Evolving thoughts, a new initiative

I have realized that what once was an initiative to promote a new method of analysis, the Sound-Energy Aggregate (SEA) is really a much broader move, with deeper implications. Already in recent years, I had come to know that what I was dealing with was a contemplative method, one which shared quite a lot with Zen meditation, one that I had presented in a conference or two. As I work on the talk, which has now turned into what it needs to be, a workshop, I am coming to understand that its foundation in not knowing is the key, just as it is fundamental to Zen practice. I call the workshop Just Listening, which refers to the Zen practice of Just Sitting (Shikantaza).

My initial conviction, itself founded on years of experience getting students to comprehend music – unfamiliar, sometimes difficult music – and simply pay attention to what they actually hear, is that one can penetrate deeply into a selection of music without having had any musical training whatsoever. Furthermore, it has become clear to me that those who
think they know something, especially if they consider themselves experts, have the more difficult task of setting aside what they know in order to engage authentically with what they hear. I find that the musically less-initiated more easily find that hallowed, oft-mentioned state, the beginner’s mind.

So what I am working on is an experience that allows people to come to know the joy of musical engagement that comes from not knowing, from setting aside the fear of being found out not to know enough about music to appreciate it (hogwash!), or from engaging in a natural way that allows those with much knowledge to come to terms with the music in ways that sidestep their training.

My aim of exposing people to the transformative power of engaging deeply with music resonates with the work others are doing. One significant example will suffice for now. Earlier this fall, I spent a lot of time with and heard the presentation of Dr. Claire Garabedian about her research into music as a means of reaching those with severe dementia. The stories are amazing and exciting: people who are labelled as uncommunicative awaken and speak, become vibrant and alive. At the end of Claire’s telling of her journey of discovery and research, she made a statement to summarize her findings that is so much the thing I am aiming for, I have adapted it as the subtitle for my workshop. The original statement: “Through shared listening, and sound haven is created in which healing can occur” has become “Shared listening creates a sound haven that awakens compassion for ourselves and others.”

Indeed, if music has this effect on the identified population, certainly we can recognize how much it has a similar effect on those who deeply engage with it. I will stop myself from going on and on about this potential, and save the thoughts for another time. The key is getting, or allowing, people to engage deeply, and our world, our thinking is full of impediments. I am beginning a campaign to help people remove them. And I do not know where this all will lead.