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Listening

Posted by Loz Kaye on 08 April 2020

One of my highlights from the last More Music season was a masterclass with Norwegian percussionist and sound wizard Terje Isungset. He had been resident with the wonderful children’s music project Cinclus Cinclus – which is as much about listening to, and responding with, children as playing to them. (You can read more about this here in a blog by local musician Maja Bugge).

I’ve long been interested in Terje’s work. He is best known for his extraordinary conjuring of music out of ice, fragile sounds that speak more than ever of the state of our world. What was fascinating about Terje’s masterclass was his joyful curiosity in how he listens to the natural materials he makes part of his percussion kit. Sticks and stones all have their place and their story. It is a question of paying attention to what is around us.

I think we have been hearing more since we have gone in to this period of social distancing. Or rather, we have been hearing other things, as the background hum of traffic recedes in many places. I mentioned waking up to birdsong in my first COVID blog piece. And as I wrote a couple of days ago, there has been a torrent of sounds coming at us all through the Internet and social media.

But the core of music is listening – which is an activity of the mind, body and heart. It is an activity of stillness, attention, and some humility. This is something I think we could all afford a little more of. And it is active too. The mute button on the video call is an invitation to listen, not just not to speak.

For the difference between hearing and listening, the great thinker and musician is Pauline Oliveros. I really recommend giving this talk by her, well, a listen. And to grab a pause in amongst everything.

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