It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless
– Steven Sondheim
When we witness an expert performer in music or in sport the word “effortless” often springs to mind. However, most people are (hopefully) aware of the amount of work actually needed to reach this level of mastery. Therefor “effort-less” can´t necessarily mean that something is “without effort”.
A seemingly “effortless” performance is indeed the result of a sophisticated physical and neurological coordination which creates a subtle fluctuation between tension and relaxation in the parts responsible for the movements and to master this coordination is at the true core of every excelling performance. Continue reading →
Our perception of reality is a highly individual matter: every day our mind is occupied by trying to create coherence between an unimaginable amount of fragments brought to us through our different senses. It is a bit like a game: you’re given certain pieces but how you combine them is up to you.
Art and music reflect this essential fact that we humans arenot sharing one reality but, rather, perceiving myriads of different possibilities of reality, all interlaced and happening at the same time.
We are all aware that two people might experience the same piece of music or art entirely different. The music or the artwork is the same and yet the experience of it differs. The continued construction of our separate realities is a game which every human being plays continuously, whether we are aware of it or not but once we are aware of it it is possible to use it consciously. Within the world of music this sense of the possibility that lies in co-creation with the listener is more present in particular composers and their works than in others.
My initial interest in listening and listening intentions started while writing my master thesis at the Conservatory of music in Oslo where I was introduced to the subject Aural Sonology, developed and taught by the two composers Lasse Thoresen and Olav Anton Tommesen. Continue reading →
Have you ever had the time lately to really look at something or someone? Not the quick glance or the romantic eye-gazing but looking as an act of true curiosity and wonder. As children we often indulged in this activity, becoming completely absorbed by the wings of a shiny, black beetle trudging slowly across the ground, or a drop of rain trailing down the window.
As grownups there are as far as I know only two professions which encourages this kind of activity: the meditation-teacher and the artist. Some meditational techniques uses a visual point of focus, often the flame of a candle, as a means to enter certain states of consciousness. The artist painting a live model enters into a similar state of consciousness but an infinitely more active one. Continue reading →
Having just returned from the annual Trondheim chamber music festival KAMFEST I had some thoughts in my head, spurred by the many musical experiences there. KAMFEST has always been one of my favourite festivals in Norway as it always seems to somehow be able to think outside of the Box when it comes to chamber music and concert programming in general. A great mix of Expressions, genres, venues and, most often, superb musicians. This year’s composer in residence was the multi-faceted composer /pianist/poet and artist Lera Auerbach who were participating in all of her artistic roles. The program varied from the music-theatre-opera The Blind, chamber music works where the composer performed herself, poetry recital and a silent auction of some of her pictures.
This combined presentation was a rare experience and I wondered in advance how Auerbach would succeed in filling all of these roles. Through history there have been many examples of great composers who also have ventured into the field of performer; a double role which was much more common in older times, from the improvisation-competitions of Mozart´s time to the semi rock star-hysteria surrounding virtuosi composer-performers like Chopin and Liszt. But that said there are considerable differences between the demands to performers of today as to that of earlier times, both in instrumental changes and technical demands.
Some of the things I experienced with Auerbach concerns the theme of listening in a very profound way, more specifically: it concerns something we might call outer and inner listening. Continue reading →
The word “Soundscape” is a term coined by the composer and writer R. Murray Schafer which means our ever-present sonic environment. Through history this soundscape has continued to increase in complexity as the world of the post-industrial revolution continues to evolve.
As our awareness concerning the dangers of toxic waste and environmental pollution grows, there is however a lack of awareness concerning the ever-increasing pollution of our sonic environment. In his book “The Soundscape – Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World” Schafer brings attention to the importance of discerning between different kinds of sound; the ones that enrich us contributing in the creation of healthy environments and the ones which acts as sonic polluters.
This blog centers around the lost art of listening.
I am a musician, therefore listening is a main topic of my life. So what do I mean by “listening”? Well, for starters there is a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing might be said to be an automatic response when encountering soundwaves whereas listening on the other hand involves directing one’s attention towards a specific part of something we perceive. However, today this act of directing our attention has become an endangered ability which are being increasingly threatened by the very world we live in.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by an overload of sense-stimulation? The background music of the malls and the shops, the intertwining tunes of the cell phones, flimmering commercial banners, neon signs, flickering screens, the half muffled sounds emanating out of earplugs.
This is the world we live in today, a world where distractions are labeled as enriching experiences. A world where we spend huge sums on learning to practice mindfulness and internal silence while at the same time stuffing our environment with an ever-increasing amount of noise and distractions. In this world of distractions I am concerned with the comprehension of music.
In order to comprehend music we need to be able to listen to it. To be able to listen is to be able to focus. The ability to focus is not something which we are born with, it is an acquired skill.
In this blog I write about attention, focus, musical comprehension and the lost art of listening.