When we listen to music without a trained ear, we listen flat on the surface. We notice the lead singer or the interesting solos, but we listen only to the most prominent part of the composition at any given time.
When a musician with a trained ear listens, she listens deep rather than merely on the surface. In a jazz number, she listens to the saxophone solo over the chord progression, like all of us do. But in addition, she notices the pianist’s left and right hands push down on the keys with different time signatures. She notices how the drummer intersperses brushes and rim strokes into his beat. She also follows the walking bass, which suggests which turn the melody would take next. The song comes across to her as a perfect harmony of all these elements.
Whenever we speak, we also include several layers of information in what we say – with our choice of words, the tone of our voice, the expressions on our faces, the gestures of our hands, and the words we emphasize. Just as it takes a true aficionado to appreciate good jazz or sublime classical music, so too does it take a deep listener to empathize and truly understand the spoken word.
Inspiration: The Dying Art of Conversation – Celeste Headlee’s interview on the Knowledge Project podcast