I’ve thought a lot about the art of listening over the years, and for this podcast, I wanted to lay down a guide of some sort.  But, making a guide for listening?  Do we even need such a thing?  We can hear the music – isn’t that enough?  Is hearing different from listening?  Is the old argument, “I know what I like” a valid one?

Allow me to start this by recounting a personal story – one that’s had a huge influence on the way I listen today.  I realize that we will all have our own story and our own way of looking at the world, but bear with me on this.  Some years ago, while attending a new music conference, I had an epiphany – a big one.  It changed how I hear music.  But before I get to that, let me back up and ask a question to all you composers out there.  Why do we compose?  There’s tons of music out there already – tons of great, earth-shattering, mind-blowing, consciousness-altering, transcendent music out there already.  Why bother?

I think, as composers, we’re just not hearing quite what we want to.  We have ideas.  We have philosophies.  We have certain things that we are desperate to hear – so desperate in fact, that we will subject ourselves to weeks, months – hell, even years of self-doubting, solitary, exhausting work to create even the hope of hearing those sounds.  I’m no different – there are things I want to hear – I put them into my music – I think you do, too.

So, back to the new music conference.  Here I was, sitting through concert after concert of new works – finding that I was not enjoying most of what I was hearing.  Finding myself either rolling my eyes, or silently sighing because of having to sit through another one of these pieces.  I think you know what I’m talking about.  I think we’ve all been there.

However – something hit me at this conference that changed me.  I was halfway through one of the concerts halfway through the conference when it hit me.  I had been sitting there, throughout that whole conference, through all of those concerts, through all of those years – desperately trying to hear my voice in someone else’s music.  And when I didn’t hear my voice?  I was disappointed and lost interest.

When the epiphany came, I sat there thinking to myself, “How silly is this.  How self-centered.”  I felt like a fool.

From that point on, I promised myself that I was going to sit in every concert, and desperately try to hear their voice in their music.  After this epiphany and this conscious decision, everything changed for me.  I heard things in music that I had closed my mind to before.  Wondrous things.  Truly being able to discover another artists voice became a joy for me.  Often, their music was far removed from my own, which only made the challenge, as well as the reward, greater.

When listening to this podcast – I humbly ask you to follow this maxim:

Don’t listen for your voice in someone else’s music.

Rarely, you will find a musical soulmate, but the majority of the time, you will be shutting out truly awe-inspiring music.  Music that you can learn from.  Music that you can be amazed by.

Desperately try to listen for their voice.  You will be handsomely rewarded for it.