Thursday, July 25, 2013

Listening to something means you start to change it


"We find in physics now that they don't talk about an 'objective observer' and the 'observed' any more. Physicists have come around to seeing in terms of 'the participant'. The mere fact of looking at something means you start to change it" writes Buddhist monk and teacher Venerable Kittisaro. "Very occasionally you are lucky enough to encounter a performance in which a sort of mystical transformation takes place" writes Jessica Duchen of Wagner at the BBC Proms. "Probably the best Lachenmann performance - and doubtless part of that was the communal experience of being in the RAH - I've heard" comments Mark Berry. "One of those rare experiences of being transported by music to another and better world" I report about Jonathan Harvey's Fourth String Quartet at the Aldeburgh Festival. Just as the mere fact of looking at something means you start to change it, so the mere fact of listening to something means you start to change it. Listener as participant is a vitally important but overlooked variable in classical music. All the examples above are positive, but the reverse also applies. Three years ago I wrote about Classical music's viral loop. But there is also a downward viral loop which means that audiences with low musical aspirations reduce the aspirations of the music they participate in. Header graphic is a Sufi depiction of the complementary (waqt) spiritual state (ḥāl). More on this vital loop in The mysticism of sound and music.

Header quote is from Seeing the Way: Buddhist Reflections on the Spiritual Life, a valuable anthology of teachings by English-speaking disciples of Ajahn Chah which can be read online. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

2 comments:

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

This post brought immediately to mind a quote from Hilary Hahn I came across years ago:

>>The problem is that acoustic performers rely on the audience's attention and focus and can tell when the audience isn't mentally present. Your listening is part of our interpretive process. If you're not really listening, we're not getting the feedback of energy from the hall, and then we might as well be practicing for a bunch of people peering in the window. It's just not as interesting when the cycle of interpretation is broken.<<

Elaine Fine said...

The way people in the audience listen is a vital part of any performing musician's experience, but that listening experience only affects music that is performed live. A listener has no impact whatsoever on a recording. This is staring the obvious, but in this age of reproduced music, it might need to be stated anyway.