Charles Reace

More Listening, Less Watching?

I did something last night I haven't done in quite awhile (maybe months?). I listened to some music.

Anyone who knows me is probably saying, "What? You listen to music all the time, dude." (Actually, most of the people who know me well probably would not use the word "dude" — consider it artistic license.) They are correct. What I really mean is that I only listened. I didn't watch a video that went along with the music. I didn't work on something on my computer while listening. I wasn't riding on a commuter train and watching scenery go by. I just put on my headphones, popped a CD into the stereo, and only listened.

Only listening is a different experience than watching a music video or concert DVD (or even going to a live concert). Mind you, those experiences are every bit as valid, but they are different; and if you are only consuming music in a combined audio/visual manner, it might be a good idea to add some listening-only sessions into your music consumption mix. (Listening as a background to or distraction from other activities is useful for what it is, but that's not the same as more narrowly focusing on just the music or the audio/visual performance.)

When just listening with minimal visual distraction (eyes closed helps), it feels like more of my brain gets into the music. I can better hear each instrument and singer as a separate part, while simultaneously integrating it into the whole. Or in other words, it's as if I can hear how all the parts mesh together to form the musical sum. While I've never really tried meditation, I am guessing that it is at least somewhat similar, in that when such listening works for me, I feel that I am doing that "living in the moment" thing: I'm narrowly focused only on the musical now, not on anything else.

As with most such things, your mileage may vary. If, however, you've gotten away from simply listening to music, maybe it's time to try dusting off your CD collection and immersing yourself in an old favorite.

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