Deep Listening and Musical Listening Argumentative Essay

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The idea of deep listening was first developed by Pauline Oliveros, an American composer and accordionist. Deep listening is the understudying that the complex waves continuously going into the ear require active engagement with attention (Oliveros). It emphasizes that the hearing is different from listening, as the brain can hear things but not perceive it at a conscious level. Consciousness is acting with awareness, presence and memory. To achieve this level of attention to sound, Oliveros suggests meditation that includes exercises like energy work, body work, breath exercises, and more.

For many that practiced under Oliveros, they feel like it has left a significant impact on their lives. Tom Djill shows the everyday uses and benefits of deep listening that he has incorporated into his life when he states, “That overtone singing I learned at the Deep Listening workshop has sure come in handy for pacifying our little baby Aria.” Music student, Joe Zitt, saw his professor who once was a student of Oliveros, “standing in a courtyard repeatedly clapping his hands, turning a few degrees, turning, listening, and clapping again,” and when he tried it himself later, he was amazed at how the sound would change with each turn (Oliveros). An aspect of deep listening is that people should learn to expand the perception of sounds to include the whole space.

TJ Szewcazk found this useful when he describes that, “By taking a small part of the sound that was being created by the river and combining that with the overall soundscape it was creating, I felt that I was able to give the river much more personality and interest than many people would have originally thought it had.” Pauline Oliveros emphasizes that listening is survival, humans have ideas, sounds carry intelligence, and compassion and understanding comes from listening. She references to healing, through music, meditation and surroundings.

On the other hand, musical listening has many different characteristics. In Why Music Moves Us, Levison’s definition of musical listening is listeners attending to the meaning of organized sounds humanly organized sounds with a purpose of enriching experience through active engagement (Bicknell). Also, people listen to music because it is often related to self-identity and linked to a relationship or event in their lives. A song or artist or genre reminds them of who they were at a certain time, and helps them to recapture the aesthetic agency they possessed (DeNora).

Music can serve to bring people together as listeners described it as a unifying fluid that flowed through all who could feel (Johnson). Someone who was more engaged emotionally was a listener less distracted socially. Spectators in the 1770s reported something new among audiences: genuine attentiveness. Artistic considerations of sight lines & sound were a growing preoccupation among spectators in Operas. However, lights flickered during performances, so those who wished to pass their time watching others still could, which is in stark contrast to the concept of deep listening. If people are distracted and looking around, attention is not directed to the interplay of sounds and silences, there is a break in concentration and relaxation which is essential in deep listening.

Emotion and self-identity is strongly linked to musical listening. According to the genitive theory of musical expression, there is a resemblance of emotion in music to expressive human utterance and behavior (Bicknell). For example, a slow grave melody is related to a sad person. People engage in musical listening often discover it has a profound affect on them. Odysseus weeps to a song because the subject of the song had strong personal associations for him or it was in response to the singer’s artistic creations in which the words and music combined in a song was performed with skill and sensitivity (Bicknell). The Greeks held strong views about music’s power over the emotions, and about the connections among music, ethical character, and action.

This relates to music and the concept of self-identity, as different styles of music can be used but the same person to articulate different identities in their lifetime. Musical listening has impacted the public as a whole as in the late 1700s, opera and concert audiences spoke out for greater democratization and believed concerts should be made public to diminish social stratification (Johnson). Musical listening is significant in its intimate relationship between sensations and sentiments. Music expression is more than a text or its melody, and to recognize the orchestral harmonies as legitimately expressive apart from the text changed expression and the means by which it was conveyed (Johnson). It transforms the auditory experience for both the audience and the performers.

Deep listening and musical listening have some similarities too. Pauline Oliveros mentions that musicians were not listening to what they were performing and instead just heard the notes they were playing. In fact, some audiences can see the lack of connection to sound as many comment on performances and say they are too “learned” for their tastes. The discovery of a more emotional stratum of musical expression also encouraged more spectators to turn inward to feel the passions the music evoked (Johnson). Oliveros attributes hearing to a physical activity, and listening to metal and psychological activity. This is true in musical listening as well, since music can invoke past feelings and past experiences, which is a temporal psychological experience.

In conclusion, although deep listening and musical listening have many distinguishing aspects to them, they still contain many similar themes. Oliveros focuses on the importance of meditation to achieve the relaxation needed to connect to the sound/silence continuum. Johnson, Bicknell, and DeNora emphasize the personal and emotion connection present between music and listening. Yet all authors can agree that attentiveness to the sounds and songs that are listened to is important in achieving the necessary connection to the soundscape. Overall, deep listening is essential in leading to a greater knowledge of self-identity and expression of emotion.


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Deep Listening and Musical Listening Argumentative Essay. (2021, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/deep-listening-and-musical-listening/



What are the benefits of active and deep listening?
Active and deep listening can improve communication, build stronger relationships, and enhance empathy and understanding between individuals. It also helps to identify and solve problems more effectively.
What is deep listening?
Deep listening is a way of listening that is focused and present. It involves being fully engaged with the person speaking, and being open to hearing what is being said on a deeper level.
What is musical listening?
Musical listening is the process of recognizing and understanding music. It is important to be able to identify different instruments and understand the emotions conveyed in the music.
Whats the difference between hearing and listening to music?
Islam teaches that the purpose of punishment is to reform the offender and protect society. Muslims believe that the best way to achieve these goals is through rehabilitation and education, not retribution.
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