On Listening, Part 1

I think it’s natural for me, as a composer and musician – especially a long-time improvising musican – the be very sensitive to what I hear and really notice the details of sound. My day-to-day experience is a combination of all the activities and sensations of my mind and body, and sounds, things I hear, can matter a lot in the moment of being in a particular place at a particular time. We live in an environment of sound, and it matters.

I also have an iPod, and there’s a lot to say about the device, of course, and I think that’s better left to others. It’s a great thing for me, and I enjoy the experience of having it in a lot of different ways. One way is certainly that way that music can accompany certain experiences, for good, ill or just odd. I had a good one recently, getting on the F train as the Sibelius Symphony No. 6 began. It has a very quiet opening, and it took a little while for me to hear it above the noise of the car – try and keep the volume at less than half – and when it did, the seemingly distant yet clear sounds of the high strings were an uncanny but wonderful moment of discovery, in my ears, in a noisy, crowded public space. I’ve done a rough recreation of what that sounds like here:

This concept of the environment of sound is a vital one, and frequently ignored. For interested readers, I would refer you to this extraordinary, profound book, and the related project.