Maybe i’m a bit unusual in my quest to hear the works voice, maybe unusual is my normal, either way, listening isn’t an easy practice for me. Sure i’m learning as i go, feeling my way and have been practising for sometime now, but it is never an easy path to travel. You may inquire as to why? I don’t know about you, but sitting still with myself is quite uncomfortable because everything shows up when you sit with yourself, everything you’ve been avoiding, trying desperately to ignore in the hope that it will all vanish if you just find a peaceful pleasing sound to listen to. Hear/Here is the magic of listening. No one, finds it easy to sit with themselves and their inner commotion, it often feels to me like I am a snow globe that has been shaken or stirred up, but this is all part of the practice initially. Learning to sit with our inner chaos and focus our attention towards something on the outside can be quite a stretch!
For me the practice of listening is seeing my resistance to sitting still and noticing the inner waves of chaos generated by our internal sonic landscape. The first steps in the art of listening, is to stop resisting what is arising from within. We are all full of an inner realm which consists of some sort of dialogue. All of these seemingly important internal conversations, thoughts, along with a myriad of images and sensations can appear substantial and real to each and everyone of us. But are they real? Listening, becomes the antidote to loosening our grip to the ‘real’, learning to become aware as everything settles and in the settling recognising that the internal noise, is simply sound!
We sit and listen to the outside in order to gain an insight into the inside and resistance is always the first friend you will meet along the way. In my experience, more often than not!
I have found that making a listening device that allows me to take it somewhere with the intention to listen through, is the easiest solution to my resistance. Something interesting happens when you place a set of headphones on and listen through a microphone. A kind of meta-position naturally arises, what i mean to say is that a space between my internal sonic landscape and the outer environment opens up naturally and it is easier to observe myself listening to both sonic environments simultaneously.
The large, sculptural microphones and the recording device, along side the headphones create a listening space through intention and in this space, resistance is bi-passed naturally. Maybe this is because the conscious part of our minds occupies itself with the recording gadgets, making it easier to settle down and focus attention on the sound coming through the listening devices. Whatever the psychology behind it really doesn’t matter, what is important is to find a way to bring as much of one’s attention to listening to the sonic landscape outside of ourselves.
Another fundamental approach that i have found useful is being open to whatever sounds arrive at our ears when we are in situ. We all have the habit of judgment and comparison and what i mean to say here is that we are constantly unaware of how much internal comparing we do indeed do on a daily basis. For example, when we first go out recording, we have a sense of wanting to capture something new, a delight to our hearing senses. Maybe, we perceive a birds song as a pleasant sound and a lawnmower as something not so pleasant in comparison to the sound of the birds song. The intention is not to go out looking for sounds that one may prefer over another. The intent when developing a practice, is to allow sound to find you. I have found that sound finds me when i am being open, non biased with preference but being open to listening whether the landscape is pleasing or displeasing. Simply open to being aware of sound as phenomena as it is. It is in these moments that the magic of listening occurs!