Introducing Deep Listening Tips, a new series inspired by Pauline Oliveros’ deep listening guide.
Shhh, listen. You hear that phrase a lot in life. Shut up, too. Be quiet. Hush. Please stop talking. Pay attention. Focus.
But once silence is achieved, the inevitable next question remains: What will I listen to? We wake up in silence and decide what our aural intake will be for the day. Stumped, we flip through the records or scroll through Bandcamp. NPR? A go-to Spotify playlist? Dublab or NTS? A new reissue? An old CD mix? A new cassette? A podcast?
Or do we forego music and listen to our environment? Any sound, after all, can be music if you shift your perspective to make it so. What do I want to listen to? What sounds good right now?
The composer, educator and deep listening advocate Pauline Oliveros spent her life contemplating sound, silence and the ways these polarities structure the universe. Her book Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice, which was published in 2005 and is still in print, is a treatise on her life’s lessons. A practical guide to focused, meditative listening, the book will change the way you think about sound.
She poses questions meant to prompt readers to do the work of experiencing the aural universe more deeply, such as: What sound gives you chills? What sound fascinates you? What sound reminds you of home? How far away can you hear sounds? Try not listening to anything; what happens?
Oliveros called deep listening “a way of working. When I really listen in this way I hear differently, in the sense that merely being open to listening changes how I perceive sounds, which in turn changes how I listen, and so on in an ever expansive fashion.” She adds that “this is where discernment comes into play.”
Discernment is a crucial part of In Sheep’s Clothing’s mission. It’s why we’re adding new recordings to our collection on a weekly basis; why we sell sublime albums; and why, when this god-forsaken pandemic again allows for safe indoor gatherings, we’ll be providing rooms, equipment and programming for communal listening endeavors.
It’s also why we’re undertaking a kind of thought experiment on deep listening and how it connects to ISC-recommended music. Drawing inspiration from Oliveros’ extended list of “listening questions” and “Oblique Strategies,” Brian Eno and multimedia artist Peter Schmidt’s 1975 card deck of what they call “Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas,” we’ll be regularly offering brief listening prompts, tips, recommendations and music-centered provocations.
Our goal is pretty basic: To aid in your desire to best address that nagging dilemma: Once I shut up and start focusing on sound, what do I want to listen to?
Stay tuned for Deep Listening Tips #1 which will focus on instrumental music and how to select the right sounds to inspire you.