Have We Lost the Ability to Really Listen to Music?

by Paula Mitchell 2 years ago in humanity

Active listening is a lost art.

Have We Lost the Ability to Really Listen to Music?
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

These days it's all about instant gratification - fast food, fast cars, fast money-making schemes, fast everything!

I remember when we used to take time out to actually listen to a whole album and enjoy every nuance, every melody, and be a part of the creative journey the musician was sharing with you. It was something special - an occasion - something to be enjoyed and savoured, like a fine wine or a finely crafted meal by a master chef. That was back in the days when we had to wait for an album to be released, go into town to the record shop and buy the album, then bring it home and give our ears a long awaited treat. We had no other choice.

It suddenly occurred to me that the next generation down from me has grown up in world of instant gratification - everything is instant: food, information, TV, shopping, relationships and music. It's all available to download instantly at the touch of a button. Attention span is lost and diminished as we are bombarded with a plethora of choices. We've lost the ability to just absorb something over a longer period of time and reap the rewards, which is much much more satisfying - in other words, delayed gratification.

To people under a certain age the thought of just sitting and actively listening to a beautiful piece of music for more that 5 minutes is just something they wouldn't be able to tolerate. Now don't get me wrong here - I'm not demonizing all people under the age of say, 30, I'm just saying that generally in today's world, most younger people are fully in the flow of a fast-paced world and the current generation are the biggest consumers of instant information. That's not to say there aren't Millennials who will sit and listen to a whole album, or Generation X'ers (my generation) who have no attention span when listening to music....

I recall my teenage daughter playing Pink Floyd's iconic album Dark Side of the Moon on shuffle and thinking that was almost sacrilege! That's like reading chapter 7 of a story, then chapter 1, then chapter 11 etc - it just doesn't make sense and all continuity and meaning is lost. Why would you do that? It's a piece as a whole, in that order, just like a book.

There's a big difference between listening and actively listening.

Listening is defined as: to give one's attention to a sound.

Actively listening is: fully concentrating on every aspect of the music rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the music

Active listening involves listening with all the senses.

Let's take this piece of music for example - this is a relaxing vocal harmony piece which could be used in today's fast paced world as 'ear candy' for relaxing or meditation but if you take the time to actively listen to the chords, the texture, the melody and the beautiful voice then you begin to realise that this is so much more than just 'relaxation music'.

These artists have poured themselves into crafting a piece of music from their soul - it speaks of beauty, peace, intellectualism and many years of honing their craft and talents to a level above the usual technical abilities of many of today's 'pop stars.'

This music says: This is us. This is where we are. Here it is for you to enjoy. It is our gift to you.

The only way we can truly appreciate this gorgeous sonic journey is to sit down and really listen - actively listen - and only then will we appreciate the gift we are being given - that is, beautiful music created by talented musicians for us. And that's worth waiting for if you ask me...

Paula Mitchell
Paula Mitchell
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Paula Mitchell

I'm a singer/singing teacher who loves to learn about the voice and how it works.

I've been singing professionally for over 30 years

See all posts by Paula Mitchell