21/40 Listening to Music

As many of you already know, I recently released a new album, “Adagio“. It’s the 6th in the “Music for the Inner Listener” series.

As part of the album’s notes I wrote up a reminiscence of my early days with the guitar in my childhood home. This also reminded a lot of my young days listening to music.

I was about 10 or 11 years old when I claimed the “ghetto blaster” in our house as my own. Not quite understanding what I was in for, I also “joined” the Columbia Record and Tape Club, which meant that I was exposed to a lot of popular music that I ordinarily would never have heard. Older friends also introduced me to a lot of alternative electronic music.

What I remember most about those days is how much time I actually spent deliberately listening to music. I would lie in my room with the ghetto blaster close to my head, the selected cassette playing an album and immersing me in its sound. I often spent hours like this, sometimes in such a deep state that I was only shocked out by the hard clicks of the cassette mechanism flipping sides. These were magical times filled with imagination and strong emotional responses to what I was hearing and experiencing.

These days almost all my listening happens on an iPod while I’m walking or taking the bus. I don’t own a car so I have a lot of time and freedom during travelling to listen in this way. Thinking about this topic today, I feel like something is missing. While I enjoy the intimacy and immersion of headphones and the liberation of being able to carry my entire collection with me, there’s a certain easy intentionality that is not there in the way it used to be. As usual, it’s a case of demanding that music come to us rather than us being available to it. Music has been hijacked to carry a message when in a lot of ways it *is* the message.

This line of thought made me think of how I used to listen to music, and it’s a way of listening that I feel is missing in a lot of people’s lives as we are overwhelmed with visual stimulus and the convenience of portable music players. Many friends have shared stories of how they used to have very similar listening experiences in their early lives. Maybe it’s just my pre-internet generation, or maybe it’s a real effect of living in the Media Field of Distraction (I heard a quote in a Terrence McKenna lecture yesterday “media: bringing darkness to the world at the speed of light”).

So, how to listen to music? My spontaneous response: prepare a room as you would for the arrival of a loved one, a close friend, someone special in your life. Maybe a candle, low light, a way of sitting that lets you close your eyes, turning off other media devices, and giving attention completely over to the music. Turning off other devices like TVs and computers, not reading, and not having other visual distractions around is important: the job of music and art in general is to take us to places words cannot, and I think our days are already filled to overflowing with words, typography, and visual titillation not designed for our inner well-being. And, of course, choose good music :-) “Adagio” is available at the LASCAUX21 Music Store as well as a host of online digital distribution retailers.

But if you are a true Inner Listener, I probably don’t need to tell you how to do this. You already have memories and practice listening in this way…my job is only to help you reconnect and remind, which I humbly hope to do.

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