Hello UUCC members and friends,
One of my 2021 resolutions is to listen more completely – to friends and loved ones in conversation, to words of beauty and wisdom from great thinkers of the past and present…and of course, to music. All of us experience music every day, whether intentionally or not. Music is woven into the fabric of our daily existence in so many ways – through online media, on television, in places we might go (whether in person, virtually, or even by phone), etc. But most, if not all, of our music experiences are passive – we pay scant attention to what is in our ears as we go about our busy lives.
Listening to music while driving a car is a perfect example: giving your undivided attention to music in that setting would literally put your life in danger. However, I encourage each of you to find some time – daily if possible, but at least once a week – to actively listen to music. Active listening means immersing yourself fully into the musical experience, tuning out visual and mental distractions and listening with your whole self.
To experience active listening, find a quiet spot, put on your best headphones or speakers, and let the music you’re listening to occupy your whole self. You can use a familiar piece of music or something new for this, and it can be any kind of music – the key is not what you choose to listen to but the way you listen. Close your eyes and pay attention to the elements of the music: how do the melody and rhythm move within and define the song; what instruments or voices are used and how are they combined; if the song includes lyrics, what images and thoughts do those lyrics inspire; what musical and poetic ideas reoccur from the beginning to the middle to the end of the music?
Many people experience active musical listening as a form of meditation, and I find that I emerge from time spent in this practice feeling more balanced and centered, better able to devote my energy to work, family, or anything else I might need to focus on next.
As I said earlier, any kind of music can serve this purpose, from a simple folk melody to a highly complex symphony or anything in between. If you’d like a few suggestions, there are ten links below to help you get started – each is less than 10 minutes in length. I recommend only listening to one of these each time you engage in this practice. I have intentionally not labeled these links, which represent a wide variety of styles. If you’re feeling brave, select one at random and actively listen with open ears and an open mind!
I hope you all have a healthy and happy February and I look forward to seeing you soon.