The Art of Listening - Part 1
"If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." - Louis Armstrong
How can one even begin to describe any style of music to someone who has never heard it before! How much easier it is to pull out your CD collection, or better yet, your instrument and demonstrate. One could say about jazz that it is improvisational and incorporates strong driving rhythms. One could say that a typical jazz ensemble is made up of trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass, and drums. But, what could this possibly mean to someone who is only familiar with Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms? The way to learn music is to listen, listen, listen, then listen some more. Then pick up your instrument and play. But even here the listening should not stop. Do not fall into the swamp of unthinking mechanical repetition during your practice time. Learn to listen to the sounds you produce with your instrument or voice and mold them into magical sounds, sounds that move people to laugh and cry, or maybe inspire deep philosophical reflections.
The Art of Listening - Part 2
"Thoreau was a great musician, not because he played the flute but because he did not have to go to Boston to hear the Symphony." - Charles Ives
What makes a musician great? The ability to listen. It is through careful listening that we learn to appreciate the quality and relative weight of different sounds and begin to understand the various emotions and moods that they create. Music is the art of transforming sound into beauty. But where does beauty come from? Listen carefully and soon you will know the answer. Listen to music that inspires you. Listen to the sounds that fill your day. Listen at home, at the park, at school, at work, and listen as you practice. Even listen to silence. Silence is as much a part of music as sound. Thoreau listened to his environment. The "Sounds" chapter of Walden, describes and recreates the acoustic events that filled his days at Walden Pond. He particularly describes bird songs in loving detail. Perhaps "the Symphony" that Ives refers to is natures symphony, or perhaps it is something Thoreau heard in his head during quiet moments. Either way, Walden is the expression of someone who cared for sound and loved beauty.
Oita City, Japan
July 6, 1999
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