“Music washes away from the soul the dust of every day life.” Berthold Auerbach
We all understand what is meant when someone says, “You’re not listening to me.” Physically, our ears take in the sound waves but mentally we are not truly listening. This can be done on purpose because we don’t want to listen to someone but much of our non-listening state is a defense against our environment . We live in a noisy world, from the noise of cars, to the constant hum of electronics to the seemingly ever present music jingles associated with advertising. Just notice how quiet your house becomes when the electricity goes off! And so we have learned to tune out a great deal of our environment and we shut out sound. This is probably a good thing but we sometimes don’t realize that we need to then intentionally switch on our hearing again and choose to truly listen to something and not just hear it.
One of the important aspects of learning to play the piano is learning how to listen. Students are learning a whole new language- the language of music- and it requires that they learn to listen. In its essence, listening is really paying attention to something, being fully present and taking in every aspect of it. It helps to know what to listen for, especially if it is something completely unknown which is why I give the students guided listening assignments each week. I want them to be exposed to a wide variety of music but also to learn how to really pay attention to something and be completely present, not thinking about what happened in school that day, or what might be happening tomorrow. But isn’t that the challenge for us as well? We struggle to stay in the present and to really pay attention to each passing moment.
I would encourage you to listen to the listening assignment along with your child at least once during each week. They are not very long and I offer a wide variety of music. Try waiting about 30 seconds before you start the excerpt and just let there be silence. Silence is the best environment in which to hear music. Music can be as refreshing and invigorating as a cool breeze on a hot day and in our busy chaotic lives we need that refreshment. Take a few moments this week and truly listen to music.