V.com weekend vote: How often do you listen to 10+ minutes of music, with NO distractions?

September 15, 2017, 1:42 PM · I think it's pretty safe to say that nearly everyone's first relationship with music is as a listener.

My most vivid early memories involve listening for long hours to music. I'm pretty sure it was my grandmother's way of keeping an early-rising toddler from waking everyone in the house. I wandered over to her room, in a remote corner of the house, and she set up me next to her record player, playing LP after LP. I rocked in my little rocking chair and listened, alerting her whenever the needle reached the end of a record.

Strangely enough, I think this was some of the most active listening that I ever did. I had few distractions: no television, no computer screen, no smartphone, no pending to-do list.

These days it's hard to find time for active listening -- that is, the kind of listening which fully focuses on the music.

listening harp strings

More often, music is one of many elements of multi-tasking. It happens in the background: on Youtube while reading an article in another tab; as the backdrop for eating; in the headphones while exercising; on the speakers when driving.

But to truly meditate on music? It can happen in a concert hall. It can happen if you shut off all other distractions. But how often is this the case?

I'd argue that this kind of pure listening is very important to musicians -- we can get very busy playing, teaching, and doing all kinds of music-related activities, then find that we have not truly listened for quite some time.

For this week's vote, I wanted to explore how often everyone is able to make listening to music into a singular task. How often do you listen to 10 or more minutes of music, without any distractions? Playing it does not count. It can be at a concert or elsewhere; but there should be no extra activities, just listening. And for teachers, listening to your students while you are teaching them, does not count. Please mark the vote, and then describe your best moments of pure listening from the recent past.

And if you haven't done this in a while, consider scheduling a music-meditation for yourself, or a trip to the concert hall!

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Replies

September 15, 2017 at 10:00 PM · Strictly speaking, almost never these days. I listen to music every day -- usually via radio or YouTube. But I'm nearly always doing something else -- indoor chores or taking a walk indoors. Even though the main focus is on the music -- I can put my mind on auto-pilot for walking or doing most chores -- I'm still doing more than one thing at a time.

My most concentrated, prolonged listening sessions were in childhood -- much like your experience. When I was 7 y/o, I would sit in the living room during the gray winter stretches, Saturday after Saturday, and listen to one album after another. In high school, I got hooked on listening while following the music in full score; but, again, that's really doing more than one thing.

September 16, 2017 at 12:05 AM · My childhood listening was a bit like yours too. I listened to the radio, which was on almost all the time during the day, playing Chinese operas, revolutionary songs, what have you. Later, western classical music was allowed to air. I'd stop anything I was doing and listen. Music provided me a world of fantasy.

These days, in our house, the first thing in the morning is a concert and a cup of coffee. It used to be playing CDs, but these days mostly we watch YouTube concerts or the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall. This is part of our music education so it can be relaxed but often quite intense. Sometimes my husband and I would read the score when listen, sometimes we'd pause and discuss. After each morning concert, I'm always inspired to practice. We also go to live concerts on a regular basis. And I tend to think about violin and music all day long. I firmly believe that learning violin is a music education.

I used to listen to a lot more music, but often when I was doing other things at the same time, say, working in front of the computer, walking, gardening, doing crafts, at the gym, etc. These days, such background music seems pointless to me. I'd rather multitask by listening to audiobooks instead, just to have some survey to get a sense which books I really want to read.

September 16, 2017 at 02:08 AM · Any time that is not work or family related has to come out of sleep. I usually only get to listen to music at concerts and recitals. I am, however lucky enough to have musical children, so I get to attend plenty of good quality musical events. If it were not for Sirius Radio's Symphony Hall I would hardly ever get to hear recorded music.

I would love to put my feet up, close my eyes and immerse myself in the solitary joy of just listening, but not likely to happen any time soon.

September 16, 2017 at 03:23 AM · I listen to a lot of music every day, but I almost always have an instrument out and am playing with it. When I hear music, I always want to play along. So, I do. If I am doing anything else, like making coffee, taking the dog out, I am listening to books.

September 16, 2017 at 08:35 AM · As a senior citizen, I don't get up in a hurry; instead, I lie in bed for at least half an hour and watch/listen to music video clips or hi-fi music files (ape, flac, etc.) while doing in-bed exercise to help blood circulation. When I take a break during violin practice, I'll also watch teaching videos of the violin lesson or videos of violin master classes. In all, that takes me at least two hours a day purely for listening to music, plus hours of listening while reading or doing chore.

When I was young, I listened to music one LP after another or regular music programmes on the radio. That was often one hour a day.

September 16, 2017 at 01:26 PM · I'm lucky enough to have a violinist partner who loves the same classical music as I do, so one of our favourite evening companionship activities is to sit and listen to a quality recording. We don't do it often, but I have fond memories of the times we have, and anticipate plenty more in the future. There's something about listening in the dark that makes it even more special :-)

September 16, 2017 at 04:10 PM · In childhood, living about 60 miles from Toronto as-the-crow-flies across Lake Ontario, there were at least 5 AM radio stations broadcasting classical music ALL-DAY and ALL-NIGHT, at least two were in French....problem was my Stromberg-Carlson wasn't quite up to clear reception lest I wrapped the antenna around my toe and stuck a foot out the window of my tiny 2nd story bedroom. While a bit bizarre all year, winter was especially challenging but the repertoire was worth it. A great selection all day/night long...my parents were not musical but understood and welcomed my zeal. When 33 rpm recordings became popular (Yeah, I'm that old) they bought a small portable record player and gift times were for performances by Heifetz, Rubinstein and Toscanini. This habit of night-time listening persists. I'm seldom far from my mp3 or the wondrous all-night FM station we have here in Buffalo NY. However, I've never developed the ability to do other than listen to good music....reading, or other chores quickly fade from focus...or I extinguish the music.

September 16, 2017 at 04:14 PM · My 'active' listening is sometimes meditative, sometimes analytical. I find that after a few analytical sessions (maybe with a book/commentary or a score) my subsequent more relaxed/meditative session are even more rewarding. Analytical is useful for unfamiliar works/composers, as well as music with which I am very familiar, and interested in how it 'works'. But to explore a new composer/work I usually have to have been gripped by something in the music - so the first encounter is probably closer to a meditative state.

September 16, 2017 at 04:52 PM · I'm with Matt Nicol. My solution is to listen while I am on the treadmill. Active listening takes away the monotony of the exercise chore. I have arranged a stand also so that I can read the score if I have it, and I am slowly building a collection of scores (cheap Dover editions mostly), starting with string quartets and piano trios, which are among my favorite things to listen to anyway.

September 16, 2017 at 06:05 PM · I don't want music as a background to whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm doing something that requires attention, whether physical or mental, then background music is a big distraction. Incidentally, for me this applies particularly both to driving and to sitting exams (mercifully now well in the past!), as I mentioned in another post a couple of days ago.

September 16, 2017 at 06:09 PM · I get so much more from listening, when I'm not multi-tasking. For me, the best way to listen, besides being in the concert hall, is to turn out all the lights and sit on the couch and do nothing else!

September 17, 2017 at 05:48 AM · I'm a new violin Youtube student. Yes that's how I teach myself, other than my Suzuki books. I listen intently for at least an hour every day. I love hearing everyone! I'm also very selective, but I'll hear anybody once. Right now my focus is Lindsey Stirling Hallelujah. I also copy everyone else that plays this song, but so far, I'm the most challenged by her way. I also like David Garrett, whom I listen to often. I also listen to everyone, who plays violin. I'm just into it!

September 17, 2017 at 05:23 PM · I’m almost always multi-tasking when listening to music, I need something to calm the “monkey brain” or at least keep it occupied. I have found one trick that does keep me focused at a concert – I download scores or parts of what is going to be played at the concert. While technically this is not “just listening” both the visual and auditory senses are working on the same material.

FWIW: I shrink PDF files to make my reading less distracting to those around me. I’d love to be able to put these on my Kindle, but I’ll probably have to get a different type of small tablet if I go electronic. Of course I have, on a few occasions gotten the musician(s) to autograph my papers following a concert.

September 19, 2017 at 03:21 AM · I listen to music while doing nothing else at least twice a day, while going to sleep and waking up. I believe that I focus on music at least as strongly while doing something else such as exercising or eating dinner. The latter activities require so little brain work that most of my mind is focusing intently on music.


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