“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating…”
(Cage 1973, 3)
I’m sitting on the hill at dusk singing with the wind. A rhythmic low whoosh, and a building sigh, slowly building up and disapearing……
Perching on the forest floor, I’m slowly noticing and interacting with the sounds around me and in me – with deep listening as my main tool.
Deep listening is a musical practice developed by musician and composer Pauline Oliveros for generating increased attention to sound. It’s also an interpersonal ethos—a way of being together in community.
“Compassion (spiritual development) and understanding comes from listening impartially to the whole space/time continuum of sound” (Oliveros 2005, xxv)
With l ặ n g participants take part in workshops on deep listening, breathwork, body movements, nature meditation and explore ways to connect with the community and oneself.
In many ways, this is a process that we need to undergo today more than ever. In a world where ideology repeats itself without end, and encloses us in harmful themes, we need new ways of creating variations. In a world where many people cannot be heard, we need ways of listening compassionately, so we can all be part of the process of shaping collective life together in a truly equitable way.
Deep listening means being open to other narratives. Knowing when to speak and when to listen. Listening at the margins of hearing for what emerges from what was thought to be only silence. Waiting for the inaudible to become audible, and the invisible to become visible. And when it does, showing that there is a gap in the sensible fabric of collective life and working together to shift it.
And I can’t help but wonder, what else am I not hearing?
A further development l ặ n g is CHẠM.
This is an opportunity for participants to explore musical and sonic world individually and collectively by using various improvisation tools and exercises. This can comprise of site-specific improvisation, musical improvisation and sonic experimentation.
“…uncertainty can feel playful and freeing rather than terrifying”
In improvisation, it’s not about corresponding to an external standard, but about building something new together, adding what’s appropriate within the context of the unfolding music, and staying emotionally present. When there are no wrong notes, it’s also not about getting it “right.”
Likewise, communicating across linguistic difference requires shifting the emphasis away from achieving “perfect” linguistic performance and towards compassionate listening.
Deep listening, as a compassionate listening skill developed in improvisation, fosters a distinctive environment of mutual respect across difference that extends beyond the moments of musical performance.
Slowly, over the course of the workshops, a shift begins to happen in our conversations. Whenever possible, we start switching into the language that’s most comfortable for the hearer—even if not for the speaker. Even those who know only a few words in the other language are piecing them together and offering them up. Where there is compassion and trust, it becomes possible to take new risks, and make a real human connection across difference. With such compassion, uncertainty can feel playful and freeing rather than terrifying.
And here, we’re starting to reconnect with the raw joy of making a sound—a tap with a rock, a thunk on some driftwood, that first satisfying squawk on the flute…
We can never be ready enough, or perfect enough. But we can be present.