My subjectivity is another word for my understanding - what I know that is my own, the result of my experiences.
The time on the stairway when I was a little boy and my mother wasvacuuming the stairway and I actually FELT the vibration of the vacuum cleaner in my chest. No theories; no dissertions; just a raw visceral experience, straight from the ears to the body - no explanations, just a moment of data.
Now, stored in my body and brain there is a well of such 'information' - pure kernels of experience. Some of these are sound memories, some are sense memories, some are smell, andso on. Some say that there are even older, more ancient memories that are hard-wired into our genes, and these have to do with instinctive responses to danger and so on. In addition to this store of experience, there is a lifetime of thinking, responding, imitating, and putting that storehouse of relatively untrammeled impressions into some kind of context. It is my own encyclopedia of opinions, which categorizes and places the kernels ofexperience into what I call my understanding - my unique subjective understanding of these objective moments of raw experience. Still with me?
Is listening still a purely sensual experience for me? Hardly. The way my brain works, practically every sound I attend to evokes a series of responses,most of which are indexed to my subjective "encyclopedia." Most of these reactions have to do with simply identifying the sound. Once I've identified it, there's no reason to "listen" anymore.
The act of sound recording allows me, briefly, to make a detour around my usual reactions, and to hear the sound of an environment, for a time, in a newway. I say "for a time", because my tendency is turn any repetetive experience into habit. Listening becomes habitual, or "automatic" as I've described in my book. I'm listening by rote, going through the motions of listening, but in reality, nothing new is being received. I'm reviewing the contents of something I thought I learned a long time ago - some moldy truth that may not, in fact, be true.
So, part of why I pick up a microphone is to rediscover the experience of listening itself. The other reason, is to share the listening. As I noted inmy last message to you, there is an inborn need to communicate, and it may arise from the instinctive knowledge that group listening is indeed more powerful, more objective even, than my own. So - I share with you in the hope that you may hear the part of the truth which I've missed. By "truth" Imean the heart of the matter. Not necessarily what a sound is, but what the pulse of life is that it carries. How many times can you look at Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and feel what was behind what he was seeing?His subjective understanding of a much larger truth. People have been touchedenough to write volumes, songs, CD-ROMs about this one painting.That, I think, is the power of a moment of pure seeing. And listening is no different. How many of us are free enough for one moment to see or hear, without embellishment, without opinions, without the benefit of a lifetime's baggage of categories and labels?
As listeners, the quieter we become, the closer we approach this possibility, the freer we become to translate, to share, to explore, to wipe the slate clean and listen again, to hear what is behind the brackets and the boundaries, even behind the silence itself.
You know, musicians listen to the CD in my book and say, "that's not just a Bearded seal, an Oropendola Bird, or volcanic lava flow - that's music."Well, they're hearing something that the scientist who recorded those seals probably didn't hear. But there's more to the sounds than either "seal" or "music".
Whenever any of us picks up a microphone, or a pen, or touches the keyboard, it is with the expectation that someone else will want to listen. And more, weare driven to find a listener. It's a compulsion, a deep-seated need to communicate, like nature seeking a vacuum to fill.
But why do we listen? When, for a moment or two, the crust of old habits breaks. What do we listen for?
Silent enough to listen past my own expectations of what I should be hearing.