The Art of Listening
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This year many of my letters will be about listening. One shouldn’t listen to the Suzuki repertoire just for the correct notes. That is merely the pre-Twinkle level of listening. These letters will talk about many ways to listen to all kinds of music, and other sounds or voices. Why is it so hard to listen? I think it is because we live in environments that are noisy and full of distractions; we aren’t expected to listen and we are never trained to do so.
The great American author, Ernest Hemingway said, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Judging by the 233 million hits for “Art of Listening” on Google, listening is an art many people want to learn. Like everything else in the Suzuki world, good listening requires learning skills and putting them into practice. Expect your group teachers to talk about listening and do some listening exercises as we all work to become better listeners.
Roots, an outstanding TV mini- series first shown in 1977, provides an example of one kind of excellent listening. The series follows the life of Kunte Kinte, who was sold into slavery in the 1750’s. Alex Haley, Kunte Kinte’s descendant created the series. Haley located Kinte’s Mandinka tribe still living in Gambia, West Africa. They told Haley their history, which was not written down but recited by tribal storytellers. It took several hours for the story to even reach the 1750’s and Kunte Kinte, by which time Haley was sleepy and bored. But he came awake quickly when Kinte was mentioned! 200 years later and these men knew Kinte’s story! It was from these storytellers that Haley learned that Kinte was sold by contentious tribesmen and the events leading up to that sale. These storytellers had to have excellent listening skills as they rehearsed the tribal history so that they could later recite it with perfection. Every nuance, every syllable, every detail was learned because each of these was heard.
Can we open our ears as expertly? I hope so. Imagine what our music would sound like after such listening efforts.
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