How to Have the Best Listening Experience

The Listening Library: Haven, Refuge, Home

Listening at my desk

Memories from my undergraduate days at Indiana State University: hanging out in the Listening Library.

When I wasn’t in a practice room (or playing pinochle in the lounge area), I was in the Listening Library; headphones on, head on the desk, resting on my arms.

Each week we had a new list of music to listen to. Listen enough that each piece becomes thoroughly known; a old friend. That was our goal.

Music Appreciation

At the time, I didn’t appreciate the listening library as I do now. What a luxury! What a resource!

You could look through the card catalog (which is probably an online database now) and select a recording. Ask the librarian to put it on the reel-to-reel (yeh, yeh, now it’s all digital). They would tell you what channel to listen on and hand you a pair of full-size over-the-ear headphones.

I’d sit in one of the listening booths and plug in to the system. It was the depth of resource that was so amazing. Not only was there access to recordings of many orchestras playing the vast body of classical and contemporary works, but there were also student and faculty recitals.


listening on the floor

I remember enjoying a cello recital that I just stumbled upon. Couldn’t tell you the title of the piece or even hum a few bars. I do recall the soothing effect of the bow on the strings, the warm woody sound of the cello.

Even today, the memory conjures a cozy room in late Fall with dark-paneled walls, large stuffed chairs, and a crackling fire in the stone fireplace. It’s as if hearing cello music takes me there. Not all cello music has that effect on me. Perhaps it is a particular genre of music. Who knows.

Effects of Listening

Listening to music can be calming or invigorating. It can evoke sadness or joy, anger or exuberance. Music can hypnotize or invoke a meditative state.

We listen to music at celebrations and worship. It inspires and motivates us as we run and dance. Listening to music can challenge and inspire.

Most of the time that we listen to music, we are doing something else. It might be driving, eating and conversing, socializing at a party.

Today I invite you to listen to some music while not doing anything else. One of the books on my bookshelf is a thick tome edited by Tom Moon. 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. Sort of a musical bucket list. It’s not one I read so much as rifle through and stop on a random page. I try and find that recording and give it a listen.

Effective Listening

lounge listening

And when I say Listen, I mean sit-with-my-eyes-closed-and-my-ears-open Listening. Not driving or walking or washing the dishes. Just Listening.

My focus and attention is on the sounds of the music. I may notice the instrumentation or identify the vocalist – but mostly I Listen.

If the music invokes a particular feeling, I file that for future reference. But I don’t dwell there.

Listening is not about thinking or doing. It is an experience that one has. And it is unique for each of us.

Experience Listening

So, who wants to have a listening experience today? To help you along, I’ve listed and linked to 3 different audio tracks. Oh, and I’m not going to identify the music by title or composer or performer ahead of time. I’ll just list them as one, two, and three with the length in minutes and seconds.

Not knowing what you will be hearing means you won’t pre-judge or have expectations. Take a chance and listen to one – or two or all three. If you can, listen with headphones and close your eyes. It truly enhances your experience.

After you listen, if you’re curious and want to know what you just listened to, just ask.

  • One minute 30 seconds
  • One minute 31 seconds
  • One minute 52 seconds

Thanks for stopping by and listening!

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