Friday, November 22, 2013

You will Listen. You will Hear.

You will Listen. You will Hear.

An international student said this as he prepared the class for listening to one of the songs on his playlist.

It struck me that these two statements in one breath describe the ways people listen to words, sounds, music.

The statements describe the two ways of listening to music: passive listening and active listening.


Passive listening can best be described when you have music on as background music to keep you company or to avoid being in silence.

You may or may not realize when music is playing in the background though I imagine many would notice silence.

Many of my students say they have to have music on when they study.

Even now, as I write this I have music playing in the background.

I am not really listening to it - hence the passive listening.

I realize it is on - most of the time - but do not listen for specific musical elements or lyrics.

It just keeps me company.

In my office I have the radio on nearly all day because it helps me focus on the task I am doing at the time and aids my tuning out the cacophony of music that is going on outside my office in the practice rooms.

Sometimes I don't even realize I'm hearing the music...or responding to it.

[Read an earlier blog post titled "I Can Hear You!"]


Active listening is actually paying attention to the music.

Active listening is the goal of every music teacher as they guide a listening lesson in music class.

Active listening is the goal of every ensemble director as they encourage their musicians to listen to each other.

Active listening allows the listener to notice both the obvious musical elements as well as the subtle nuances that the blending of sounds, or sonority, creates.

Active listening on the surface does not take musical knowledge. It just takes an attentive ear to hear such things as when the instruments are playing and when the singer is singing.

In depth active listening is enhanced with musical knowledge. I find it is most helpful to understand music theory and musical form. Being able to hear the harmonic changes or being able to recognize repetition and variety in a piece of music really engages the listener.

At times this can be a curse. 

[Read an earlier blog post titled "Do you Listen to Music? Absolutely Not!"]


So next time you realize you are hearing music, consider whether you are actively listening to it or are you passively listening, or just hearing, it?

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