You are here

Log in or register to post comments
Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 7 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

OK, so, I have an experiment for y'all to try.

Get settled in, and play your favorite record/LP/whatever, and see if you can "just listen" or whether or not what happens is that your mind takes tangents and bits of the music go by without you paying attention.

I try it alot, and find that even for a nice, solitary listening session, I can't "just listen" without my brain doing something else here and there. Kind of wandering in and out (which I find to br a different phenomenon than my naturally short little span of attention.)

I think part of listening to music is an unavoidable revery that takes place.

So, when we talk about the difficulty of doing more than one thing at a time, I wonder if anybody has noticed the difficulty of trying to do only one thing at a time!

(Then, factor in that unless you have successfully eliminated comb filtering in your listening room, you can't even listen to the same SYSTEM twice! Oy!)

Yup yup yup.

Ariel Bitran
Ariel Bitran's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 years 10 months ago
Joined: Jun 1 2007 - 2:14pm
Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
see if you can "just listen" or whether or not what happens is that your mind takes tangents and bits of the music go by without you paying attention

I wish I could. My mind will take tangents. This is the biggest challenge I've faced as I've started listening. Is this allowed to happen? can i think about other things? I dont want to. I just want to listen to the music, get deep into it. But there's so much going on always.

Audiophiles always talk about the music washing them over, the walls disappearing, the moment of enlightenment where its just you and the musician. I find this moment difficult to achieve sometimes independent of the equipment. I have my life and homework and other music and other neuroses that will randomly pop up. I don't want them there. I want it to just be me and the musician, but my brain always have to make a freaking appearance. This problem is what stemmed me to ask the original question at the beginning. Essentially, I'm learning how to make the leap as a passive listener to an active one.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 7 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

I've always found that even dissociative experiences have a huge associative component.

If a part of a tune or turn of phrase matches your mental state, or catches you in a different way during a given listening session than it did before, then you can't help but have your brain jump in and go "yeah," or "hey!" or "where'd that come from?" or "oh, I like that part," or "that reminds me of..."

(It's not like we don't appreciate the song until after the song is over. We are kind of busy appreciating it while we are listening to it, too!)

With lyrical music, I don't think truly dissociative listening exists. All those words all hit your brain and no telling what will happen.

Maybe Camus' Stranger could pull it off, but generally, it's about as tough to not have your attention flitter about during a song with words as it is to have sex and only think about the physical experience you are having from moment to moment.

"Words get in the way."

Maybe singing along helps keep your mind on the song better, but that might be simply because you're paying attention to the song in a way that requires your other attention!

Tony Zubia
Tony Zubia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 27 2007 - 1:25pm
Re: Listening While Not Listening

As a true and pure music lover and musician I feel that sometimes (speaking for myself) that background music is a neccessity for me to function "enjoyably" (lol), but I definitely prefer to listen when I'm in a position to emmerse myself in what is "goin on" sonically (and yes I consider listening to music in the car, one of those times) though I have much more fun listen while "playing" with my thousands of dollars worth of "big boys toys"

I love components!!!

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

"Maybe Camus' Stranger could pull it off, but generally, it's about as tough to not have your attention flitter about during a song with words as it is to have sex and only think about the physical experience you are having from moment to moment."

Ahhh-- and what would happen if you were listening to the Cure's "Killing an Arab," based on the Stranger, and having sex at the same time? Maybe we shouldn't even go there, heheh.

The key to music in the meditative sense is to not give any extra attention to any thought over the other and let the pure listening be your ground point. The associative part can be great in the way it can give you new ideas or even solve some problem you've been working on precisely because you let your mind go quiet. There's a lot of good stuff in there- it's just that you usually can't hear it over the incessant chatter the inner dialogue keeps going.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

"I wish I could. My mind will take tangents. This is the biggest challenge I've faced as I've started listening. Is this allowed to happen? can i think about other things? I don't want to. I just want to listen to the music, get deep into it. But there's so much going on always."

That's exactly the challenge of meditation or any endeavor to go more deeply into an activity. I remember when I was about your age (don't take that as derogatory, it's just giving a time-line) I used to constantly be thinking about something else with almost everything I was doing!

During music listening I noticed I'd be thinking of the next track on an album during the current song! Arrgh! First you notice all the inner noise then you start noticing the couple of times that things aren't so crowded. That's what set me on the path to learning to listen with a quieter mind. I'd like to say it happened entirely on it own and quickly, but I'd be lying big-time. It took some effort and practice, but it DID happen. When it does, it's great, and very applicable to the rest of your life too. After all- it's YOUR mind. It may seem like the noisy inner chatter box is in charge, but I assure you it's not. It's just we never bother to question that point until it's been having it's way for about 20 (30, 40, 50) years or more.

It won't thank you for taking charge any more than a child who's always gotten his/her way will- but it's better for everyone involved to not spoil the ego and let the bigger Mind start to drive boat for a while. You end up in much more interetsing and fullfilling places. The ego prefers to stay in a vary small an predictable playground.

linden518
linden518's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Dec 12 2007 - 5:34am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

I just thought of a pattern in my passive listening. The playlist I listen to while I'm working or writing is strongly polyphonal with no single strand of strong melody. Like pre-Baroque stuff, Tallis, Byrd, etc. And even in contemporary music, the tendency is toward polyphony (i.e. the 2nd track from Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks.) For me, it's not about words vs. instrument, but it's melodic vs fugal...

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

That's intriguing, selfdivider.

It is also hard for me to listen to pieces with big thematic content - like Beethoven - when working; I just hadn't realized it before.

trevort
trevort's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 4 months ago
Joined: Aug 21 2007 - 8:05am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

One of my most serious serious listening threads is late 15 century music, mostly liturgical based. (Incidentally, I prefer the Binchois Consort to the Tallis Scholars -- a late contribution to a thread I missed).

With this music in particular, I find it hard work most of the time to stay focussed on what's going on. I can see it would be easy to use as background, since there is relatively little to grab at one's attention.

On the other hand, the efforts at keeping engaged do pay lovely dividends, which is why I keep at it.

As much as "letting the sound wash over" seems attractive, I find I need to actively engage, meet the musicians halfway (at least) to avoid drifting off. I try to keep my attention on what the performer, the composer, perhaps a bit of the particular performance, or even the musical style is intending/communicating.

When I get a sense of connection, I find my self drawn in, without having to make so much effort. A happy consequence is that the performer and/or composer begins to take on aspects of "a friend". I look forward to knowing them better, which in turn makes it easier to stay engaged.

For me "the meditating with the music on" approach is less rewarding. But this from a guy who is incapable of modulating his attention enough to have background music while he works.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 7 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Listening While Not Listening


Quote:
One of my most serious serious listening threads is late 15 century music, mostly liturgical based. (Incidentally, I prefer the Binchois Consort to the Tallis Scholars -- a late contribution to a thread I missed).

With this music in particular, I find it hard work most of the time to stay focussed on what's going on. I can see it would be easy to use as background, since there is relatively little to grab at one's attention.

On the other hand, the efforts at keeping engaged do pay lovely dividends, which is why I keep at it.

As much as "letting the sound wash over" seems attractive, I find I need to actively engage, meet the musicians halfway (at least) to avoid drifting off. I try to keep my attention on what the performer, the composer, perhaps a bit of the particular performance, or even the musical style is intending/communicating.

When I get a sense of connection, I find my self drawn in, without having to make so much effort. A happy consequence is that the performer and/or composer begins to take on aspects of "a friend". I look forward to knowing them better, which in turn makes it easier to stay engaged.

For me "the meditating with the music on" approach is less rewarding. But this from a guy who is incapable of modulating his attention enough to have background music while he works.

Interesting about the music you mention. Much of it was meant to be meditative!

trevort
trevort's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 4 months ago
Joined: Aug 21 2007 - 8:05am
Re: Listening While Not Listening

Even more interesting is to get a fresh perspective on what is, for me, perfectly normal!

First, I mention this particular style of music because it is one that I pay a lot of attention to, and it was sparked by self-dividers comment. My listening approach tends to be more or less the same whatever the style.

Second - what is music "meant to be" for? I can accept that late medieval liturgical music was meant to be meditative... for a portion of the audience. Although I "knew" that, I had quite forgotten, as I am not among that portion of the audience, and am quite wrapped up in my own relation to the music.

Its a bit like saying dixieland and swing is meant to be for dancing. Of course it is, but that doesn't mean its legitimate to listen to seriously as well. Different people listen to the same piece of for different purposes.

In late medieval culture, the church was where the best music gigs were, so the music being written for the church, while ostensibly mostly for worship (not necessarily meditation, but I'll pass on attempting a distinction at this point), it was also created by the era's greatest musicians, and also served as the culture's highest musical expression in general.

Consider Dufay's motet Nuper rosarum flores. This was written for a dedication of the cathedral in Florence, and the motet's structure "expresses" the dimensions of the cathedral. I will argue that this portion of the composer's intention would be hard to grasp when meditating on the motet.

Thirdly, I agree that my perspective on this repertoire is a bit skewed. I spent my young adulthood playing the secular music (chansons, etc) of this period semi-professionally, so I have more of an insider's view.

Same goes for listening to pop music, which in my ironic state of aged decay, I now play with some musicians closer to my kids age than my own. I could argue that this music is intended more for courtship rituals (dancing etc) that serious listening, yet I still listen to it with musician's ears.

But anyways, was just throwing out another perspective on the rich variety of listening experiences, countering the "whistle while you work" approach that's central to this thread.

magoomba
magoomba's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jan 10 2007 - 6:15pm
Re: Listening While Not Listening

I agree with Mr. Dudley. I hate background music. You are either listening to music or you're not. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, "music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the musician"!

Pages

  • X