet my cat (and even that can be a stretch at times), but can certainly not do math.

Very interesting. My work is finance, mixing spreadsheets with brainstorming about financial interelationships. When I'm at my desk the music is on all the time. Lot's of it is female jazz singers, lyrics and all. I'm certainly not analysing the music, but just playing stuff I know that I enjoy, based on previous "serious" listening session.

When I listen seriously for enjoyment, I just try to relax and listen for beauty. I'll often close my eyes a listen "in to" the music, but not analyse it. I'm seeking emotional involvement when listening this way.

It's funny, when I write a review of a recording I'll listen to it several times to get an emotional connection and then have to discover in analytical listen why I liked it. Sometimes I really like something, but often really don't understand why until I go through an analysis process, trying to come up with words to describe why I feel like I do.

There's one other kind of listening that I do, when I'm trying to transcribe a trumpet or guitar solo, for instance. I'm not very good at it, but I try to memorize the solo by singing it from memory. I find this amazingly hard to do and sometimes I'll do it in small segments of a few bars each and tediously build the solo. I've got friends that can do this with very few listens, but it takes me many passes usually. There's an added stress in this, particularly if I'm trying to learn a song before an upcoming rehearsal. I consider this hard work and the joy only comes when I can play the solo, even though I probably chose the solo because I liked it a lot because of it's structure or emotional content. This is totally focused listening, but totally analytical with little emotional content, other than stress at times.

Dave

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Doing financial analysis while listening to music -- I can't do it. But then I'm a very bad juggler and there's many other activities I'm hopeless at.

In order to shoehorn your ability into my previous assertion, perhaps this is an example of how the two activities (finance and listening) are unrelated. One is analytical, the other emotional.

However, you suggest that you listen in different ways (I suppose that's true of most people). When you are listening to pick up a part (transcribing a solo), can you also do financial analysis?

Your comments got me thinking further about what constitutes active listening. My inclination, when listening, is to engage with the music similar to how I would engage when someone is speaking to me - a certain amount of attention is required to take in what is being said. For example, its not too hard to have a casual conversation while doing the dishes or going for a walk. But I could certainly not have a conversation when doing math. So far, seems that music listening and conversation can be considered similarly.

However, I do recall that when walking and talking, its pretty natural to _stop!_ and face your companion when the conversation turns serious. Its like when really engaging, the ability to walk at the same time is lost.

I think its pretty normal for ushers to hold back late arrivals to a concert, because the distraction of having someone (even silently) moving about the venue is a distraction. I accept that this is because its not considered normal to be able to both actively listen to the music and notice someone getting into their seat nearby.

These are examples to support my experience that active music listening is a singular activity, and how I've come to dismiss those who have music playing while doing another activity are not really listening. But perhaps its just that I'm not a very good multi-tasker.

What does it mean to listen for an emotional connection? I imagine that this includes absorbing the key and rhythm, which fits in with having the music wash over you. But what about the match between the melody and the words, how the melody unfolds as the piece develops? What about how the way the singer or player coaxes the notes -- playing a little before or after the beat, altering the tone -- to shape the phrasing? These things are not necessarily heard analytically, but for me, at least, require singular attention in order to connect with.

I can sort of enjoy music while I'm washing the dishes, but its not in the same league as actively listening. Even with such an undemanding task, I don't feel I get a real connection with the music. Its more like having a casual conversation.

Previously, I've thought that people who could do complex tasks while music was playing could do so because they didn't "understand" music. I can do a complex task relatively easy while the radio is playing a program in a foreign language, but when the speaker switches to english, it demands my attention and then becomes distracting. I thought that for multi-tasking listeners, music is like a foreign language, that soothes with the rhythm and inflection of the speech, but can be relegated to the background because the listener doesn't get what is being communicated.

Yet you are a musician, and you can do this multitasking. Hmmm! Food for thought.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I, like Dave, will listen to music in the background while working (or while typing forum responses). However, I can't have music with English lyrics nor can I listen to music with an easy structure, such as pop songs, jazz standards, etc. The lyrics distract, as does the simple structure.

It is clear that I am not listening to the music at these times. Even when I put on a new CD with the idea of getting to know it, I will remember little of it even if it has repeated a couple of times while working.

OTOH, while at restaurants, during movies, elevators - I can 't not listen. I don't ever listen to top 40 stations but remain reasonably current just by hearing the music that is everywhere. I also immediately notice if the system is crummy (ouch) or better than average (thank you).

ttt's point re doing a complex task relatively easy while the radio is playing a program in a foreign language, is interesting to consider. I know exactly what he means; a language I speak will interrupt my thought, as will lyrics. Yet, music I understand very well and have actively analyzed will not do the same unless I let it. At least for me, I process language and music quite differently.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I think selective attention plays a big part in all of this.

In the office I work in, there is some sort of XM-based crap rock channel that is always playing at a low level. Most of the time, I do not have a concious awareness that it is playing.

However, when a song I like happens to accidentally get played, I can suddenly hear the tune and go out to the desk area and start to party.

Then the song ends and I drift back to work.

I think we constantly hear without hearing, and when some piece of sound passes muster with our subconcious/pre-concious filter, we suddenly "hear" whatever it is at a higher perceived volume and clarity.

Kind of like being able to hear someone in a crowd when you are attending to just their voice - lots of examples of selective listening.

I think we can't help but do it.

The "fatigue" example from studying students is fascinating. I guess it does use up some mental disc capacity, eh?

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
OTOH, while at restaurants, during movies, elevators - I can 't not listen. I don't ever listen to top 40 stations but remain reasonably current just by hearing the music that is everywhere. I also immediately notice if the system is crummy (ouch) or better than average (thank you).

Yes! I recall having dinner at a restaurant and being disturbed by the repetitive sound of a stuck CD. The same phrase over and over. What really amazed me was that, apparently, no one else seemed to notice. I called over the manager, pointed it out and asked for it to be corrected. She said that she had not noticed it but she would change the CD and she did. Well, it happened again suggesting that the culprit was the player and I had to go through the whole thing all over with the result that they simply shut it down. Relief.

Bottom line? We went back about 3 weeks later and I had to pull the manager apart to explain to her that the system was STILL malfunctioning. I told her that she could go to Walmart and replace the whole thing for less than the price of the bottle of wine I had just ordered. She shut it down and, btw, didn't charge me for the wine.

Kal

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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What really amazed me was that, apparently, no one else seemed to notice.


I can't work at all if music is playing, instrumental or not. But that reminds me of a funny experience I once had in a restaurant. They had a dining area and also a bar area, at opposite ends of a single large room. The restaurant part where I was had ceiling speakers playing Muzak stuff. But the bar area was blaring rock music from a juke box. Where my wife and I were seated we heard both about the same volume. It was horrible! When I complained the hostess seemed to not understand the problem, but she did turn down the juke box ... a little.

--Ethan

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Further thoughts on Dave's post:
His ability to listen while doing financial analysis (shall we just call it "math" for simplicity?) while listening to music put me in mind of I guy I play with. He's a drummer, and has not only amazing polyrhythmic limb-independence (these words to make up for the letters I saved by substituting math for financial analysis) but he can sing at the same time... in tune!

Must ask him if he can do math and listen at the same time.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:

However, you suggest that you listen in different ways (I suppose that's true of most people). When you are listening to pick up a part (transcribing a solo), can you also do financial analysis?

No way, the transcribing takes ALL my energy and attention.

Quote:

What does it mean to listen for an emotional connection? I imagine that this includes absorbing the key and rhythm, which fits in with having the music wash over you. But what about the match between the melody and the words, how the melody unfolds as the piece develops? What about how the way the singer or player coaxes the notes -- playing a little before or after the beat, altering the tone -- to shape the phrasing? These things are not necessarily heard analytically, but for me, at least, require singular attention in order to connect with.

I'm not thinking about phrasing or technique at all in this case. I want goose bumps and I don't care why. After the fact I might realize that Judith Blegan singing an ascending line while diminuendo-ing in the section of Carmina Burana where the maid gives herself up to love (lust) gives me chills for three-fold reasons; the purity and beauty of her voice, the incredible artistry of the ascending line and the power of the soft release in the middle of an otherwise bombastic piece ALL conspire to give me goose bumps every time I hear it reproduced well. If you hadn't listened to CB a lot and I put you right on that track I doubt that it would have the same emotional impact, because you wouldn't have invested in the whole enchilada. Yes, it would still be beautiful, but, like a good play, coming in for the third act will not involve you as totally as having invested in the whole thing.

So, "emotional listening" for me is much like meditation. I free my mind of other thoughts and try to focus on the story, as presented, without analysis. That's not to say that I'm not sometimes moved by the "craftsmanship", but it's more like rubbing my hands on a finely finished piece of furniture, with graceful lines and beautiful curves. I just marvel, rather than try to figure out how they did that.

Dave

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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Isn't true we can only attend to one thing at once? So consciously listening to music and focusing on work in the same setting results in the mind skipping back and forward at a very high rate between the activities. If done extensively over a period of time could a division be created in the mind?

the brain doesn't quite work this way. instead, your brain has a limited capacity with which it can complete activities. So theoretically, as long as your brain's capacity is not fully being used, you can do many things at one time, although the filter/part of the brain which the task uses may deter the other task. For example, someone will have great difficulty performing a visual task with their internal visuo-spatial sketchpad (the thing you write on in your head) while performing another visual task outside, but can easily do another internal verbal/mathematical process while doing a visual process. One does not deter the other significantly, but it is difficult for someone to perform 2 verbal tasks at once.

Whatever level of processing the activity takes, the higher the level of resources necessary. The greater the number of resources, the higher the capacity used. An unlimited capacity activity, requires little mental attention. A limited capacity activity requires more mental resources. Unlimited capacity activities can be learned and put into procedural memory. For example, driving is an incredibly complex task but you can do it without even thinking. Reading is also implicitly easy on the brain do to automaticity, but to comprehend the material in depth with context, it takes more mental resources. I assume, this same idea can be applied to listening. We can always listen but not comprehend context when hearing in the background, but once we focus our mental resources on the music, we can do little else.

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Listening While Not Listening

One should add that, in addition to considering total capacity and attention, the nature of the competing tasks determines how much territorial competition is going on.

Kal

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

I'm sorry, Ariel -- getting back to your original post -- I forgot to answer your most important question.


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And finally, and most importantly, if you can, what albums do you go to for moments like these?

It depends. If I'm having a really difficult time with a certain piece of writing, I might go for something like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, something instrumental and soothing and soaring. I just started getting into his In A Silent Way, too, and it has a great way of focusing and calming me.

If I'm doing something somewhat mindless, like updating contact info in our database, and it doesn't hurt if I dance a little in my seat, I'll listen to something with driving percussion and big horn sections like Broken Social Scene or some salsa.

If I'm writing about a certain band, I always turn to that particular band's music. That just makes sense to me, and is what I meant when I said that "the music directs me."

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Oh. Yeah. The original question!

"So here are my question for you forum members... 1. Can you listen to music while you work/study? To what extent? If not, why not? And finally, and most importantly, if you can, what albums do you go to for moments like these?"

1) Yes, music helps drown out the roaring silence, the sound of the ocean you get in your ears when it's quiet...to quiet.

2) To what extent...I tend to wander, whether there is music on or not, so the type of music does not matter. The music just gives me a little place to sit my brain down for a moment or two here and there as I meander down the river of consciousness while I work on whatever it is I am working on.

I kind of think of attention in two ways. First, like a flashlight, and it goes where I aim it - which makes the type of music not important. (When I am on task, I may not even know there is music playing!) Second, I think of attention much like a computer at work, with a desktop or "bottom bar" of things on its mind, and "divided" according to assigned prioritization values. In this case, it does pay to keep the volume at a level that does not draw disproportionate attention from the task at hand.

If I'm doing technical writing, the music style matters not. If I'm doing something more 'creative,' then I like music with lyrics because I can hear a certain word in a song and the mental thesaurus kicks in and can offer up word combinations I might not have otherwise come up with. When I work with PowerPoint, I like music that distracts me even more, because then I start giving some left brain to paying attention to the distraction of the music, and that allows more of my right brain to see the slides visually rather than mere areas of space in which to add type.

3) Types of music.

For Powerpoint, maybe Rage Against the Machine, Social D, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flaming Lips seems especially good, Phil Manzanera, Morphine, The Strokes, English Beat, Yaz(oo), Dead Can Dance (especially 'Into the Labyrinth')...

For writing where I can use "good words:" Brian Eno, Richmond Fontaine, John Prine, Bruce Cockburn, Dylan, David Olney, Cash Brothers, Willie, Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow (that vending machine repairman song with the 'apropos of nothing' line is actually quite good, and I give her credit for the Bill or Billy or Mack or Buddy song even though I know she didn

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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Whatever level of processing the activity takes, the higher the level of resources necessary. The greater the number of resources, the higher the capacity used. An unlimited capacity activity, requires little mental attention. A limited capacity activity requires more mental resources. Unlimited capacity activities can be learned and put into procedural memory. For example, driving is an incredibly complex task but you can do it without even thinking. Reading is also implicitly easy on the brain do to automatically, but to comprehend the material in depth with context, it takes more mental resources. I assume, this same idea can be applied to listening. We can always listen but not comprehend context when hearing in the background, but once we focus our mental resources on the music, we can do little else.

My personal record is/was talking and helping 8 different people at the same time. Sequentially is more of the truth, but some looked at it as 'at the same time'. I cued up the given spot in the given conversation by memory of 'that person's' voice etc. What it was, is I was running around on a sales floor, serving 6 customers and training two new staff (100% rookie-a massive hindrance and slow down) that were attempting to 'help me' at the same time. After about 2 hours of that level and near it ....I fell down and suffered a massive brain fart.

When I'm 'up'..I prefer, for the fun of it, to carry a minimum of two different subject conversations at one time, with one person, and try to work on weaving them in and out of one another, and on multiple levels. Not many people like to play those sorts of games, sadly. After that..a bit of silence is good. Kinda like running flat out..and then needing a rest period.

Do I work and listen at the same time? Always. But my real work is not all that like most folk. My job IS to get 'mentally spaced'. If it is actual rote work, maybe a bit of music in the background.

Strangely.. I drive in silence and used to always have a hole in the dash of my cars, no radio, no stereo.

I think it has to do with the fact that I've almost always driven total clunkers and I need to hear the car, so I get a 1/2 second warning before the car explodes.

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Quote:
Further thoughts on Dave's post:
His ability to listen while doing financial analysis (shall we just call it "math" for simplicity?) while listening to music put me in mind of I guy I play with. He's a drummer, and has not only amazing polyrhythmic limb-independence (these words to make up for the letters I saved by substituting math for financial analysis) but he can sing at the same time... in tune!

Must ask him if he can do math and listen at the same time.

Being compared to a drummer is rough.

Down in the thread someone talked about driving a car. It's incredibly complex, but after years of doing it you can do it reasonably well with little effort. (Yes, I know that Elk is always focused when he drives). Anyway, listening to music is like that also, as is work (whether finance or math). You can get pretty darn good at both after decades of doing them (in my case). So, I suspect that it's only natural to do the two things that you have the most experience at simultaneously. Varying your attention on each as complexities or emotions demand.

Dave

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Enjoyed your bit about emotional listening. Key phase for me was "kind of like meditation". Suggests that this is a singular mode for you.

So the light bulb event for me is getting that, like you say here, "varying attention" is just something you (and many other multi-taskers) just do.

For some others, like myself, its very difficult to vary one's attention.

The world makes sense again!

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"Enjoyed your bit about emotional listening. Key phase for me was "kind of like meditation". Suggests that this is a singular mode for you."

That would be where music is at it's true best. When I'm listening, whether live or recorded, and all else is not just a distant second, but gone altogether- no mind, no activity, silence of all but the music. What more is there to say? That's what great music does- erases all the surfaces and leaves just the sheer joy of living...

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Yes, I haven't done this lately, but meditating with the music on at serious listening levels is very interesting. Since I'm either trying to clear thoughts out or focus on one particular goal while meditating, listening to lyrics will disturb my train of clarity and clearness; however, orchestral music really can add powerfully to the aura. I'm not talking about plinky, plinky new age noodling, but "real" music, whether it be Adagio for Strings or Beethoven's Ninth. If you meditation theme is consistant with the music then it makes a powerful coupling.

Once you have meditated for a while it get pretty easy to drift into it. I suppose that when I'm listening, then close my eyes and let the sound wash over me, that actually is meditating, but with a focus on the music.

My meditation skills came purely from a popular book in the 1980s about using music to improve your learning skills. It talked about playing baroque music while studying. It had one chapter about meditation and I learned from that and then added my own wrinkles. I do basically three types, one is to clear my head and relax my body where the goal is to quiet the mind and achieve total relaxation, another type is to clear and relax and then give myself positive affirmations (this is very powerful) and, now that we talk about it, the other is in deepening my enjoyment of music. Until this discussion came up I hadn't thought about it, but I do go into meditation as I listen, when I close my eyes and clear my head while listening that IS meditation for me.

I think you need to learn meditation separately. The first step for me was the clearing, cleansing type, including DEEP relaxation. One might jump right to the musical meditation, but I think it would be hard to get focused enough without first experiencing the basic type of meditation.

Dave

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"One might jump right to the musical meditation, but I think it would be hard to get focused enough without first experiencing the basic type of meditation."

For me it was the opposite- I noticed the silent state of awareness music could induce and I went looking for what that was. Meditation was the eventual, obvious conclusion. That being said, I don't actually use music WITH formal meditation. But the states are certainly interchangeable. It's just that at some point you have to move on from something/place etc. out there doing "it" for you. It's YOUR mind- only you can make it shut up.

There are a lot of folks around here who would greatly benefit from some meditation- they'd at least be happier, and maybe it would shorten their posts some.

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Quote:
It's YOUR mind- only you can make it shut up.


LOL!

I recently had the experience of using music to medicate. I just had kidney stone surgery and have been recuperating. For the first four days I had severely dreadful attacks (bladder spasms, complaining kidney) that were astonishingly painful.

Of course, I have the appropriate pain drugs. However, most effective was playing music I enjoyed while lying on the floor on my back and allowing myself to relax. I sought the precise mental state described above. By becoming one with the music in Zen-like fashion I found that the pain no longer had its grip. I often would even fall asleep, feeling astoundingly better when I awoke.

I have really enjoyed reading this thread after returning to the forum after a brief absence, having been experiencing exactly what others are describing here.

Fortunately the stent has now been removed and am now doing well. I even slept last night! I'll try playing trumpet today. Scary concept after not playing for a week.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Wow, I had the stones without the operation, so I can only imagine the pain from that starting point, which is excruciating (right up there with a tooth absess and a crush shoulder sitting on you back). I'm glad to read that you're doing better.

BTW, I predict that your trumpet playing will be beautiful today and like crap tomorrow.

Here's to your full recovery.

Dave

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

To steal from Heraclitus, one of my philosophical beliefs: "You can't listen to the same piece of music twice."

This is a fascinating thread, and I hope it continues, there's lots of cool stuff still to talk about!

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
To steal from Heraclitus, one of my philosophical beliefs: "You can't listen to the same piece of music twice."


which reminds me of the opening paragraph of Saul Bellow's "Adv of Augie March" - "But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles."

Of course he must be talking about knocking on the speaker cabinets.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening


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"One might jump right to the musical meditation, but I think it would be hard to get focused enough without first experiencing the basic type of meditation."

For me it was the opposite- I noticed the silent state of awareness music could induce and I went looking for what that was. Meditation was the eventual, obvious conclusion. That being said, I don't actually use music WITH formal meditation. But the states are certainly interchangeable. It's just that at some point you have to move on from something/place etc. out there doing "it" for you. It's YOUR mind- only you can make it shut up.

There are a lot of folks around here who would greatly benefit from some meditation- they'd at least be happier, and maybe it would shorten their posts some.

Yeah. It's difficult for some folk to 'shut it down',ie to get to the silent point. I managed to get the more base emotional musings shut off too. Once you get the internal voice to shut off... then the muse to shut off..then the origins of 'mental rustling' itself to 'shut down' or at least be silent....

That's when things get really interesting.

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Re: Listening While Not Listening

Thanks, Dave!

And great quote, selfdivider!

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