2017 Rock Music Big Year: Can you cultivate listening skills?

“Listen” . . . trivial to utter, harder to do. Most of my generation only listens to stuff they absorbed four decades ago and they’re not listening in any real sense. They’re singing along to a soundtrack in their minds. Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) summed up a 1982 book, Elliott Schwartz’s “Music: Ways of Listening,” as recommending the following seven cultivated skills:

  • Develop your sensitivity to music
  • Develop a sense of time as it passes
  • Develop a musical memory
  • Acquire a working vocabulary
  • Try to develop musical concentration
  • Try to listen objectively and dispassionately
  • Bring experience and knowledge to the listening situation

The author’s genre was classical music, what I call “fossilized pop music,” and there’s no doubt that listening to R.E.M. or Sex Pistols or Can or Guided By Voices is fundamentally different to appreciating Mozart, but what I like about the above list is that it exhorts me to develop skills. We’re told that appreciating fine art in galleries is partly an acquired habit and sensibility – why should music be any different?

Over 2017, will regular listening to new music enrich my listening skills? That’s certainly what I’m hoping.

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