Are we really listening to the music that’s playing?
Music can have profound effects on a listener.
Sound is all around us, and even though we hear it, seldom are we actually listening. When it comes to communication skills, being a good listener is as important as being a good speaker, yet research shows that only 10 per cent of us listen effectively and on average we remember only 25 per cent of what is being spoken to us.
Are we missing out on something?
In my last piece on harnessing the power of sound, I elaborated on how sound waves can alter our brainwave frequencies to help us relax, meditate, learn, and sleep. All matter vibrates at a certain frequency and creates sound. So, in essence, the sound is the energy that exists within the earth; in the land, seas, plants, animals, and even human beings. Human beings take this sound energy a step further by harnessing and organizing them to create music.
Music is a pillar of human culture; it comes from the heart and is often likened to being the voice of the soul. For the composer and the performer, it is the expression of one’s soul, but an important aspect of music is the perspective and experience of the listener, who completes the circle.
Music can have profound effects on a listener. However, what we listen to and how we listen to it can greatly influence our mental and emotional state. Any listener can listen through two means:
1. External listening
When external music is directed inside the listener. We experience the music internally, where it reverberates with our inner private world. In this type of listening, music has the capacity to create new forms and energy fields.
Different music produces different results because the effect that resonates within us will also feel different, but to feel it we need to listen without any preconceived ideas or judgment. This means that we need to be fully present and give the music our attention and concentration. We need to ‘be with the music’.
2. Internal listening
When we tune in to our own inner sounds and rhythms. It is listening to the inner messages that come from within the self. Messages that contain harmonious as well as disharmonious chords, agreements, and disagreements. It is to ‘be with oneself’; to fully experience oneself on various levels.
In order to do this kind of listening, we have to be still. We need to let the mind rest and stay passive in order to activate the deeper states of being. Internal listening can be seen as a movement that takes place only inwardly, without letting the outside world interfere. The process of meditation is an example of this kind of listening.
Listening intently can be an impactful experience. However, we often listen to music and sometimes, even listen to people, as if they were playing in the background of our thoughts. This may happen because we are too tired, preoccupied, or even uninterested, but when we absently listen, we miss out on subtle or even key aspects of the message being communicated. On a deeper level, we ignore the benefits of listening intently.
That being said, the secret to listening attentively is not in listening harder, it is in listening better. Here is what we can do to be better listeners:
1. Be silent- We need to speak less and think less when listening. The second we start thinking or talking, instead of listening, we risk losing parts of the message being communicated. Additionally, finding a quiet space can also help our ears recalibrate to soft noises and helps us hear better.
2. Find a good position and posture- An open or upright posture is the best way to pay attention. On the other hand, sitting in an uncomfortable or slouching position will make us more likely to be distracted.
3. Pay attention to the tone- Most of us know to pay attention to the words and lyrics, but we rarely pay attention to the tune and its subtle changes. We need to consciously pay attention to the tone and rhythm.
We need to listen consciously and mindfully if we want to absorb more of what is being communicated to us. Sound and music are extremely powerful tools. Many therapists and doctors use music therapy as a part of treatment. In music therapy or entrainment, they want both kinds of listening to occur. The external listening awakens inner listening. It is when we listen to music intently and awaken our inner listening that we deeply experience the music. It makes us feel the deep intense pain, sadness, happiness, or hope within us.
Layla El Hadri, an author, artist, and speaker implies that healing is a deeper phenomenon that we relate it to be. She says that we need to ‘get the issue out of the tissue’ — that we basically need to heal any stored memories residing in our cells, our tissue, which could cause disorders and issues. When we allow both external and internal listening to take place, we create a new inner state of being. This state of being is one that therapists strive to achieve in their patients and to do so, they utilize various acoustic devices like Tibetan singing bowls, drums, tuning forks, and so on. Sound and music can have various effects on us. However, to truly experience the positive effects, we need to be attentive.
So, do you just hear music or do you actually listen?