Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Practice--Deep Listening

In our sped up world, we don't often take the time to deeply listen to music. I remember taking a music appreciation class at college in 1982 where the professor played a recording of Bach's Fugue in G minor every day for the entire quarter. We learned every nuance of that fugue, even if I didn't seriously listen to Bach' s music several decades later.

So, for this practice get out your headphones and your music diary. Then listen to Kate Bush's "Man with a Child in His Eyes" which I'm including below. But first, I'm going to give you my impression of the song. Usually, when I review music, I review an entire album and I don't meditate on a single song. However, for this exercise, I have listened to this song several times through headphones. I've also heard the song many times in my adult life because I'm a fan of Kate Bush's work.

It's important that you hear the song as opposed to just listening to it with your ears and mind. Listen to the song with your entire body, especially your heart. Do your natural rhythms speed up or slow down. How does the softness of Bush's voice affect you? What about the Impressionistic horns, flute, and strings? Do you feel your spirits rise up when the music moves up the scale? What happens to you when the notes descend down the scale? Listen for tone, timbre, chord structure, and instrumentation. Also, listen to the emotions Bush colors and evokes with her voice. Then record your findings in your music diary.

I'll give you my impression of Kate Bush's song. When I listen to the songs on the album, A Kick Inside, which contains, "A Man with a Child in His Eyes," I experience a nostalgic and wistful, yet melancholic mood. I always get that mixture of emotions with Bush's first three albums. I feel like I'm in another worldly place with the impressionistic strings, French horn, flute, and piano. My spirits uplift when I hear the notes running up the scale and when the notes descend down the scale they put me in a hypnotic trance.

I can also hear Bush's musical influences from classical music. No doubt, with her middle-class English upbringing she would have heard classical music in her home growing up. There are some hints of jazz and folk too, heard in this pop song, as often is the case with English pop music from the 1960s and 1970s. This song was released in 1978. Bush also has an Irish background and she grew up in the countryside, as far as I know.

Now, it's your turn. (And feel free to leave comments). I removed the video because it's no longer available on YouTube. Look for "Man with a Child in His Eyes" on YouTube or see if you can borrow a copy of the album A Kick Inside from the library.