Wednesday, October 12, 2011
In my last blog I talked about the power of silence. Another powerful tool is listening. Like silence, there are different levels of listening. Think about two people having a conversation. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and feel like they are really hearing you? Contrast that with someone who is just waiting for you to stop talking so they can say what they want to say. Or talking on the phone with someone and knowing they are typing an e-mail to someone else while “listening” to you.
Music, and especially chamber music, is very similar. If I am sight-reading a piece, I spend most of my effort counting to make sure I am not off rhythmically. While this basically keeps me in the correct spot, obsession with counting can actually make me listen less. Likewise, when I really begin to listen, then it is possible I might miss-count a phrase at first. But the rewards are much greater in the end.
In order to truly listen, you have to have some knowledge of what your partners are doing. Are you with them rhythmically or tonally? What is the function of the chord or rhythm? Are you the most important voice? If not, who is? Going into a rehearsal with all of that knowledge can free you to hear the individual style and playing of the instrumentalist. And then you are truly free to communicate with each other in a meaningful way.