What is listening really? As we prepare for the Museum Computer Network Conference in Pittsburgh next week, where Earprint is presenting a Listening Lounge experiment, I have been asking myself this question quite a bit.
I’m discovering that although I have spent my entire life a student of sound and music, a maker of stories and compositions - and I have heard many interesting and moving sonic vibrations - I am still a novice at really listening.
Do you ever catch yourself starting to mentally construct the response you are going to give to somebody who is telling a story? You conjure in your mind what a great and wonderful story you are going to tell in response to their story. You need to bring your opinions and truths, your great insight, your endless creativity, into the conversation. Before you know it, the person before you is no longer in focus, and you are not listening to them anymore.
This happens all the time (to me). What if we could actually just stay open and focused and really listen to what someone is saying? This is a practice that we all need to engage in, all the time.
This loss of focus also happens when you are listening to a podcast or produced story. You think to yourself, “this is interesting, but it would have been better if…” and there you are again, ruminating about your way of getting to the heart of matter quicker, improving the sound production, using a better narrator, or simply just redoing the whole thing because you could definitely do it better.
It’s important that telling a story is a very focused, engaging and entertaining event to keep the listener from drifting. This is what the craft of storytelling is all about. But it’s also the responsibility of the listener to give it a chance to sink in and not start drifting into selfish rumination and thus not even being present. While StoryTellers tend to have purposes, tools, and techniques, StoryListeners tend to be passive. This does not have to be the case. Storytelling is a two way street!
When we recognize that the acts of StoryTelling and StoryListening are both part of the same StoryExperience, we open ourselves up to an immersive and dynamic exchange.
As StoryTellers, we have the ability to spout out new stories all the time, yet we may find that we are less attentive as StoryLISTENERS. So how do we practice the skill of active listening, or using listening as a way to connect to those around us?
This is the thought behind our Listening Lounge at the MCN Conference next week. By asking conference attendees to submit their favorite recent listening experiences (a binaural experiment, a sonic landscape, an immersive soundwalk, a piece of original music, a battle-scene re-creation, etc.), the Listening Lounge will act as an “audio oasis,” encouraging visitors to unwind and to connect with those around them in a new way.
Care to submit a sound for the Listening Lounge? Just fill out the Listening Lounge_Submission form and upload it with your audio file (more than one is ok) to this location: https://www.dropbox.com/request/TMJbLeRtypUntz3aMm7d
I look forward to seeing you at the Listening Lounge on November 8th from 1:15 to 5pm at MCN in Pittsburgh!